Think about the best shopping experiences you’ve ever had with retail sales associates. What did these individuals have in common? They were most likely friendly, approachable, and knowledgeable. Perhaps they remembered your name, your favorite hobby, or even that you only ever wear black, white, and gray. They gave you just the right amount of attention, proposed pants that fit perfectly, and really understood your needs and desires. They didn’t pester you with irrelevant product recommendations (gasp, a purple cardigan?) or promotions.
Now, think about the typical interaction with a retail sales associate. So often, the experience is impersonal, occasionally awkward, and at worst, annoying. You walk into the store and they immediately fire off the day’s promotions forcing you to stop and listen politely, even though you would rather go check out the jeans that caught your eye. Then, when you actually do have a question, they often don’t have the answer, or worse still, are nowhere to be found.
Imagine if every sales associate could perform like the best ones. Not only would customers enjoy a superior shopping experience, they would also buy more. The best associates aren’t just pleasant, they are smart salespeople, using their powers of observation and memory along with expert product knowledge to tailor the shopping experience. Since as many as 60% of consumers will pay more for a better customer experience, the value of delivering a great experience is significant. (KissMetrics)
So, how can retailers help every sales associate perform like the best ones, from day one? That’s where clienteling is the ideal tool. Although clienteling software is relatively new, the concept of clienteling, or relationship-based selling, is not. A few years ago, I was telling my octogenarian grandfather about the new clienteling software I was working on, and how it helped personalize the shopping experience. He understood immediately, recounting a tale of his own: early in his career, he managed a group of salespeople who traveled daily visiting their customers. They all carried notepads to record personal details about their most valuable customers. The top-performing ones would really go the extra mile, with thoughtful personal touches like bringing a rose on a customer’s birthday.
Modern clienteling software can be run on mobile devices like iPads so that associates are continually equipped with data to personalize the shopping experience in the same way salespeople used their notepads decades ago. The software stores data about customers’ purchases, preferences, personal details such as clothing size or eye color, and much more. Associates can record freeform notes, and can use surveys to prompt associates to learn more about their best customers. Unlike a paper notepad, data from other stores and digital channels, such as websites and even social media, can also be pulled in so that every associate has a truly holistic view of the customer. That way, whether the customer is shopping with their usual associate in their home store, or visiting a store across the country and a new associate, the experience can be equally personal.
What’s more, clienteling can really supercharge your sales associates when the data in the system is used to trigger outreach reminders so that associates proactively contact customers in-between visits. Proactive outreach from associates is a great way to leverage resources during quiet store times and can lead to increased store traffic and higher conversions. Since associates are reaching out to customers for highly relevant reasons, for example, a trunk show from their favorite designer, the tactic tends to be much more effective than other mass marketing messages.
By putting knowledge in the hands of the associate, clienteling is a great way to use technology to enhance the customer experience. Clienteling guides associates through the best practices of relationship selling, equipping more sales associates with the data and tools needed to perform like the very best.