Loyal customers aren't made in one transaction. It takes time, effort, and energy to turn shoppers into loyal customers - and let's be honest, time, effort, and energy are costly. They require us to focus on details, to care about the people who shop with us, to understand their behavior, and to find ways to connect with them and do more for them.
At first glance, investing in your customers may seem expensive... after all, time, effort, and energy aren't cheap. But in the long run, customers take notice and your efforts pay off through repeat purchases and loyalty.
This is why retail clienteling was invented - clienteling is one way of proactively engaging with customers so that we can build long-term relationships with them.
Clienteling is essentially the practice of personalized customer service in retail stores. By leveraging customer data such as past purchases, shopping preferences, demographic information, and more - retailers can create tailored experiences that encourage people to come back and shop with them.
Now, you may be thinking, but my store is online. How does retail clienteling help me?
Clienteling is more important in today's market than ever before. Retail clienteling began in small cities where the customer only had a few competitor options to choose from and many of their decisions were based on price. For example, if a shopper wanted to purchase new dress shoes for a wedding, their only options were a Sears Catalog, a shoe store, or a local shoemaker - that's it.
Today, according to Quora, there are more than 265 shoe brands globally and the vast majority have eCommerce stores. Statista notes that the global shoe market generates more than $380B annually, meaning that (if you're a shoe brand) you have 100X the competition as you would've only a few decades ago - meaning that you have to "stand out" to be memorable to your customers.
Over the past few years, the concept of clienteling has shifted online. With the development of conversational commerce tools like Humankind, that enable remote concierges to collect zero-party data, all businesses have the same opportunities to collect customer data, personalize experiences, create better shopping experiences, and foster loyalty as their large enterprise counterparts.
Collecting customer data is just the beginning though - it's how you use that data to engage your customers that matters most. But before we get to the data around creating an excellent shopping experience, you may be thinking, clienteling just sounds like great customer service - what's the difference?
Simply put, clienteling is about using customer data to create a personalized and tailored experience for each shopper. It's about recognizing customers as individuals when they come into your store, as well as taking the time to build relationships with them that will turn them into loyal returning customers.
Customer service, on the other hand, involves responding to customer inquiries and resolving any issues that may arise. Customer service is a vital part of running a business, but it's not about creating personalized experiences for customers - it's about completing a transaction. Clienteling takes the extra step by utilizing the data you have to curate a unique shopping experience for each person who comes into your store.
Clienteling can be incredibly empowering for customers as well as eCommerce brands. By collecting and leveraging customer data, you can create an experience that is tailored to each individual - from suggesting new items they may like and creating custom bundles, to providing discounts or offers on specific items, clienteling allows the customer to see options that are tailored and personalized for them.
For example, when a customer enters your virtual store, your remote concierge can suggest items that they may like, based on purchase history, preferences, and demographics. You can also provide exclusive discounts or offers if the customer is part of a loyalty program. These tailored experiences help to create trust and build relationships with customers that will keep them coming back time and time again.
Clienteling also helps eCommerce brands create 1:1 human connections and "puts a face" on the brand. Instead of texting a mindless chatbot, you're messaging Maria, Michelle, or Stephen - and with Humankind, you even get a direct number for that person. This allows you to connect with customers even after they've left your site and foster relationships with them, creating a more personalized experience that builds loyalty and trust with your brand.
These are just a few of the benefits of clienteling powered by Humankind.
In the past, eCommerce stores that wanted to provide true personalization would be siloed to a particular platform. The challenge here is that it’s very hard to get data centralized and then use it across the organization to effectively personalize customer engagement.
With Humankind, you are able to keep track of customer interactions on the most powerful channel - SMS. This makes it much easier for your brand to be present across the touch points that matter most to the customer and ensure that they get the personalized attention that they expect from you.
With the help of conversational commerce tools like Humankind, small and medium-sized businesses can now do this on a budget with minimal effort.
Let's look at a modern customer journey to understand how clienteling can improve the experience.
Say, for example, you're an Overlanding enthusiast looking for a new roof-top tent for your "TACO" (Toyota Tacoma). You've been looking at reviews and influencer vlogs on YouTube and noticed that the CVT Mt. Hood Aluminum tent from Cascadia Tents/ Gathr Outdoors is getting great reviews - so you pop over to the website and check it out... the dimensions seem to fit your vehicle but you don't know what size you need or if the tent will fit your existing rack and connectors, and if it comes in a color that will match your ride.
Rather than continuing to search for answers on the website, you decide to get in touch with a product expert. There's a chatbox linked to a personal shopper right next to the product description and in less than 5 minutes, Jeff from Cascadia Tents is able to answer all of your questions…
But let's throw a variable in there, since today's world is fast-paced and highly unpredictable - let's say that halfway through your questions, you get a Slack message and need to jump on an emergency all-hands meeting for your company.
You thank Jeff but have to run, so he SMS messages you a link to a custom landing page he's created with recommendations just for you. The landing page is a virtual cart that has all the products you need to fit your vehicle along with the tent in your color choice, the hardware you need to make it fit your vehicle, and instructions on how to mount it when you receive it.
Now, here's where things get interesting. Because you connected with a real person, Jeff put the end date of your next Overlanding trip into a follow-up sequence so Cascadia can follow up with you after your trip to find out how it went, how the product performed, and get product feedback.
How cool is that?
Now, Humankind has a customer profile that your remote concierges and product experts can use to better understand your product preferences, and even the fitment requirements of your vehicle so they can provide more timely recommendations that are tailored to the individual.
Let’s take it one step into the future - now that you have this data, Jeff can proactively reach out to your customers with personalized offers. Anytime there’s a relevant sale, a new product drop, or you launch an accessory, Jeff can message your customers and generate sales.
When brands use the concept of clienteling, powered by a platform like Humankind, shopping feels like texting a friend! This is one of the huge benefits for online retailers.
The final point to cover is the checkout experience. How many times do your customers abandon their cart because there’s "too many buttons," or "the shipping charges are too high?" Or maybe they're just not 100% sure they made the right choices in their cart.
There are so many reasons people put a product in their cart but don't finalize the purchase.
At Humankind, we understand how important it is to create a reliable, fast, and secure checkout experience for your customers. We make sure that your checkout process is as seamless as possible so your customers will be happy and confident in their purchase decisions.
Plus, by connecting with a real person during the shopping experience - like Jeff from Gathr Outdoors - the customer is more likely (27.2% according to our customers) to finalize their purchase - and if they don't, their remote concierge (Jeff) can follow-up with them and find out, “Why?”
Clienteling can be a powerful tool to increase sales, customer loyalty, and customer satisfaction. By leveraging customer data and using clienteling strategies, eCommerce brands can gain a range of significant advantages, including:
But there are also some disadvantages to clienteling as well - check out "Clienteling Is Not a New Idea, but Is It a Good Idea?" to read more about both pros and cons.
At the end of the day, clienteling can be a powerful tool for eCommerce brands looking to increase customer loyalty and boost their overall sales. Collecting zero-party data can help marketing and sales create messaging that's more effective and converts better, and the relationship that clienteling fosters can generate repeat business if shoppers love the experience you're creating for them.
To learn more about how Humankind can help you create excellent customer experiences like the ones mentioned above, book your demo and learn more, today!