The experience of shopping at a brick-and-mortar storefront has dramatically changed over the past two decades. Gone are the days when consumers walking into a store could reasonably expect to receive a warm, personal welcome from the shopkeeper and highly attentive customer service from sales associates. It can often feel as though the advent of the digital age has led to the depersonalization of the customer experience (CX) — reducing them from a highly prized individual to an unidentifiable face in a sea of many.
Although it can sometimes seem as though quality customer service has gone the way of the dinosaurs, retailers are actively looking for ways to transform this experience and adapt it to fit the current retail landscape. And, when properly executed, a personalized customer experience can pay off in dividends: U.S. consumers say they’re willing to spend 17 percent more to do business with companies that deliver excellent service, according to a survey from American Express. Additionally, by increasing their customer retention rate by 5 percent, retailers have the opportunity to increase profits more than 25 percent, according to a report from Bain & Company. The key to driving this increase in spending and loyalty is a combination of clienteling and technology.
What is Clienteling?
At its core, clienteling is the process by which retail sales associates build long-term relationships with consumers in an effort to encourage repeat business and increase brand loyalty. Good clienteling requires impeccable attention to detail, excellent interpersonal skills, extensive knowledge of customer preferences and purchase history, and consistent communication. In the past, many retailers relied on little black books or other similar manual methods to store customer information, which sales associates could later refer to in order to provide consumers with a shopping experience tailored to their exact specifications.
Today, the “little black book” has gone digital, with retailers leveraging technology to transform the customer experience. Modern retail software systems offer the same basic clienteling functionality but with sleeker trappings, intuitive capabilities, and the ability to derive valuable insights from customer data through the use of powerful technology. These software systems provide a 360-degree view of the consumer, including purchase history and wish lists. Sales associates can then use this information to offer specific product recommendations, identify upsell and cross-sell opportunities, resolve any issues that might arise more quickly, and incentivize repeat business by making consumers feel like more than just a number or a face in the crowd.
Consistency in Clienteling
Software solutions designed to optimize clienteling, such as customer relationship management (CRM) and enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems, aren’t just for brick-and-mortar storefronts. In today’s digital economy, retail businesses operate across multiple channels, including online storefronts and mobile applications, and consumers expect a consistent, personalized experience across each one.
Every retailer has a brand identity. This identity is carefully constructed to communicate something specific about the retailer to the consumer, as well as to set consumer expectations. In order for a retailer’s brand identity to be truly effective, it must be consistent across all channels — that way, customers will know to expect that same caliber of goods and services from a retailer’s online store as in their brick-and-mortar locations, and so on, which can increase the likelihood of repeat business.
Think of it this way: Imagine that you’re the customer of a major retail company and have opted into receiving both print and email marketing campaigns. If the messaging for these two campaigns were wildly inconsistent — say, receiving a “going out of business message” notice in your physical inbox but a “new store opening” announcement via email — you’d likely be less inclined to shop there again. The same is true for different sales channels and, since customer service is such a crucial aspect of any retailer’s brand identity, it’s imperative that they utilize clienteling consistently across all platforms and channels.
Keys to Better Clienteling
There are a few things every retailer should keep in mind when developing a clienteling strategy:
- Consistency is key. Retailers should focus on delivering consistent clienteling — and, by extension, a consistent CX — whether customers are shopping in-store, online, or via mobile device. Unified ecommerce solutions make it easier to achieve tight integration between a retailer’s point of sale system, other software platforms, and sales channels.
- Empowered sales associates are effective sales associates. In order to deliver the connected experience consumers desire, sales associates need to be equipped with the proper knowledge and tools for personalized clienteling. Software solutions, such as CRM and ERP systems and mobile POS applications, can help associates access the information they need on a moment’s notice to provide better quality customer service, drive sales, and increase customer retention.
- Today’s consumers are omnichannel — you should be, too. Take advantage of valuable clienteling opportunities by enabling sales associates to engage with customers across multiple channels, such as completing transactions via mobile application for faster checkout and using geomagnetic technology to deliver targeted offer codes and discounts to customers as they move about your stores.
- Social media is a powerful tool for creating custom experiences. Platforms such as Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram provide an easy and free way to interact directly with customers and add a personal touch to customer service. Today’s analytics technology also enables retailers to leverage customers’ social media preferences with transaction data to further enrich customer experiences.
- No one likes a long checkout. Have you ever walked into a store, found a few items you wanted to purchase, and immediately put those items back as soon as you saw the length of the checkout line? If so, you understand firsthand just how frustrating a lengthy transaction process can be. As mentioned above, equipping sales associates with mobile POS technology makes it possible to quickly complete transactions from anywhere in the store, making checkout lines much shorter and preventing potential loss of sales.
Drive Retail Transformation With D365 and Hitachi Solutions
The right clienteling strategy is the key to attracting and retaining customers. By pairing excellent communication skills, attentiveness, and adaptability with advanced retail technology, retailers can deliver an absolutely unforgettable CX that makes each customer feel like their only customer.
Microsoft Dynamics 365 for Retail enables retail transformation by creating an exceptional shopping experience that unifies digital, in-store, and back office operations. When combined with Hitachi Solutions’ Commerce Suite and retail-specific CRM and ERP systems, Dynamics 365 empowers retailers to sharpen their clienteling strategies, increase customer retention, and boost profits.
To learn more about these and other technologies designed to drive retail transformation, start a conversation with the retail industry experts at Hitachi Solutions today.