How Stores are Turning their Associates into Personal Stylists

Retailers are transforming their associates into influencers and tastemakers through technology and a relationship-based sales culture.

stylish models in denim outfits

Retail competition today is more fierce than ever before. But as more things change, the more things stay the same. Today’s shoppers want what all shoppers want: personalized customer service, aka clienteling. When retail brands can elevate their game in this aspect of the shopping experience, they typically end up winning.

And don’t just take our word for it. McKinsey has long touted the power of personalization:

[Personalization] can reduce customer acquisition costs by as much as 50 percent, lift revenues by 5 to 15 percent, and increase marketing ROI by 10 to 30 percent. Personalization has also been shown to improve performance and provide better customer outcomes. Companies with faster growth rates derive 40 percent more of their revenue from personalization than their slower-growing counterparts. - McKinsey

The difference in brands that do personalization well versus the ones who don’t are stark, especially when it comes to loyalty. This is especially evident in the industries that we work with the most: apparel, beauty, and jewelry. We consistently see that the stores that put a focus on clienteling almost always see a higher percentage of repeat customers year after year.

And here’s an inside scoop: the retail brands that can provide the best customer service to their audience are the ones who can use technology to turn sales associates and reps into personal stylists. Gone are the days of the disinterested sales person vaguely gesturing to a rack of shirts while flipping through a Vogue magazine. Also gone are the days of ecommerce experiences just being a general virtual storefront with little guidance.

Today, the top brands are leveraging smarter technological tools to not just help people shop, but help people style.

Let’s dive into how this is done.

1. Applying CRM Data for Maximum Personalization

The start to all this is good customer data, which a good retail CRM will capture and sort for your sales team. What did a customer last purchase? What styles, colors, and sizes do they prefer? What do they end up returning to the store? How often do they shop? What are their preferred seasons? If your CRM knows the answers to all these questions, so does your sales rep; and that means it’s their ticket to becoming that useful personal stylist.

Stores that train up their reps to use their CRM well are ahead of the curve. But today, more stores are arming their sales associates with mobile CRM options on tablets or just on their smartphones. This gives any rep instant access to a customer’s profile and history, allowing them to provide styling recommendations right from the show floor. This leads to better service, as well as a higher chance of making a sale.

For online shopping, your CRM is the engine of your recommendation system at checkout. The more personalized the recommendations are, the better. But that’s only a passive way to provide a styling service. Which leads us to…

2. Leveraging Instant 2-Way Communication

When it comes to personalized forms of communication, text messaging is what’s most universally preferred. While emails from a retail brand may feel semi-personal, especially if they can intelligently segment their audience and target them with the right messaging, SMS goes a step further: now the customer is texting with an actual sales rep. It feels more intimate, and it increases the sense that it’s a personal conversation just between two people.

This is exactly why retail brands like gorjana invested into their SMS strategy and saw a 20% conversion rate from their 1-on-1 communication. Engaging with their audience via text messaging shows how attentive their team is. And because customers and reps can exchange photos of items, this form of communication paves the way for personal styling advice.

So where does technology come in? After all, texts have been around for decades. Here’s the rub: modern retailers use SMS platforms like the ones built into their CRM to initiate and maintain 1-to-1 conversations with multiple people at once. Without the right tech, it would be impossible for small sales teams to provide this level of real-time communication to their audience. But today, it’s not just possible, but one of the most efficient ways to provide personalized customer service.

3. Using Lookbooks for Virtual Clienteling

Sharing photos of items via text is one thing, but technology can help your store’s reps provide better styling advice with other tools. Virtual lookbooks (we call them Shoppable Stories here at Endear) give reps a way to bundle not just photos of a complete style package of various items, but to also incorporate video into the messages as well. The best part? Reps can send them out via text to enable that instant conversation that feels so much like having a personal stylist at your fingertips.

Back to Basics: Get our Clienteling 101 Playbook

Download our free, 3-step playbook for a clienteling strategy that's cost efficient, scalable, and effective.

What is the main function of a personal stylist? It’s understanding the client and curating items that they will love. Virtual lookbooks can help your team easily curate the right items (again, leveraging the insights in the CRM on each particular customer) and send them right to their phones for review.

And best of all? Lookbooks are transactable. Because they are created right within your CRM, all a customer has to do is tap the item in the lookbook that they like, and it will take her right to checkout to make the purchase. Convenient for them, and leads to higher sales for your team.

4. Enabling Online Chat with a Live Sales Associate

Of course, a breakdown of retail tech can’t be complete in 2024 without the mention of a chatbot. However, the average AI chatbot isn’t what will elevate your reps into personal stylists. As good as some of them are, 77% of customers still believe that a positive customer experience is tied to human interactions. In other words, what people really want is the chat, but not the bot.

That’s where tech like SalesChat comes in. This is a live chat that actually helps online shoppers while they are actively shopping on your ecommerce site. Instead of a bot, customers are connected with a knowledgeable (read: all the points above) and helpful sales rep who can act as their personal stylist right when they are actively in the process of buying.

In the past, assistance at the point-of-purchase only happened in-store. Today, with SalesChat technology, that can happen online. Your reps can provide assistance by recommending accessories, helping them find an item in the right size or color, or even pivoting the shopper to an entirely different product that they will love more. It’s true clienteling, live and instantaneously.

Can your retail tech do this?

If not, it might be time to switch to Endear. Get a demo of our platform today.