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Clienteling and the Personalized In-Store Experience

Patrick Tripp | February 28, 2019

One of four talk tracks at the upcoming Shoptalk retail conference is about the transformation of physical retail as a key pillar of the next-generation retail experience. Sessions that focus on innovation and technologies that enable new physical retail experiences belie the notion that ecommerce and digital channels have overtaken in-store as the favored retail channel for consumers.

While it’s true that digital channels are becoming a vital part of the shopping experience – consider a recent Boston Retail Partners survey revealing that digital influences up to 75 percent of all in-store visits – Shoptalk speakers from iconic retailers including Macy’s, Nordstrom, Walmart, and Estée Lauder will validate that the in-store shopping experience is still very much alive.

I will be presenting at Shoptalk as part of the Techtalk networking program. My session, “Personalization Imperative for the Always-On Consumer” will highlight a real-world example of a retailer that is using a single view of the customer to transform the front-of-store experience. With a single point of control over data, decisions, and interactions, this retailer now provides real time next-best action recommendations at the register – creating a differentiated in-store customer experience.

This year’s Shoptalk agenda validates that the in-store experience is still very much top of mind for retailers. But the pressing issue retailers face isn’t how to elevate the in-store experience at the expense of digital, rather it’s how to seamlessly weave the digital-driven, omnichannel customer journey into the still vital in-store experience. Retailers are keenly aware that even with the rising influence of digital in the retail world, roughly 90 percent of worldwide retail sales are still done in physical stores.

These data points explain why strategies like buy online, pick-up in-store (BOPIS), experiential and interactive retail, and other in-store innovations that ingratiate digital into the in-store experience are gaining steam. Clienteling is another example of how savvy retailers are using digital to infuse a spark to the in-store atmosphere.

Enhancing the In-Store Experience

Clienteling covers a wide range of use cases. A standard definition is understood to mean processes or tools used to promote customer satisfaction through the personalization of the shopping experience. At a very basic level, this means having some degree of client data – purchase history, for instance – and using it to enhance the in-store experience. This could mean an associate using an app on a tablet or mobile device to assist a customer on the retail floor by checking inventory, finding product location, or making a relevant offer.

Using customer data is what separates this experience from a run-of-the-mill interaction; an associate without any knowledge of the customer could create customer frustration by making an offer for a product the customer recently purchased. On the other end of the clienteling extreme is a model favored by luxury retailers, who favor personalized lookbooks, virtual closets, style advisors and other white glove treatments.

For many retailers, living somewhere in the middle of the clienteling use case spectrum will still generate value for the customer during an enhanced, personalized in-store experience. Delivering this value accomplishes the end goal of clienteling, increasing customer lifetime value by transforming the customer journey.

Best-in-Class Clienteling with a Single Customer View

The evolution of clienteling from strictly the purview of the high-end retailer to an increasingly common practice even among big box retailers is due in part to mobile’s ascension as an integral part of the shopping experience. A recent Boston Retail Partners benchmark survey revealed that 63 percent of consumers use their mobile phone while shopping in-store to compare price, look for offers/coupons, and check inventory – activity that generates a gold mine of data about buying patterns and preferences. Clienteling is the recognition from retailers that if mobile is that indispensable to the in-store experience, retailers may as well capitalize on the opportunity to have some control over the digital journey.

The activity detailed in the survey is what’s known as self-directed clienteling, which a customer can undertake without an associate. An empowered customer relies on a smartphone or kiosk while in-store to create a self-guided customer experience, and personalized recommendations come from engaging with the brand’s mobile app or kiosk. Directed clienteling involves interaction with a sales associate.

Both flavors require a single view of the customer as well as instant access to all customer, product, and inventory information. A single view means that a sales associate knows everything there is to know about the customer, including recent interactions, customer journeys, and transactions with the brand. Applying advanced analytics on top of a unified customer profile will then provide the associate with next-best action recommendations for a customer at the moment of interaction, ensuring that every touchpoint is met with the appropriate context and cadence.

Real-time decisioning enabled by a single point of control over data, decisions, and interactions is the engine that drives best-in-class clienteling that reinforces the bond of loyalty with a customer and enhances the customer lifetime value. A relevant and personalized customer experience is a direct and important benefit, but the customer is also left with an impression that the brand is providing something of value.

With a wide range of use cases that depend largely on the type and amount of customer data used, getting started with clienteling can be a quick time to value compared with other methods of enhancing the in-store experience. As an evolving strategy that can transform the physical retail experience, clienteling will certainly be a topic of discussion at Shoptalk.

If you will be at Shoptalk next week – March 3-6 at the Venetian in Las Vegas – come visit us at Booth #4728 or email Laura Ackerman (laura.ackerman@redpointglobal.com) if you would like to schedule a meeting during the show!

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Patrick Tripp
Patrick Tripp

Patrick is vice president of product strategy for the Customer Engagement Hub at RedPoint Global, where he leverages over 20 years of experience in technology, consulting, and marketing. Patrick is an expert in cross-channel marketing and real-time interaction management, and is a frequent speaker at industry events. He is a certified product manager and holds an MBA from Boston University. Connect with Patrick on LinkedIn and Twitter.