The Little Black Book in the Cloud: Clienteling for Luxury Retail


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Little Black Book

One thing that sets truly great luxury retailers apart is personal service. It’s the reason so many of us love world class independent stores. We actively build relationships with the owners and take a bit of comfort from the recognition and conversation. The skills required by store staff to maintain customer relationships are often built on experience, deep product knowledge and a refined appreciation of taste.

Under pinning that is a little black book, or a system of record, to maintain contact with a customer, invite them to special events or even to put products aside for them that they will love. When well executed, this kind of service is incredibly valuable. A friend of mine tells a good yarn about how he did this for Michael Caine in the early years of his luxury department store career – but that’s for another day!

In the modern and multi-channel world of luxury retail the black book format is somewhat broken. Customers of luxury brands are particularly mobile and present in global locations which for one relationship could include Changi Singapore, Bond Street London, online and a concession in Lane Crawford Hong Kong.

Even for customers with less exotic travel habits, modern retail poses two big challenges for the black book; firstly how can its contents be available anywhere in the world; and secondly, how can the kind of decision-making expertise it provides be in the hands of store teams wherever the customer chooses to interact?

Let’s break the black book down. It probably includes contact information, perhaps some transactional history and maybe notes on tastes and preferences. In the hands of experts that can lead to carefully curated recommendations and prompts. One of the key challenges in the context of global luxury retail is interpreting tastes, which when done well is the backbone of value added service. But when it misfires, it can damage relationships.

At Big Data for Humans we’re putting the black book in the cloud so that the teams from our luxury retail and fashion clients can access their contact and decision support information -anywhere, and at any time.

This decision support comes in the form of intelligence which harnesses the power of networks to correlate similar tastes and purchasing habits. It means store staff can understand and recognise key clients; ensure those clients receive personal service wherever they shop; and they can accurately interpret and adapt to their nuanced tastes.

Peter Ellen
Peter is a serial entrepreneur with over 25 years experience in the retail and software industries, previously co-founding the retailer Fopp [sold to HMV], and Maxymiser Inc. [sold to Oracle]. Peter studied marketing at Post Grad, MCIM. Peter played alto sax on the seminal NME indie album C86.


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