What is Clienteling and How Does it Impact Personalization?

Wendy White | October 10, 2019

The retail industry is in the midst of profound change. Current and anticipated store closings have many predicting the demise of the in-store experience, but the reality is that in-store remains a core focus for retail and will be for a long time. While online-only competitors have many advantages, a physical location is not one of them – and retailers recognize that they can differentiate by transforming the in-store experience to make sure it remains compelling and convenient.

The Next Evolution for In-Store Customer Engagement

Clienteling is one way to transform the in-store experience. Meaning “catering to clients,” clienteling refers to the processes and technologies used to promote customer satisfaction or guided selling through the personalization of the in-store shopping experience. Clienteling technologies rely on a variety of customer datapoint such as purchase history, preferences, behavioral and response data consolidated across platform throughout the enterprise to empower in-store associates to deliver personalized interactions. Retailers rely on clienteling technology to elevate the relationship with customers on a new level, increasing the ability of a store sales associate to make shopping more personal and relevant.

According to Boston Retail Partners, 63 percent of retailers today are unable to identify their customers prior to checkout and 20 percent can’t identify them until after checkout or not at all. Empowering in-store sales associates with customer data and the right customer engagement technology helps retailers address the problem, increasing their effectiveness as well as revenue.

Store associates can now engage with in-store customers based on an understanding of their past purchases, preferences, needs, wants, and interests. All the customer data once locked in a CRM/POS or marketing engagement system is now available to the store associate backed by a decisioning engine to determine and recommend what products will spark interest for a specific consumer.

Powered by real-time data, clienteling mobile apps enable the store associate to deliver valuable insights and product recommendations that address a unique customer’s needs at point-of-sale. These apps include inventory checks to ensure the associate doesn’t recommend items that may be out of stock or sizes that aren’t available in the store.  And recommendations aren’t limited to sales of new products.  Clienteling can help with payment options (store card, loyalty points or possibly mobile payment like Venmo), returns and exchanges, or fulfillment options. Tailoring the entire shopping experience to meet a customer’s individual needs and wants helps ensure the customer will not purchase the desired product from a competitor.

Clienteling Use Cases

There are two main types of clienteling: directed clienteling and self-directed clienteling.  Directed clienteling, which is delivered via a mobile app with a touchscreen interface, enables the in-store sales associates to quickly match products and promotions to customers based on past purchases, buying preferences, style selections, social network affinity, mobile interactions, and ecommerce behaviors.

Customer information is automatically delivered to the sales associate’s in-store tablet or mobile device making it easier for them to interact in highly relevant and personalized ways with customers, such as using the latest customer data coupled with a real-time decisioning engine to deliver the next-best, most relevant offer in-person at the point of contact.

While employee-facing mobile apps and devices empower associates with real-time information, self-directed clienteling refers to customer-facing apps that enable brick-and-mortar retailers to push highly relevant offers and messages to shoppers the minute they walk through the door. Customers use a brand’s mobile app in-store for a number of reasons, including redeeming in-store discounts, comparing prices, viewing product ratings/reviews, and in-store navigation. This provides brands with a unique way to engage their customers on a highly personal level.

Technologies that enable a self-directed clienteling experience include:

  • In-store beacons that transform the in-store shopping experience by engaging with customers (both outside and inside the store) with targeted push notifications, in-app chat, and targeted SMS messages
  • Access to online and store inventory to ensure any off-shelf or out-of-stock situations can be capitalized on with an alternative fulfillment for the customer
  • In-store navigation support
  • Augmented reality support for retailers looking to digitize their in-person selling support by adding interactive image and video overlay to increase customer engagement

Benefits of Clienteling For Brands/Retailers

The use of a clienteling app in-store is particularly effective for brands as 85 percent of consumers still prefer to shop in brick-and-mortar stores rather than online. Clienteling allows brands to engage with customers in ways that will increase the average order dollar value of each store visit, giving sales associates the power to identify the most loyal customers and target the servicing of those customers with offers based on complete understanding of that customer’s past purchases, preferences, needs, and wants.

In-store is different from ecommerce.  Online, retailers have access to shopping history details but in-store shoppers are effectively anonymous when they walk through the store entrance. A clienteling app can access transactional and behavior data, allowing in-store sales associates to engage a customer with offers based on their previous purchases or the customer’s value to the brand. Clienteling has the added benefit of enabling brands to capture activity in the store, building a complete omnichannel picture of customer activity.

The Role of Data Management in Clienteling

A seamless customer experience across all touchpoints to deliver a superior in-store clienteling experience is made possible only with a single customer view.  A real-time, continuously updated profile is a foundational pillar for sales associates to engage with customers in the right context and cadence.

Monetizing data through a differentiated customer experience requires more than having a single view; it requires making decisions about what to do with the data and activating those decisions in the right channel and in the right context and cadence of a customer journey. The in-store experience becomes more valuable to the brand and the consumer when it seamlessly connects with every other part of a unique buying journey. A single point of operational control over data, decisions, and interactions enables this seamless connection, and provides brands with a way to hyper-personalize a customer experience across the entire journey.

Successfully done, clienteling provides a differentiated experience that ensures a personalized buying journey at every touchpoint and across every channel including anonymous in-store visits. In a Harris Poll survey commissioned by RedPoint, 37 percent of consumers said that they are more likely to purchase or use services from a brand that sends personalized offers or messages. The expectation for personalization does not stop when a customer makes an in-store visit, and neither should a brand’s personalization strategy.

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Wendy White
Wendy White

Wendy is a Senior Product Marketing Manager at RedPoint Global. She is a skilled digital marketing strategist, a tireless evangelist for marketing relevance and has guided dozens of F500 brands to become omnichannel enterprises. Wendy has extensive industry experience in hospitality, retail, media, and technology. Prior to RedPoint Global, Wendy was a Strategy Principal with the Strategic Services Division at Acxiom.