With the Covid-19 lockdowns and varying nation-wide restrictions, it’s no secret that the shopping economy has been suffering. Even so, as Kelly Wing writes in Entrepreneur, 2021 might just be best year to start a business of your own. While launching a retail business or digital brand has become increasingly easier thanks to readily available software and increased dependence on e-commerce, it has also become that much harder to stand out in a crowd.
So where can brands and retailers turn? The answer is clienteling. With a strong clienteling program, a brand can re-invest in the customer relationships it has already started building and maximize customer loyalty in order to maximize profit. By adding a top-notch clienteling experience to your retail business, you’ll be able to distinguish your brand and motivate customers to return to you again and again. Put another way, your brand will be recognized as the one unicorn in a stampede of zebras.
Problems with Today’s Playbook
Most e-commerce businesses have three key areas on lock: sales, marketing, and customer support. Though at the same time, these areas have also become increasingly difficult to turn into “differentiators” – identifying a unique marketing channel no one else has thought of or offering one-of-a-kind support is no easy feat.
Stiff Competition across Sales Channels
Thanks to platforms like Amazon, Shopify, Squarespace, Target, Etsy, and a plethora of others, setting up a sales portal takes just a few clicks. Customers can easily purchase from you on your own site, or through a marketplace, with a seemingly unlimited number of ways to check out and fulfill their orders.
All these different online destinations also create more competition for your dedicated website. Other sites may offer cheaper, faster, or more appealing fulfillment options, or accept a payment method you don’t offer yet. As the e-commerce landscape becomes more saturated, customer expectations around these types of services have gotten harder to satisfy for a small retailer or brand. In fact, 82% of consumers say they are more likely to check out with a brand who offers multiple delivery options - it's no longer just about having the best product.
Marketing 101 Is Everywhere
SEO, Google Ads/promoted links, and social media advertising are obviously very important methods of drumming up increased traffic and awareness for your business. However, these strategies have become “table stakes” – they are necessary, but not enough, to achieve success.
68% of online experiences start with a search engine, so there’s no doubt that an investment in SEO is a worthwhile endeavor and can pay off in the long run. In fact, advertisers earn, on average $8 for every $1 spent on Google Ads and promoted links! Not too shabby, right? But, it can be competitive and expensive, particularly for popular keywords. Sites can count on spending anywhere from $9K and $10K per month on keyword advertising. That’s quite the budget!
Social media marketing and advertising is a must for every business, regardless of growth stage. Channels like Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, and TikTok create a whole new world in which you can capture and engage and interested audience. But finding the right social media strategy still takes time and money – two things that a large organization will almost always have more of.
Customer Support Drives Costs More Than Revenue
With the highest satisfaction rate of any support channel, livechat continues to grow in popularity with an expected total market value of $997M by 2023, up from $510M in 2016. There’s no doubt that implementing a live chat for your online audience is a good idea – in fact, customers who engage with a livechat tend to spend 60% more than the average! However, livechat is also clearly becoming more common-place, and can often become a cost center for companies rather than a revenue-driver when the conversations that occur are exclusively operational in nature ("Where’s my order?" or "How do I make a return?").
What is Clienteling?
So, with so many companies competing for attention (and dollars) both online and in-person, standing out has become even more challenging than before. Make no mistake: each of these methods are important to your business’s visibility and profitability. But to truly stand out? At Endear, we believe the best path toward differentiation is through the power of omnichannel clienteling.
As we’ve mentioned before, clienteling is “the process or tools used to promote customer satisfaction through the shopping experience.” Put another way: clienteling means treating each shopper as the individual sparkle-pony they are.
But modern clienteling adds an extra layer to this definition: offer personalization at scale. A modern CRM and clienteling platform (like Endear) will enable you to offer the same level of high-touch service to every customer, not just your VIP’s.
Benefits of a Clienteling Platform
The goal of any business is to increase revenue and profitability over time. Looking at the unique benefits of clienteling one by one will illustrate how you can achieve this overall goal.
Instead of leaving customer satisfaction in the hands of a few superstar sellers, clienteling (particularly when done at POS) manages customer information in a way that makes it available to every sales associate who needs it. This ensures that each customer has a good experience regardless of whether they are shopping in one of your brick-and-mortar stores or online. After getting most of its sales associates comfortable with the clienteling program, one company (who chose to remain anonymous) saw a 33% increase in repeat visits and a 6% bump in total traffic!
Trust the Numbers
Customers with an emotional tie to a brand have a 306% higher LTV
of companies’ revenue comes from 20% of customers
of customers say they only engage with personalized offers
Personalization Pays Off
Clienteling gives your team the information they need to create personalized and individually targeted messages to shoppers. This helps customers feel valued for who they are and not just for the money in their wallets. According to a research study conducted by Epsilon, 80% of customers are more likely to buy from companies that create personalized experiences for them. By investing in a clienteling software, you can uphold a level of personalization for your entire customer base while simultaneously decreasing your sales team's workload.
Loyalty, Loyalty, Loyalty
Through emotional relationships, brands can dramatically increase a customer's lifetime value by 306% according to Motista. Keeping in mind that a 5% increase in customer retention can yield a 25% increase in profit, clienteling proves to actually be an efficient, and high-return path toward growth compared to the money invested into acquisition channels like advertising and paid search.
See the Power of Clienteling in Action
Learn how our customer Kirna Zabete relied on a clienteling strategy to overcome the challenges of COVID.
How to Implement an Omnichannel Clienteling Program
“Clienteling” traditionally refers to courses of action only available to an in-store salesperson, working with a client she knows personally (or has encountered face-to-face). But with a surge in e-commerce shopping brought on by the pandemic, it’s no longer feasible or wise to keep clienteling activity to just the in-person shopping experience. Omnichannel clienteling is meant to merge the gap between brick-and-mortar retail establishments and their online offerings so that customers can move between these channels seamlessly and still receive the same level of service only previously available at high-end department stores and boutiques.
Whether you’re an e-commerce-only company, a small pop-up, or a larger omnichannel operation, clienteling presents you with an opportunity to extend the lifetime value of your customers and ensure that they continue to shop with you and your brand. Here are a few ways to institute a proper omnichannel clienteling strategy at your brand:
70% of online shoppers said they’ve engaged in BOPIS, while 71% of in-store shoppers say their mobile devices are an important part of their experience - if customers are leveraging multiple channels to achieve their goals, so should your brand. An omnichannel associate acts as both your online and offline salesperson, making sure that customers receive consistent service across all their interactions with you. Omnichannel associates are in large part a product of Coronavirus. While Covid-19 forced many brick and mortar shops to implement or invest further into their online shopping experience, these stores also realized that their sales staff would similarly have more to do and more customers to serve if they could work with a digital audience on top of store visitors. The beauty of an omnichannel associate is that they serve as a consistent point of contact for your customers regardless of geography or channel – they can help a customer find the right product in-store or online, and answer questions one-on-one over remote channels like email and text.
In the old world, clienteling usually occurred on the back of a store associate’s little black book and a lot of phone calls. While this process resulted in high-value customers, there was a limit on how many of them a single associate could actually manage. But a proper clienteling solution offers your business the following improvements on this approach:
- diverse methods of getting in touch: Personalization sits at the core of a good clienteling strategy, and that includes personalization around the channels your customers use to communicate. Providing options on communication will increase the likelihood of response and engagement. Some customers may still like using the phone, but channels like email, sms, and videochat also are more trackable and are make room for asynchronous, ongoing conversation.
- Give Customers a Reason (and way) to connect: While Livechat is certainly powerful, one of its largest drawbacks is that it only exists within the actual e-commerce experience. Providing a way for a customer to get in touch or continue the conversation through more readily accessible channels like the ones mentioned above establishes the foundation for true long-term clienteling. When a customer walks into a store, she may ask for assistance from a salesperson. For those customers who are a bit shy though, they may not actually seek out attention until offered assistance directly. A good clienteling strategy creates opportunities for customers to reach out about the products they are seeing, and ensures that customers are connected to the right person.
The most overlooked and simultaneously the most important way to introduce omnichannel clienteling at your company is to build in new methods of attribution and accountability. Historically, associates were rated almost entirely by one number: their sales total at their store location. But the more we talk to brands and their retail teams, the more it has become clear that associates’ play a large role in online sales as well. In order to keep sales associates motivated, they need to feel confident that they will get credit (and potentially commission) for the sales they drive, regardless of where the transaction takes place. With Endear, sales associates not only receive credit for purchases made online, but can track their conversions in real-time.
Whether your company is a luxury brand, a chain store, or a tiny indie shop that you run out of your garage, clienteling is what will help you stand out among your competitors. As more brands move online and diversify their sales channels, it will become that more important to develop long-term relationships with your customers to ensure that you’re offering something no one can compete with. Let us know how we can help you get started implementing clienteling into your company platform!
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