Retail

Clienteling Gives Retailers COVID-19 Interaction Options

retail online customer service

Clienteling — the practice of assigning retail sales associates to high value customers — is having a moment. What was known as a “nice to have” practice pre-COVID-19 has now become a way to keep a valuable channel open as non-essential stores are mandated to keep their physical locations closed amid the coronavirus pandemic.

According to Boston Retail Partners, 63 percent of retail personnel can’t identify customers prior to checkout.  Clienteling has been around for several years as a way to empower sales associates with customer data and mobile customer engagement technology. For example, by having a customer profile a store associate can engage with customers based on past purchases, preferences and interests. All the data locked in a CRM/POS system is made available to the store associate so that recommendations and interactions are informed by data. Clienteling apps also enable employees to follow up with customers after they leave the store with customized recommendations for future purchases. That feature is infinitely more valuable now.

“The reason you go to the store is for multiple factors; one is touch and feel but the second is the knowledge of the associates,” said Nitin Mangtani, founder and CEO at PredictSpring. “That level of dialogue and conversation that was happening in the real world is now moving to online till we open [stores] back up.”

In December, mobile clienteling application developer Tulip made the prescient move of introducing its LiveConnect app to enable customer-to-associate communication, and also connect to social media, which allows store associates to leverage WhatsApp, WeChat, Facebook Messenger, LINE and more. They can also send customers attachments from a photo library.

Tulip Founder and CEO Ali Asaria said: “Tulip has always allowed stores to communicate directly with customers over SMS and email, but today’s customers are increasingly moving towards more real-time methods of communication. For retailers, LiveConnect delivers an effective and meaningful way to engage with their customers. And for consumers, it will take convenience and personalization a few notches forward, making the shopping experience much easier.”

Technology has also taken the clienteling concept further, giving retailers more interaction points. Hero, for example, has designed platform that allows consumers to ask questions to store associates in real time, via a chat function. It also has a new video-call feature that gives shoppers images of products in real time. Associates can then interact in a manner that duplicates the in-store experience.

“The ubiquity of platforms like FaceTime, Zoom and Skype mean that the vast majority of consumers are now comfortable with video calling,” said Adam Levene, founder of Hero. “While, as a general rule, younger people are more comfortable with this kind of technology, text, chat and video calling have become popular ways for individuals of all ages to connect with businesses.”

“All of the scenarios above will drive more customers to shop online and retailers can use this challenge facing their stores as an opportunity to evolve the roles of their associates to serve customers as they shop online,” according to a report in WWD. “Using clienteling to connect with customers via live chat, e-mail and text messaging make it possible for store associates to drive sales and serve customers with an authentic, human approach (similar to what you’d expect in-store).”

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