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Defining clienteling in 2023

Clienteling — the practice of developing one-on-one relationships with customers — has been around for decades and has grown and evolved with the changing times. 

In recent years, clienteling has become more popular with retailers looking to support the customer journey and increase customer loyalty. With searches for the term on the rise, you can see how retailers are relying on this important practice to better serve customers and increase their bottom line. 

Adopting retail clienteling best practices is quickly becoming the top priority for many retailers as they work to build loyal customers. As a clienteling software provider, Tulip has unique and data-driven insights into the behavioral changes shoppers have made over the past few years. We’ve also had a front-row seat to observe how some of the world’s leading retailers are improving the shopping experience for their customers. 

The importance of cementing strong customer relationships with those both in and outside of the physical store has become increasingly important – perhaps now more than ever. This is why clienteling should focus on empowering store associates to engage with customers proactively, intentionally, and most importantly, in a genuine way.

Here’s what you need to know about clienteling in 2023. 

Customers are educated and discerning 

In just two years, online brand and product discovery has increased by 43% and learning by 42%. With an entire arsenal of information and influence in the palm of their hands, consumers are now more critical of the brands and products they follow and purchase from. 

For example, educated consumers are more likely to switch to brands that align more closely with their specific needs, views, and values. Taking this into account, retailers need to relay consistent messaging across channels about their history and values in order to assist shoppers with their purchasing decisions.  

Whether you are using a clienteling app, social media, or another form of communication, relaying a consistent message from all levels of your brand is key.

Associates still take center stage 

Store associates are often the first line of brand representation that customers interact with, effectively giving them responsibility for the customer-brand relationship. 

The key to building strong relationships that will last long-term is personalization. 

Customers don’t want transactional interactions as much as associates don’t want to limit their engagement to reading off a script. Taking the time to listen and understand customers’ needs, preferences, and history goes a long way. 

Retail brands can take customer engagement to the next level by using a clienteling solution or other method to create a personalized profile for customers. Associates can refer to the information in the customer profile to provide personalized service on return visits. 

Process trumps all 

To further elevate the brand experience, associates should proactively reach out to customers even when they aren’t in the store. But knowing who to reach out to and when can feel like walking on eggshells. There’s a fine line between being helpful and being annoying.  

Modern retailers should take control of this process by providing automatic notifications to associates when it is time to follow up with a customer. 

By pairing personalized customer profile information with insights into new, back-in-stock, or sale products associates can easily and precisely reach out to target customers. This offers superior customer service while driving additional sales. 

Communication is more varied than ever 

Phone and email used to be the main options for customer communications, but today retailers need to offer options for on-the-spot communication between customers and associates. 

Offering live chat options through text, social messaging, or chatbots facilitates an immediate connection with ecommerce shoppers from the comfort of wherever they might be. 

While there are a number of communication options to choose from, WeChat, WhatsApp and Line are especially good options and are found on billions of mobile devices today. WhatsApp is the most popular messaging platform globally with 2.2 billion active users that send over 100 billion messages per day. 

You can also officer additional flexibility for customers who are seeking assistance on specific products by offering appointments to customers. While it’s been common customer behavior to pre-book hair or beauty consults for years, other verticals are now encouraging customers to book appointments in advance. 

By pre-booking, retailers across industries can ensure the right people and products are ready to go when a customer walks through the door. 

Clienteling isn’t just for luxury anymore 

Luxury fashion retailers are known for their refined clienteling and customer experience, but these practices aren’t exclusive to the vertical. Many mass-market retailers are actually clienteling without even knowing it. 

While luxury retailers focus their clienteling efforts on tailored one-on-ones, mass-market retailers build relationships using a one-to-many approach. Customers today want a personal and contextual experience no matter where they shop.  

Using customer data to create a single customer view allows stores to over deliver on their customer promises through deceptively simple solutions. Sometimes that can look like remembering someone’s mailing address so they don’t have to input it for the nth time. Other times it’s sending a special deal on their birthday – red carpet not required.  

At the end of the day, the goal is to make sure the customer feels recognized and valued which helps the brand-customer relationship grow no matter the end product.

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