Thanks To Mobile, More Retailers 'Clienteling'

Amid all the retail angst about how smartphones are shocking the shopper ecosystem with trends like showrooming and webrooming, there’s a more hopeful buzzword on the horizon: Clienteling. 

A new report from PwC describes it as using every mobile and digital advantage possible to arm sales associates, enabling them to create a personalized shopping experience that’s at least as satisfying as shopping online. Leveraging technology, they can close the service gap.

“We see a fundamental change, and retailers need to adapt,” Ian Kahn, director in PwC’s retail consulting practice, tells Marketing Daily. “The industry is changing significantly, driven by customers adopting new technology and new ways of interacting with their preferred retailers. Today’s shopper is looking for a richer, more personalized retail experience, and one that brings intelligence from their past interaction history, comprehensive information about products, and inventory availability.”

In its report, PwC says that for retailers, “a positive moment of truth -- that one powerful event in the life of a consumer that defines their opinion of a given retailer -- can make or break customer loyalty.” And friendly, helpful, and digitally proficient sales associates are key to those magic moments.

As the front-line face of the brand, associates need to evolve from “an information provider and facilitator of transactions, to a facilitator of engagement and a trusted advisor.”

Total retail clienteling, he says, is based on the effective gathering of data about a customer’s buying behaviors and shopping preferences -- across all channels and all brands -- and can help to increase revenues and drive loyalty. In addition to loyalty, the report says, it can help increase sales per customer visit, “based on relevant, targeted cross-selling and up-selling opportunities.”

Some of those gains come from the use of data, and the ability to analyze sales across geography, customer segments and product lines, but also the improved marketing effectiveness that comes from a personal text or email about an upcoming sale or event.

Kahn points out that while there is no one-size-fits-all solution, all retailers need “much more agile, cloud-based platforms to create a rich clienteling experience within stores. And they need to understand that every customer, no matter the demographic, expects an experience that has been personalized just for them, and one that is clearly differentiated from other retailers.”

Retailers can do that by creating social networks for sales associates, for example, that enable previously disparate employees—across channels, geographies, and brands—to collaborate better. Or they can build social media profiles for customers, including their likes and wish lists.

In some ways, Kahn says, not much has changed. “Customers are looking for value. In many cases, they are looking to stay ahead of the curve, whether they are focused on fashion or price or quality or delivery.  But the how has changed dramatically, in terms of what is possible. And retailers have an unprecedented capability to serve customers at a much higher level.”

"Cashier giving bags to shopper" photo from Shutterstock.

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