Clienteling is familiar to any retailer who wants to stay in touch with their most valuable customers. But it too is now making the shift to Digital 3.0 as clienteling software platforms embrace eCommerce.
At first it would seem to be an antithetical idea. Innovation has enabled clienteling to accomplish more for eCommerce, especially in the wake of the lockdowns of the pandemic. Several companies rolled out social media connectivity apps to keep customer relationships alive for non-essential brick-and-mortar retail. Now Tulip, Apple’s partner in the clienteling space, is extending its clienteling product line to help retailers reconnect to customers via eCommerce.
“Retailers are breaking down the silos between online and eCommerce, and as a result of that they are moving away from the traditional setup that says you have and in-store team and an eCommerce team,” Tulip Marketing VP Pouneh Hanafi tells PYMNTS. “They’re looking for more of a hybrid team that can take some very traditional KPIs such as in-store transaction value and use them differently. They’re looking more in terms of customer loyalty, customer engagement, lifetime value and customer personalization. The pandemic is different pushing that to be done faster.”
Tulip has added two new products, Web Chat and Remote Pay, as retailers navigate the disruption from the pandemic. With Web Chat, customers can communicate with a store associate through the brand’s eCommerce site. It’s not an artificial intelligence (AI)-driven bot. Web Chat is a digital alternative to an in-store experience as customers connect on an individual basis with retail sales associates. Tulip’s Remote Pay offers sales associates the flexibility to continue working with customers outside of the store. Sales personnel can build a shopping cart on the customer’s behalf, organize delivery, and process payment from a mobile device.
“Retailers are also moving pretty quickly in terms of implementing new technologies,” Hanafi says. “They’re not looking right off the bat for that end-to-end solution that’s going to take months or years to implement. You’re looking at what can be done very quickly with the minimum viable product and then start building on it. So they’re becoming very agile which has been really interesting … we haven’t seen [that] in the past.”
The shift to Digital 3.0 has landed Tulip in its busiest time. Not only have retailers been trying to catch up with the nuances of eCommerce as it accelerates, but it attracted a lot of retailers that are new to eCommerce. Luxury brands, for example, are moving toward clienteling as they see the need for more sophisticated eCommerce operations.
“I think clienteling is going to be one of those things that all retailers will have in one form or another,” Hanafi says. “It may not be just the high-end solution for a luxury brand. I think even retailers that are not high-touch or even more fast fashion brands, they will have some form of clienteling to really bring that seamless experience online to the offline world. Clienteling will become table stakes. It’s what you do with it to connect to customers that will count.”