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Increasing customer loyalty for home design and improvement retailers

Unlocking lifetime value through clienteling and checkout innovation

Retailers in the home design and improvement industries— encompassing furniture, home decor, and hardware retailers— navigate an increasingly competitive market, and it is crucial for them to shift their focus beyond single transactions to the broader concept of lifetime customer value (LCV), and how to build customer loyalty.

This approach means viewing each customer— especially VIPs— as an ongoing relationship, not just a one-time sale. It’s about creating a customer-centric business model that delivers exceptional experiences and services that resonate with individuals over time. 

In this blog we’ll take a look at who the industry VIPs are, and ways retailers can leverage technology to keep those VIPs— as well as average customers— coming back time and time again.

The VIPs of the home design and improvement industry

At a glance, the ‘average’ customer popping into a furniture store might seem like the industry’s bread and butter based on upsell potential alone (think how perfect these accent chairs and throw pillows will go with your new sofa). And while this “sell, upsell, repeat” has been the classic route for years, it may not be the best one— some things that ain’t broke still could use a refresh.

Professional buyers are the “VIPs” of the interior design industry, and a crucial segment that requires catering to. Though fewer in number, these VIP clients have substantial purchasing power and sway decisions across various home design and improvement industries including furniture, home decor, and hardware retailers. These individuals are not mere customers; they are pivotal players who influence broader market dynamics, trends, and purchasing decisions. 

By focusing on increasing the lifetime value (LTV) of their most frequent VIP shoppers, a whole new realm of business growth begins to take shape. For example, a contractor will be making trips to HomeDepot far more often for nails, screws, drill bits, and plywood than a homeowner looking to recarpet their 150 sq ft bedroom. So, ensuring that the contractor has a good experience will ensure that they (and their crew) continue to come back to HomeDepot for each new project they take on.

How to leverage clienteling for professional buyers

Just like Michael Kors uses clienteling for their VIPs, the same strategies and practices can be leveraged by brands like Sherwin Williams or Article for theirs. 

One of the most important things digital clienteling provides is data. Most retailers have reporting systems in place so they can track store and associate performance, sales, and customer data, but those systems require time and attention to manage, so reviews may only take place once a week or sometimes less. Digital, cloud-based clienteling systems make these reports available on-demand. This gives associates the ability to see at-a-glance who the top spenders and most frequent shoppers are (AKA who are their VIPs). From this, they can target those individuals with specialized offers and experiences that acknowledge their VIP status such as priority access to the newest paint collections or special bulk furniture purchases promotions.

Of course, the best known use of clienteling solutions are the digital 360-degree profiles that enable brands to track their customers across channels and locations with details including their preferences, past purchases, online wish lists, and more. From a VIP lens, having the ability to see the most recent purchases and items in their wishlist gives associates insight into what projects they’re working on and equipping them with the confidence to proactively reach out with recommendations for complementary pieces or suggestions of making an appointment to come in store and see the products for themselves. Using home decor stylist and influencer Alexandra Gater as an example, an associate at a furniture store could go into her profile and see she purchased a yellow sofa from their website 3 days ago and had recently added pink flower shams and squiggly pastel frames to her wishlist. They could then infer that she’s working on a living room redesign and send her a link to a checkered lavender rug that they think would really complete the space.

Lastly, having a digital clienteling tool with integrated omnichannel communication makes engaging with customers so much more convenient for both them and associates. Taking the example above, Alexandra might see their message and be interested in the rug, but she’s got some questions on it like what is the pile height or the dimensions? If she’s working on-site, it may be easier to ask these questions over a phone call or live video than through text. Associates need to be able to connect directly with their customers in the way that’s easiest for them including short form messages like SMS or WhatsApp or over phone or live videos.

How to optimize the checkout experience for VIPs

In addition to clienteling, checkout is another critical area to focus on, especially for VIPs.

Having an omnichannel checkout could be the difference between making a sale or losing a customer. While customers want everything to be available to them in-store, they understand that’s not always the case. Especially when it comes to furniture or cabinet showrooms, there’s really just not room for the floor models and everything else. But, regardless how many times they’ve been through the dance, they still want convenience. Omnichannel checkout equips store associates to be able to offer a quick and easy way to order exactly what they need, even without the items in store. With an “endless aisle” solution, associates can access inventory anywhere in the system— including online— and check out the customers’ complete order in a single transaction, even if it’s a mixed basket. Making so they get everything they came for, even without leaving with it in tow.

On the other side of the VIP scale from decor stylists are the contractors that make it all possible. Contractors often already know what they need from the store without even needing to see it. In the same way a luxury apparel VIP might walk into Versace and say “I need a rose gold clutch, a pair of nude 4-in pumps, and a cappuccino”, a contractor should be able to do the same for tools, though maybe with a little less ritz. Additionally recognizing the difference between the two consumers, a contractor doesn’t have a minute to spare, they are not there to shop, they are there to get what they need and get back to work. So, going back to the omnichannel communication from before, associates need to be equipped to receive a message from their contractor that says “I need 16 2-by-4s, a pack of 64 3-inch wood screws, and a replacement set of the drill bits I bought last week” and build a basket for them, input delivery options and send them off to customers to pay conveniently from their mobile phone using a secure payment link.

The last piece of the checkout experience is sending the shopper off with the product they purchased. As mentioned above, sometimes this means shipping it to be delivered to their— or their client’s— door, but for customers who need their items day-of, like contractors, that could mean offering different fulfillment options. In the same way that contractors don’t have a second to spare when shopping, they also want the pickup of their items to be as fast as possible too. Fulfillment options like BOPIS (Buy Online Pickup In-Store) or curbside pickup can be extremely helpful, especially when coupled with Pay by Link features— this gives VIPs the ability to build their cart, pay for their items, and pick everything up without ever having to set foot in the store. For home projects with strict deadlines, this convenience can make all the difference.

Bringing it all together

When talking about influencers or other individuals with large social media followings, it’s crucial to recognize the significant impact a positive experience with your brand can have. While sponsorship and product promotion opportunities are valuable, it’s important to note that in many cases these individuals choose brands because they love the experience they have with them. When these individuals advocate for your brand, their audience of hundreds of thousands and sometimes millions hears that positive experience and wants it for themself, no marketing necessary.

Additionally VIPs like contractors who are simply looking for the tried and true fastest and most convenient retailer to stick with, ensuring that the experience you offer meets their expectations can mean building a brand loyalist for life.

All in all, retail solutions for clienteling and checkout can offer the best customer experience whether you’re an interior designer looking for modern furniture, a contractor buying their 50th tub of tile grout, or just an everyday shopper looking to redesign their home. By investing in LCV, retailers have the opportunity to enhance brand loyalty and advocacy which set the stage for long-term success.

Learn more

Interested in learning more about how you can leverage clienteling and checkout tech for your business? Contact us today!

Tulip is the world’s largest cloud-based retail customer engagement platform provider, with best-in-class Clienteling and POS capabilities that let retailers realize the full potential of omnichannel commerce. The world’s most iconic retailers like David Yurman, Versace, Jimmy Choo, Mulberry, Saks Fifth Avenue, Ferragamo, COACH, and Michael Kors use Tulip to modernize the shopping experience, creating personalized shopping journeys that increase sales and improve customer loyalty across channels. Partnered with Apple and Salesforce, Tulip enables retailers to build deeply personal connections with customers, fulfill orders, close out purchases, and maximize store associate productivity and performance.

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