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Retail Clienteling: The Sales Associate and Customer Relationship

The relationship between customers and sales associates is one of the most unchanged aspects of retail. This relationship usually falls into two distinct categories. In most stores, the associates are there to help customers shop, retrieve clothes from the stock room and help the customer find a dressing room. This relationship rarely continues outside of the store. 

In luxury and contemporary fashion, sales associates often forge a stronger relationship with the customer, one that exists outside of the store. This is commonly referred to as “retail clienteling,” which is the process of establishing lasting relationships with key customers, by using insights into their style and preferences.

The latter relationship sounds really ideal, but today, unless you’re willing to shell out thousands of dollars a month, the highest levels of customer service are hard to come by. Understandably so, since clienteling is time consuming. Retail clienteling correctly requires lots of training and time to nurture dozens of relationships. Associates must pay attention to all aspects of the customer relationship, from the smallest to the biggest details. Sales associates rarely have the tools to do this accordingly.

The dichotomy between these two experiences might change. The introduction of tools that enable what we call Scaleable Clienteling seek to bring the personalization of the highest end experiences to a wider number of customers. Doing this requires a robust toolkit for sales associates, as well a level of restraint to not abuse the newly intimate customer relationship.

The three pillars of scalable clienteling are data, communication and personalization.

A data backbone

The first pillar of Scaleable Clienteling is a robust data backbone. Customers have all sorts of preferences, from the drink they like when they walk in a store to their shoe size. Currently, few brands are collecting more than the bare minimum of data about customers, especially from in-store purchases. The most common data points about customers are their name, email and maybe their past purchase history. But this leaves a lot to be desired, such as colors, sizes, preferences that could help an associate personalize the experience for a specific customer. Sales associates need tools to easily collect this important data, which often comes up when working with customers but is rarely captured.

Open communication

With the data in hand, the next pillar is communication. Currently, customers receive two types of communication from brands: generic or personal. Generic communications come in the form of emails and social media posts, which are untargeted and unspecific. Personal communications come from sales associates, which feels great but they come sporadically and the customer has to have status with the store.

Scaleable Clienteling serves as a bridge between these two extremes. This leads to a middle level of communication between a brand and a customer that feels personal to the customer, but is manageable for the associate.

Enhanced Personalization

With the data and an open communication line between the sales associate and the customer, personalization can come to fruition. The days of mass emails are ending, as brands will be able to specifically segment and send messages that are guaranteed to be relevant to specific customers. This could mean anything from personalization driven by styles and preferences to personalization driven by the seasons and times customers go shopping. The opportunity to create entirely new experiences with this data and communication is profound. The hope is customers will engage with the brand on a higher level when they are talked to personally, rather than bombarding them with generic communication.

Download our paper on Scalable Clienteling for the Mobile-First World to gain insight into how data-driven clienteling can transform your brand’s customer experience.

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Editor, The Mobile Retail Blog

Editor-in-Chief of The Mobile Retail Blog with NewStore.

Topics: retail clienteling