There are mountains of articles about customer relationship management (CRM) tools for retail — this isn’t one of them. Even though we’ve built an amazing retail CRM platform, we believe that building customer relationships requires more than a piece of software. It’s an entire process of interactions that contribute to growing the trust and loyalty your company needs to drive business success.
Instead of lecturing you on the features and benefits of yet another CRM system, we’ve found some examples of outstanding relationship-building in retail to help inspire your CRM strategy — and help you find the right tools for the job.
What is Customer Relationship Management?
In simple terms, customer relationship management (CRM) is how a business initiates and keeps track of customer interactions, from marketing communications and purchase history to sales or support follow-up.
In the world of retail, CRM is typically associated with the software system a company uses to record customer information, communicate across departments about customer transactions, and target advertising and marketing campaigns.
We prefer to see CRM as a series of relationship-building interactions that are made more efficient with software tools. But ultimately, customer relationship management relies on human-to-human connection.
Why is Customer Relationship Management Important in Retail?
Well-executed customer relationship management is the key to long-term success. Strong customer relationships result in loyal customers, which increases overall customer lifetime value (LTV), customer retention, and revenue — and decreases churn.
Traditionally, CRM is associated with business-to-business (B2B) selling in industries that require multiple interactions before a single purchase. B2B marketing and sales teams use CRM to target and nurture leads so they can keep their sales pipelines full of opportunities.
But in the age of the informed consumer, retail customer relationship-building is more important than ever. Here’s why:
More touch-points means more opportunities for connection.
According to Marketing Week, “15 years ago, the average consumer typically used two touch-points when buying an item and only 7% regularly used more than four. Today, consumers use an average of almost six touch-points, with 50% regularly using more than four.”
With mobile devices making it easier to comparison-shop on the go, the buying process has become even more complex. 82% of consumers consult their phones while they're in a store deciding what product to buy. One in 10 of those people end up buying a different product than they had planned.
With stats like that, it’s no wonder retailers have resorted to blasting new customers with daily email marketing and generic ads over and over in their social media feeds. They’re desperate to stay in front of the customer to hopefully boost lead generation.
But, as you’ll learn later in this article, being seen everywhere isn’t the same thing as building a relationship. In fact, today’s consumers are less likely to buy from companies that use old-school repetitive marketing efforts.
Personalized experiences are essential to building customer relationships.
Imagine the power of showing up exactly when and where your customers need you armed with personalized information and advice.
Excellent customer relationship management helps you deliver the personalized experiences that 80% of consumers seek.
Tactics to Manage Customer Relationships
Great customer relationship management happens when the focus is on listening to customers, serving their needs with relevant, personalized content, and delivering an exceptional customer experience.
Here are what modern retailers are doing today to build strong, long lasting customer relationships.
1. Tailored recommendations
With 31% of customers saying they wish their shopping experiences were more personalized, retailers have a huge opportunity to drive sales with tailored recommendations.
Lookbooks have long been a popular way for fashion and apparel sellers to offer recommendations to customers. They give customers ideas on how to pair outfits and accessories and follow the latest fashions.
Now, with powerful digital tools like Endear, you can turn in-store shoppers into online customers with personalized lookbooks curated to their style. Lookbook products are automatically linked to your e-commerce site so customers can continue their purchase journey online.
2. Personalized email
Email personalization goes beyond including a customer’s first name in a subject line. The key to great email personalization is letting your customers know that you care about them and making their shopping experience as easy and fun as possible.
You can use a wealth of creative, data-driven techniques to make your email campaigns more personalized while delivering a substantial ROI. One popular tactic is to send personalized discounts based on purchase history — 76% of customers report such discounts are important to them.
3. Text message conversations
4. Loyalty programs
More than 70% of millennials and Gen Z belong to loyalty programs, compared to less than 20% of Baby Boomers.
Why? Because loyalty programs offer discounts, which streamline the buying process for today’s overwhelmed consumer. In fact, 77% of consumers say discounts influence where they shop, and 48% say discounts can speed up their decision-making process.
With clienteling, you can give every returning and potential customer who walks into your store the kind of shopping experience you might find at high-end boutiques or personal shopping programs.
Clienteling requires a high level of knowledge about what matters to your customer. That’s why it’s broken down into two main functions:
- Collecting customer data from interactions
- Leveraging this information to craft intimate, personally-relevant brand experiences for customers
5 Examples of Building Customer Relationships in Retail
Let’s get to the good stuff. Here are some examples of CRM strategies and delightful retail customer relationship-building methods we’ve spotted in the wild:
Stitch Fix: Personal Look Books and Stylists
One of the hardest parts of shopping for clothes is knowing how to put an outfit together with things you already own. Stitch Fix helps eliminate that problem by including personalized look books for its customer base that demonstrate ideas for mixing try-on clothes with pieces customers have already purchased.
Customers not only receive printed lookbooks in their subscription boxes, but they also can access their lookbooks in their online accounts for later reference.
Plus, customers can pin looks they love and send these ideas to their Stitch Fix stylists to help with selections in future boxes. This kind of give and take will help speed up the buying process because the more stylists understand their customers’ preferences, the easier it will be to send them stuff they love.
Kirna Zabete: High-Touch Remote Clienteling
By combining a high-touch remote sales process with the option to buy online and pick up in-store, luxury brand Kirna Zabete ensured that their customers could continue to shop in a way that was safe and convenient for them during the coronavirus pandemic. In fact, with just one salesperson manning outreach, this past June was Kirna's best performance when it comes to client-generated sales, a staggering 21% higher than their best month before the pandemic.
Kirna uses a combination of personalized outreach emails and texts from their sales department. Customers can respond with additional follow-up questions and get real-time responses from a knowledgeable resource.
Caribou Coffee: Perks Points Loyalty Program
The Caribou Perks loyalty program is more than a way to save money — it also saves busy customers time. If you’re a regular at Caribou, you can order ahead and your usual coffee drink will be waiting for you at the order pick-up area, hot and ready to be enjoyed.
The loyalty program is connected to a mobile app that tracks previous purchases so customers can order their favorite beverage with a tap. With location tracking turned on, customers can even earn points toward discounts just for walking through the door of their local Caribou.
Chewy: Omnichannel Personalization
From handwritten welcome and pet birthday cards to new product recommendations based on past purchases and texts to follow up on recent purchases, pet-product seller Chewy is heads (and waggy tails) above most in terms of retail customer relationship programs — especially omnichannel ones. They know that most pet products (like dog food) are recurring purchases, so the more you delight your customers, the more likely they are to stick with you through thick and thin.
The key to their customer relationship management: a robust contact management system for customer contact information, social media accounts, and communications across channels, so they can easily do relevant, timely outreach and support no matter where their customers are.
Marks and Spencer: Personalized review request
Online reviews are the new word of mouth. When you ask customers to review their experience, you are presenting them the perfect opportunity to engage with your brand while also sharing their experience with others who may need some encouragement to finally make a purchase.
Marks and Spencer sends hyper-personalized emails to make it easy for customers to give feedback about recent purchases.
4 Tools to Build Customer Relationships
No surprise here: we’re big fans of our own product. Endear is a customer engagement platform designed to serve the modern retailer. While we offer an outstanding unified customer relationship management platform, we truly believe that the keys to customer relationships are human-to-human connections. That’s why we support communication and personalization tools that help craft intimate, unforgettable customer experiences both in-store and online.
Love the idea of sending old-school thank you notes but hate the idea of cramped hands? With Handwrytten, your sales and customer support associates can write a quick personal note via text message and the app will print and send a ‘handwritten’ (by robots) message directly to your customers. You can easily integrate this tool with your favorite CRM solutions to further automate the process or schedule future notes to be sent on important dates.
This is a thoughtful, personal, scalable way to show your customers you care.
Send your email subscribers newsletters so gorgeous they won’t have the heart to delete them. MailerLite is a super-easy email marketing platform designed for e-commerce. You can build newsletter templates with their drag-and-drop editor and connect the platform to your Shopify account.
Listening is a huge part of building relationships. Mention helps you keep your finger on the pulse of what customers and prospects are saying about your brand so you can respond and keep the conversation going. Monitor brand mentions anywhere on the web (blogs, social media, and more), listen to conversations about relevant topics on social media, and post and schedule engaging content for your social media feeds.
Building Customer Relationships is About Building Trust
If you aren’t placing customer satisfaction at the top of your priority list, it doesn’t matter how advanced your customer relationship management software is. Build your customer relationship strategy around supporting your customers’ goals, and you’ll be sure to reach your business goals and meet your business needs.
We have the tools to make building retail customer relationships easy and enjoyable. Check out Endear’s CRM tools so your customers will fall in love with your brand over and over again.