One of retail’s greatest mistakes has been its acceptance of this alluring narrative: “Ecommerce killed the customer relationship.” On the contrary: Ecommerce simply scaled the low-touch, one-size-fits-all practices of brick & mortar, where clienteling best practices had been sacrificed in the name of growth. We think today’s technology, along with a direct-from-consumer data approach, can get retail back on the right relationship track.
The proliferation of shopping malls, chain stores and supermarkets -- not Ecommerce -- dissolved the business-to-customer relationship decades ago. It’s a natural consequence of rapid growth to see personalization deprioritized. Moving stores online certainly made that trap easier to fall into than ever before, and yet… we all know the names of those great brands that bucked the trend, and built empires (both online and off) on a foundation of unparalleled customer service and clienteling. The irony is, those brands haven’t ignored technology -- they’ve been at the forefront of it.
Clienteling In The Omnichannel Age: Platform & Data
Virtually nothing today is purchased without some online experience influencing it. Operating your retail business on a platform like Endear is fundamental to marrying the physical and virtual environments, which in turn enables sellers and marketers to blur those retail boundaries (as consumers naturally do) rather than guard them.
A store associate can’t be afraid to send a shopper to the website, and an online marketer can’t be hesitant to drive traffic to the store. There’s too much value in both worlds to pretend the other doesn’t exist. The clienteling days of old capitalized on captive markets (the “you’ve got nowhere else to shop” mentality)... today’s most innovative brands know there’s absolutely nothing captive about the modern market. Consumer choice rules.
Once you do have your omnichannel clienteling platform, there’s another a-ha moment not to be missed: it’s not just about bridging the customer record across the store & website gap, but about using that bridge to commute personalization and preference data.
Until recently, shopper “data” had two major issues which perpetuated the myth that Ecommerce retail can’t be customer-centric:
- Retail consumer data was trapped in the physical world. Classic clienteling best practices (knowing the client’s preferred fit or style, for instance) is simply data collection and storage for future use -- but without the right tech, it never transferred out of the employee’s brain.
- Ecommerce consumer data was scalable, but not personal or proprietary. Look at any DTC brand’s marketing spend over the past 5 years, and you’ll see the lion’s share went to channels like Facebook and Instagram where shoppers were easy to find. However, those shoppers were so difficult to mature into acquired and retained customers because you only had generic assumptions about them -- and for that matter, your competitors had the same information. For many DTC brands, there was no competitive differentiator in their digital clienteling approach -- Facebook knew your customers better than you did.
It’s for this reason that we built EnquireLabs, and why we champion direct-from-consumer data. By asking your customers survey questions and operationalizing that data to drive true personalization, you gain a competitive advantage built on proprietary knowledge of the customer. That’s the ultimate benefit of clienteling.
All data is merely answers to questions, and in that light, it’s easy to see how surveys do for Ecommerce retail what great sales teams do for brick & mortar. In fact, some of the questions most often asked by our 1,500+ DTC brands will look pretty familiar, if you’ve spent any time clienteling on the retail floor:
A store associate can’t be afraid to send a shopper to the website, and an online marketer can’t be hesitant to drive traffic to the store. There’s too much value in both worlds to pretend the other doesn’t exist.
“Is this a gift?”
Ecommerce makes great use of this insight because it helps to distinguish the buyer from the user.
“Did you find everything you were looking for?”
The classic customer experience question not only presents an add-on sales opportunity, but in the digital retail space can be used to identify issues in online store design.
“What brought you to the store today?”
Attribution is our most popular survey question, and a typical EnquireLabs client will see a 20%+ improvement in attribution across their marketing mix -- online or off. For brands who want to invest in offline advertising, the post-purchase survey is a crucial ground truth.
You can find these questions and more in our handy Question Bank, along with guidance as to why & how they fuel the Ecommerce retail experience.
When you have an omnichannel retail platform like Endear, and an always-on pipeline of individual customer insights like EnquireLabs’ Question Stream™, the result is a modern-day clienteling best practice. A proprietary understanding of each individual consumer, growing organically over time through questions and insights, to nurture a seamless shopping experience so that wherever and however they shop, you know them best.