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What is Clienteling?

6 min read

Clienteling helps retailers build closer relationships with customers, using a 360-degree view of their preferences to deliver a superior customer experience.

The easing of lockdowns around the world has resulted in brick-and-mortar stores once again opening their doors, and an increasing number of customers are returning to shop at traditional retail outlets. However, the rise of eCommerce and cloud technology has drastically changed the landscape for traditional retailers. Having spent the past two years shopping online, customers have grown accustomed to personalized shopping experiences. This expectation has now spread over to traditional retail.

Addressing this need is exactly what clienteling allows a brand to do. By leveraging the power of data, clienteling allows brands to build a comprehensive picture of what their customers are doing across all channels. Using this, brands can engage with consumers in ways that will increase the average order value at each store. Additionally, it assists in identifying the most loyal customers and ensuring the service provided to them is targeted based on a complete understanding of their past purchases, preferences and expectations. As a result, clienteling is fast becoming the norm at retail outlets across the globe.

What Is Clienteling Exactly?

Clienteling, at its core, refers to the process by which retailers establish long-term relationships with their customers. This technique relies on data regarding every aspect of a customer’s purchasing behavior, including past purchases, preferences, interests, and product knowledge. Sales associates and other customer-facing staff then use this data to offer customers a truly personalized shopping experience, often using an in-store application specifically designed for the purpose.

Clienteling, when done properly, essentially embodies your brand’s personality, improves relatability and drives sales. Furthermore, it enhances the customer’s overall experience, not only keeping them coming back but also turning them into open advocates of your brand.

The use of clienteling is, however, not limited to brick-and-mortar businesses. Because of the shift toward eCommerce, heavily driven by the pandemic, virtual clienteling has been on the rise in the form of personalized live video shopping, tailored website experiences and more.

How Does Clienteling Work?

Data is what underpins clienteling, but personalized customer experiences are what seal the deal.

Clienteling essentially boils down to two central steps: 

  • The collection of data from every customer interaction
  • Utilizing this data in real-time in conjunction with in-depth product knowledge to create personal, intimate brand experiences for your customers

If you dig a little deeper, however, you will find the process to be significantly more complex. It can, however, greatly enhance both the in-store and online experiences for your customers. Clienteling begins with the collection of data, and three key categories need to be considered.

  • Personally Identifiable Information (PII)

The most basic of all data, PII includes any information that can identify and distinguish a customer. These could include anything from a customer’s name, address, email and phone numbers to more detailed information such as their birthday, anniversary, etc. Additionally, it could also contain limited information about any given customer’s shopping preferences, such as the shopping platform they prefer and their payment channel of choice.

  • Point-Of-Sale POS and eCommerce Data

The POS data you collect can give you a detailed insight into your customers’ relationship with your brick-and-mortar stores. It details what they bought, when they did so, and whether they returned it. eCommerce data takes these insights one step further by also revealing what products they have browsed, favorited, and purchased online. In light of the growth of eCommerce over the past two years, using software that efficiently consolidates POS and eCommerce data can give you a distinct advantage over those retailers and brands that do not.

  • Interpersonal Data

Unlike the data categories mentioned above, interpersonal data isn’t quite as straightforward. Nevertheless, it is the most valuable information for implementing successful clienteling. This is because it focuses on data that is only accessible to companies that demonstrate a genuine interest in their customers. It could include information about their personalities, product, size, and color preferences, their attitude and behavior, their service preferences, and perhaps even information about their families. 

  • Product Data

The final component of a clienteling strategy is product data. Sales associates should be empowered with the tools they need to answer any customer question on the sales floor, including those regarding product design and sustainability. If needed, they should be able to find the right size and color the customer needs at another store and have it shipped to their location. A comprehensive clienteling strategy makes this information readily accessible to associates in real time on the floor.

As the face of your brand, your sales associates hold the key to collecting and leveraging this data. Thus, it is crucial for your clienteling efforts that your retail sales teams can gather, access, and act on this information in real-time.

It is important to encourage your sales associates to create the most customized interactions possible with customers. State-of-the-art customer service technology and related mobile apps can be of significant help here. They put CRM, eCommerce, POS and real-time inventory information at the fingertips of sales associates, enhancing their ability to make shopping more personal and relevant for customers. Backed by a decisioning engine, the software can help your sales associates deliver valuable insights and product recommendations that will pique a specific consumer’s interest or address their unique needs. The inventory data also ensures that out-of-stock items or sizes are never suggested. Clienteling can also be used at checkout to ensure the payment processing and fulfillment, as well as returns and exchanges, are painless and tailored to the customer’s needs and preferences.

In the end, clienteling is about providing your customers with a memorable experience they can associate with your brand. The idea is to collect the right data, track it effectively, and use it in a manner that delivers effective results and drives customer interest and sales in the long term. In fact, the most successful brands of today are those that have mastered the art of integrating data across multiple platforms and have empowered their in-store associates with the tools to deliver personalized customer interactions and intimate brand experiences.

What is the Difference Between Customer Service and Clienteling?

While clienteling and customer service share the same fundamental objective of achieving a sale by identifying and meeting the needs of a customer, the main difference lies in the fact that customer service is a reactive, short-term relationship. It is focused exclusively on examining the immediate needs of a customer and providing them with a resolution.

Clienteling, on the other hand, is much more organic and proactive. Past client data is carefully collated and analyzed to anticipate their needs as well as provide them with a better, more personalized shopping experience. This in turn helps in fostering long-term relationships and improved brand loyalty.

That is not all. Due to the amount of time it takes to respond to customer needs, traditional customer service is also expensive. Very few businesses will see positive ROI on their customer service department. In contrast, due to its proactive nature, companies are seeing higher revenues for a lower cost-per-sale by moving to clienteling, resulting in sizable savings in marketing and sales costs.

Clienteling and CRM

So, how does CRM ultimately fit into this picture? 

Understanding CRM’s role in clienteling begins with understanding what it actually is.

As the name suggests, CRM or Customer Relationship Management is a tool that businesses use to manage relationships with their customers. While its roots lie in basic software designed to store basic contact information for customers and prospects, the technology has become increasingly complex over the years. In the modern retail environment, it is hard to find CRM software that does not also track customer behavior, identify sales opportunities, track service issues, and manage marketing campaigns. Moreover, the software makes this customer information available in real-time to anyone in your company who might need it.

An effective CRM system is indispensable to your clienteling efforts for precisely this reason. Think of your CRM as a tool and Clienteling as the process that, when used together, can enable your sales associates to build detailed insights into any customer. This can then be used to proactively create personalized client-centric shopping experiences for each of them. In turn, this encourages deep loyalty within your customers and drives sales.

Clienteling is The Future of Retail

Even with the proliferation of eCommerce, there is nothing like the experience of physically interacting with a brand’s products in person. Thus, it should come as no surprise that most shoppers still prefer to shop in-store, especially for luxury brands. If done correctly, clienteling can take this experience and supplement it with a level of personalization far beyond what they could ever expect to receive online. This has the potential to   drastically increase sales and drive customer retention rates, giving you an edge above your competition and reshaping your business for the better.

At XY Retail, our omnichannel retail platform offers you clienteling and personalized promotions across all channels. Get in touch and discover how our data-driven approach to customer engagement can help you establish long-term relationships and propel your business into the future of retail.