Clienteling was once a practice used exclusively by luxury retailers. Savvy in-store style advisers would keep a book of their most reliable, spend-happy clients, and establish long-lasting connections with them to maintain loyalty.
But in today’s competitive retail landscape, all shoppers expect to be fawned over. Shoppers patronizing upmarket apparel brands (think: Theory, Rag & Bone, and others with similarly lofty price points) won’t stay loyal for less. So all upper echelon brands, including those outside the luxury banner, must roll out strategic clienteling programs to ensure a top-notch retail experience in which no customer falls through the cracks.
Some retailers are building out their own clienteling platforms. Others are turning to software to harness the data required to clientele well. Regardless of your method, here are three types of data your store teams need to maximize the value of every shopper.
Accurate POS Data
An advanced POS system should allow you to easily track your customers’ history. Retailers who want to up their clientele game need a POS system that gives store teams easy access to comprehensive reporting tools.
That means that in a few clicks, your store managers should be able to see who bought a specific product (size, color, and quantity) and when, or drill down to see trends within a single customer’s history with your brand. If they can’t glean the necessary information quickly and in as few clicks as possible, your efforts to upsell shoppers and maintain lasting relationships will invariably fail.
While most POS systems tout their ability to do this, it isn’t always the case. It’s not as easy as it sounds to accurately track what a single customer has purchased and returned, down to color and size, and make that information intuitively extractable for remote workers.
Warning: if your POS system makes it easy for associates to create multiple entries for one customer, or to ring up a sale without attributing it to the client, this is another big problem. Adopt a POS solution with these pitfalls in mind, and you’ve begun to set the standard for effective clienteling in your stores.
E-Commerce Shopping History
Keeping a record of what a customer has purchased online isn’t as hard as tracking what they’ve purchased in a store. But it’s not easy to reconcile your customers’ e-commerce shopping history with their POS history. Of course, this is the only path to providing a seamless retail experience and clienteling excellence.
That’s because your shoppers don’t identify themselves as online vs. store shoppers. If you’re lucky, your customers will use both avenues to interact with your brand, and they expect that you recognize them for their habits in both venues.
Consider this very plausible scenario:
A customer shops regularly at one or two of your stores. She has a single identity in your POS system, and it’s easy for stores to track her brick-and-mortar purchase history. But occasionally she purchases online, too.
Recently you launched a new product. She received your promotional email, clicked through to your website, and purchased some pieces from the new collection.
When they arrived, she hated the new pieces she bought. The fabric was itchy and there seemed to be a sizing issue. She shipped them back to the warehouse for a refund.
After some time, she gets an email from one of your store managers announcing another new product, which the store manager says is perfect for her. It sounds like something she’s purchased in the past. She agrees to a store send and when the item arrives it’s exactly what she already returned. She’s not happy with the lack of insight and annoyed she has to UPS to return the same thing twice.
Store managers need to be able to quickly search and scour a customer’s data, not just click into each transaction. They need to immediately understand if an item was returned, if it was purchased once and never again, or if it’s is a proven favorite of a given customer. Patterns like these don’t just live online or off. Your stores need to be able to get a holistic picture of your shoppers so they can use each touch point to make a meaningful connection, not reveal your organization’s data overload.
Data Collected by Associates
Historic POS and e-commerce sales data alone will tell you so much. Yes, knowing a person’s address and their jean size is part of the picture. But true clienteling is much more than that. When does she get back from Europe? What product is she dying for that you don’t currently offer? Does she love texts, but hate emails? Your store teams should acquire this type of information over time simply by asking open-ended questions and expressing a genuine interest in shoppers that goes beyond simply closing a sale.
If you can seamlessly add this data to the rest of your customer data repository, your clienteling efforts will truly take your retail experience to new heights. Everyone wants to be seen and recognized. Shoppers are seeking the same traits in your brand as they do in love: reliability, attention, and elevation. Store staff needs to continuously court shoppers and make them feel special by impressing, educating, and validating them. It’s impossible to do that with just a name, address, and a list of recently purchased SKUs.
Collecting non-traditional customer data will help your store teams pave the road for future communication right off the bat. Encourage store staff to play the long game and follow up with shoppers even when the end result isn’t a sale. A simple “Happy birthday!” text or a check in about how a shopper’s child is recovering from the flu goes a long way in building a genuine, long-lasting, and fruitful relationship with your brand. Don’t place too much emphasis on today’s KPIs—store managers should teach their teams that today’s transaction is less important that knowing exactly what tomorrow’s communication strategy looks like.
Clienteling that Goes Beyond Granular
Make sure your POS system can accurately collect data and easily summarize and display customer specific trends for your associates. Make your e-commerce data exponentially more useful by integrating it with brick-and-mortar history. Round it off with intelligence that can only be collected from your boots on the ground.
All three of these steps are straightforward, but difficult to execute. However, with e-commerce merchants and online first, direct-to-consumer brands popping up every other day, established brick-and-mortar retailers can use clienteling to offer a level of service and build a genuine human connection with shoppers that upstart competitors will be hard pressed to match.
Whether you’ve got the technological infrastructure to support a comprehensive clienteling strategy or not, CB4 can help you rise to meet the needs of shoppers by capitalizing on each store in your chain’s unique demand patterns. Learn more here.