These days, it’s not uncommon for customers to begin their shopping experience in one channel and complete it in another. This is why it’s so important for retailers to collect in-store data as easily as they do online – an area that many have historically struggled in for a long time, having only footfall and sales data to call upon.
Fast forward to today and many will agree that the role of the store has changed. No longer perceived as a simple sales channel, it is now considered a multi-purpose omnichannel centre – a place where digital transformation is finally being deployed and the reality of achieving connected omnichannel retail aspirations is actually feasible.
Indeed, according to our recent ‘Pulse of Retail 2021: Connected Retail’ report (with research across 200 UK retail executives), capturing the preferences and behaviours of customers in-store (33 per cent) is now considered almost as important as selling products (35 per cent), highlighting the significance that is being placed on unifying the online and offline space to deliver a consistent experience. The only other response that recorded over 30 percent importance across all respondents was “using a store as a customer relationship centre”, showing how pertinent deploying clienteling capabilities in-store now is.
A technique used by retail sales associates to establish long-term relationships with key customers based on in-store and online data about their preferences, behaviours, and purchases, clienteling is experiencing rapid growth presently. 19 per cent of retailers we surveyed had already deployed this technology, a further 25 per cent were in the process of currently implementing it, and 28 per cent were planning on doing so moving forwards.
Its rise in popularity comes as no surprise, given that clienteling capabilities can enable retailers to rapidly improve the in-store customer experience by offering a bespoke shopping experience for every customer that walks through the door – and for the more advanced retailers, extend this experience outside of the store by performing personalised remote selling shopping experiences from store to a customer’s home via WhatsApp or video conversations. Clienteling reveals a 360-degree view of the customer profile to facilitate a hyper-personalised in-store shopping journey, facilitating an increase in sales, as well as a rise in customer LTV by leveraging preferences, online wishlists, offline and remote selling behaviours and purchase history.
Clienteling software can be deployed in a matter of months, or even weeks, but understanding how it integrates with existing systems and how quickly it can be configured to reflect business needs are important factors to take into account. Based on our conversations with a number of customers, here are a few important questions to consider when looking at this technology.
- Business readiness – Be realistic about what you can achieve from your existing infrastructure and the level of personalisation possible. After all, clienteling is not a standalone solution – it surfaces data from existing systems to deliver the service. Check what data feeds and APIs are needed to launch the software with your vendors.
- Solution readiness and configurability – Find out whether a selected solution needs extra development (not ideal as this will impact installation time) or if simply integrates with your existing tech stack and allows configuration on the look and feel to reflect your branding. Check whether a native app exists, since this will reveal how much time and effort will be needed on your end to deploy the solution. A native app will come pre-built and allow you to plug and play through simple integrations with your existing technologies.
- Ease of deployment – Check how difficult it would be to integrate with existing technologies, data formats and APIs, and have pre-built plug-ins into these systems. This way, you’ll be able to go live in weeks rather than months. Also, look for a modular solution that enables you to switch on additional solutions/functionality as you before more advanced in your capabilities.
Check that tracking and monitoring systems are also in place to flag any issues that arise quickly. Clienteling solutions often rely on new integrations and so this is paramount to ensure you stay on top of everything.
It’s also important to check how staff are trained to use the technology. Ask what the onboarding process looks like – including in-person, remote training, and materials for self-training. Remember, a technology is only as good as the person using it is.
- In-store data capture – Clienteling solutions will display valuable customer insights for staff to use in-store, but it’s vital that this data is available to use across other channels too. Ask how in-store data such as interests and abandoned baskets can be used for attributing the sale to another channel, or how these insights can be used to personalise the online experience and used for retargeting by marketing.
In addition, find out what information is made available for store associates to use and enhance the customer experience.
- Measurement – Ask what you can realistically expect to achieve with this technology investment how will the customer experience change and what a return on investment might look like – identify factors for success.
I’d recommend you run a proof of concept in a group of trial stores first – that way, you can compare KPIs between stores with and without clienteling. Also, look at how customer-specific KPIs (such as purchase frequency and basket sizes) change if customers have been served with the help of a clienteling tool.
In terms of reporting make sure you’re able to access a full reporting dashboard with re-agreed KPIs. An added bonus is if you can integrate transaction data from e-com and POS to surface insights on how clienteling is directly contributing to sales and conversion.
My final recommendation would be to always ask for real-life case studies of those who have launched this technology. Results and returns are great indicators, but testimonials on business readiness, security, speed and ease of deployment are critical. Look for awards, case studies and any other independent accreditations and certifications for data security (including asking for copies of GDPR, PCI DSS, ISO 27001 certificates) that give you confidence to move forwards.
There’s still time during this ‘golden quarter’ to look at clienteling and give customers the best Christmas gift going – one of personalisation and service. Doing so will ensure a solid start into the New Year and beyond.
Holly brings a wealth of experience in both print and digital publishing. As Modern Retail’s Content Editor, Holly is passionate about helping independent retailers to thrive in today’s ever-changing market.