How Luxury Retailer Kirna Zabete Conquered COVID Through Clienteling

Learn how luxury retailer, Kirna Zabete, overcame the challenges of COVID-19 by focusing on an omnichannel clienteling strategy.

store with mannequins

About Kirna Zabete

Kirna Zabete is truly a fashionista's paradise -  her "Happy Place" - as the website states. For many, it's the embodiment of New York, fashion, and high-end, service-driven shopping.

But when 2020's pandemic forced everyone to go on lock-down, one would think that would mean the terrifying end of luxury apparel. And yet, as 2023 comes to a close, Kirna Zabete continues to provide the same high-touch level of attention it's known for to ensure their business stays afloat, leaving customers excited to indulge and ready to purchase.

While the retail team used to keep track of customers on their own, the company switched to using Endear's CRM in January 2020, enabling them to stay on top of a wider customer base through the lock-down and scale their outreach through personalized email and text that didn't require sacrificing their signature personal touch.

Initially piloted by their team at their flagship store in Soho, NY, Kirna Zabete started generating sales in Endear in just their first month. But even more promising was that sales did not stop even as mid-March 2020 came and went. By combining a high-touch remote sales strategy with the option to buy online and pick up in-store, the brand always ensured that their customers could continue to shop in a way that was safe and convenient for them.

In fact, in June 2020, with just one salesperson manning outreach through Endear, the brand achieved their best performance for client-generated sales, earning a staggering 21% higher than their best month before the pandemic.

But how, you ask? "No one is buying luxury!" you say? A close look at Kirna Zabete's outreach strategy can help illuminate how they achieve success.

1. Personalize your outreach

With Endear's CRM and clienteling solution, Kirna Zabete's retail team was able to segment customers by geography, spending habits, and other relevant data points in order to make their outreach feel personal without actually having to send messages one at a time. Whether sharing a special code with VIP customers for a private sale, or letting local shoppers know about store re-openings, the brand had complete control over the information their customers were receiving and could reach out to customers dynamically as conditions changed (as we know they are prone to do often).

For example, the team was able to inform customers as soon as they rolled out curb-side pick-up and local delivery so that their customers were always informed about their latest services and shopping options. Most importantly though, customers didn't received these updates in the form of a generic marketing email that they couldn't reply to (nor would they likely want to), but instead from a familiar name, on their preferred channel or email or text. Speaking of text...

2. Prioritize SMS

Customers are incredibly responsive to text, especially when the message feels like it's from a friend. While any SMS marketing site will tout the power of text, Kirna Zabete is a true symbol of how powerful Endear's method of personalization can be: the brand had a near 20% response rate and over an 8% conversion rate on the texts they sent in their top-performing month. Since the crisis hit, their average conversion on text has still been over 5% — over 100x what most brands see through standard email marketing. There is no clearer sign that customers are hungry for a direct line to your team.

Kirna Zabete with Endear


Reply rate via SMS


Text to sale conversion rate

3. Empower Customers to Engage

Using Endear to email and text customers means customers can respond with additional follow-up questions and get real-time responses from a knowledgable resource. In fact, while news about the stores drove a majority of customers to visit the newly-opened locations, the retail team was also able to drive additional sales online. Based on data in Endear, about 5% of the retail team's outreach about stores actually resulted in online purchases. In addition, while some customers did not respond to the initial outreach, we found it empowered them to use the designated team phone number or email address to send inquiries later.

While the world looks very different today than it did in March 2020, the fate of physical retail stores remains tumultuous. Though no matter how much ecommerce grows, customers still want a way to engage directly with their favorite brands IRL.

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