Upscale Retailers Embrace ‘Clienteling’ To Stay Connected

Retailers Embrace Clienteling To Stay Connected

New York City fashion boutique Nili Lotan has a client list that reads like the front row at Fashion Week (back when such events were still held). Among them: Gigi Hadid, Kendall Jenner, Christy Turlington, Jennifer Lawrence and Julianne Moore. As a result of the pandemic, even the supermodel crowd can’t shop Lotan’s stores and pop-ups – and so Lotan is bringing her shop and style to the customers.

“This moment of self-isolation is a pivotal time in our lives, not just as a society but also personally. It's an opportunity to rethink our lifestyles: what works for us and what needs change,” she said in a statement on her website. “At the core of my label is the belief that a woman’s wardrobe should be timeless and practical while also reflecting her sense of self. Each garment should add to her expressive vocabulary. Creating a wardrobe is a personal and intimate process that deserves the utmost attention and care. I am thrilled to offer my team as a service to you in that journey.”

Dispatching one of New York’s elite styling teams exemplifies the new face of “clienteling,” the retail practice of assigning sales associates to individual, high-value customers. With the pandemic, clienteling has become a go-to tactic for extending eCommerce sales or ensuring that brick-and-mortar fashion maintains an exclusive connection. The practice enables retailers to go above and beyond standard customer service at a time when that extra mile is sorely needed. With the pandemic, clienteling has gone decidedly upscale, with brands like Salvatore Ferragamo and Harrods kicking up new practices just over the past few weeks.

As the pandemic hit at Ferragamo, the company’s business model was split between high-profile fashion shows and big-budget ads to drive traffic to its 654 stores and brick-and-mortar retail partners. Its eCommerce capacity was minimal. Now, the company wants to build what CEO Micaela le Divelec Lemmi calls “bridges” between the brand and its consumers, retailers and factories. According to Vogue Business, “in [the] coming months, Ferragamo will make an effort to pick up its digital game, including immersion in augmented reality and virtual reality that may be the only means of showing new collections for many months.”

At British luxury department store icon Harrods, staff will take orders from clients via telephone and smartphone messaging as part of a phased reopening. Harrods said the “remote clienteling” service would begin on May 18, geared toward “one-on-one relationships that our retail colleagues have with customers.” The company did not say whether it would use the operation to test whether it could extend the service beyond the pandemic.

The practice does not depend on technology such as Ferragamo’s augmented reality (AR) solution. But technology solutions have been upgraded as the retail lockdown continues. Tulip, which offers a cloud-based mobile clienteling solution, upgraded its offering this week with two new features, Web Chat and Remote Pay.

The new features build on the company’s LiveConnect mobile app, which enables customers and sales personnel to connect over social messaging. With Web Chat, customers communicate with a store associate through the brand's eCommerce site. Tulip's Remote Pay store associates have the flexibility to help customers purchase products remotely with payment processing functionality. Store associates can build a cart on the customer's behalf, organize delivery and process payment securely from their mobile devices.

"You have customers who want to shop, and associates who have time. But people can't go into stores," said Ali Asaria, founder and CEO of Tulip. "We are working with some of our trusted customers to help them expand the functionality of their existing products and find new innovative solutions of driving sales and staying connected with their shoppers. At Tulip, we're also doubling down on our roadmap around features we can deliver to our partners that can help them in this new world."



The How We Shop Report, a PYMNTS collaboration with PayPal, aims to understand how consumers of all ages and incomes are shifting to shopping and paying online in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. Our research builds on a series of studies conducted since March, surveying more than 16,000 consumers on how their shopping habits and payments preferences are changing as the crisis continues. This report focuses on our latest survey of 2,163 respondents and examines how their increased appetite for online commerce and digital touchless methods, such as QR codes, contactless cards and digital wallets, is poised to shape the post-pandemic economy.