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How Clienteling Can Lead to Sales Lift

Savvy retailers know that their bricks and mortar stores are not going away. They know that while it’s vital to have digital capability, online hasn’t been the all-conquering force some once predicted. Retailers know the idea of a seamless, omni-channel experience coupled with exceptional service is the ideal outcome, but being able to sell to a customer through a number of channels means you must have the ability to actually service a customer on any channel. They know that customers expect consistent levels of service, no matter how they’ve chosen to interact: they expect to be known and they want to have meaningful and relevant communication.

Almost every retailer or service business in the world is working toward what’s being called a single view of customer; in other words, pulling customer data from all channels into one central repository. Where this often falls down, however, is in the execution. There’s not much point in having everything you know about a customer in one place if it’s locked away in a database or backend system and not available where it’s needed most: the front line.

In today’s world, that front line is anywhere and everywhere. It may be on an ecommerce site where a customer is seeing recommendations made to them while adding items to a basket or wishlist; it could a service representative dealing with a customer via Facebook Messenger or WeChat; it might be in an email inbox or it might be on the shop floor.


Clienteling has become a popular word in the industry, but it is still used in different contexts.  When I talk to people, they seem to have one of two views on clienteling:

  1. 360-view of the customer and stock look up/order online - endless aisle
  2. 360-view of the customer and customer communications

The truth is that clientleing encompasses both of those views and more, and the key is really to find the real use cases that will move the needle for the business and focus on them. Retail is transforming and the key is to focus on connecting with new customers and nurturing existing customers; the store still typically produces 80% of retail revenue so marginal changes, such as 2 to 3 extra purchases, can make a big difference.

Customer 360

That 360-degree view of the customer needs to be available no matter where a brand is interacting with them. That same data is behind A.I.-driven interactions, such as Einstein Predictions and Predictive Sort in Salesforce Commerce Cloud or marketing automation tools, and personal interactions being driven out of customer services and the store relationships.

All customers expect a higher level of service now than they did 10 years ago; they expect you to know them and it’s no longer an expectation reserved for larger and more expensive purchases: it runs the gamut from the everyday morning coffee to once-a-year ‘spoil yourself’ treats. Diligent use of technology is vital to ensure optimal customer satisfaction: one-size-fits-all might work for a particular handbag, but it doesn’t cut it when it comes to automated marketing. By actively choosing strategies based on a customer’s unique purchase habits, you can ensure that the effort you’re expending is well spent, ensuring customer happiness which means more sales. Personalised interactions make a huge difference.

People and A.I. Have Different Strengths

A.I. tools are powering a revolution in automated marketing, but as the role of the store changes the use of technology such as the Proximity Insight platform can help clients to build personal, human relationships through the empowerment of store associates. The best associates are the best because they engage personally with their clients: they’re emailing, texting, and sending product recommendations through WhatsApp, SMS, and email — and those clients are often the most valuable to a business. If that data isn’t part of your 360-view, you’re missing a key piece of the puzzle and you risk alienating a customer because the full nature of their brand relationship isn’t understood. It’s locked away in a black book, and if the associate leaves, that goodwill goes with them.

Know Your Customer

Our mission is to help retailers understand that behaviour: to record it, measure it, and above all scale it. We help associates identify which customers to contact, when, and how, but we leave the communication content to them to ensure it remains personal. Everything is recorded and reportable, meaning the most effective strategies can be identified, as we link sales back to outreach events. By using technology to do the heavy lifting such as customer segmentation, customer profitability analysis, and automating tasks associated with outreach such as birthday reminders, product recommendations, and even a simple thank you, associate time is freed up so that top-level service can be offered not only to your most loyal customers, but to several segments below as well.

Let’s consider a customer journey when the correct technology is in play.

Sarah purchases in a store as a first time customer of the brand. Two days later, the associate who served her, Mark, checks his daily task list in Proximity Insight, and one of those tasks is to take the “welcome” email template and send an email to Sarah. It’s branded, but the content comes from him. He may mention how the weather is considerably better today than the day she came in, because he has context that software doesn’t, and he also recommends a couple of items that he believes would be to her taste based on her previous visit: he knows what garments she bought, and just as importantly, which ones she took into the dressing room but decided against and the reasons why. Sarah, delighted to receive an email from Mark which is in refreshing contrast to a generic mailing list, clicks one of the bags he recommended, visits the online store and makes a purchase.

This second purchase can be attributed directly to Mark’s efforts providing the brand with visibility over what works and what doesn’t, but if it doesn’t happen the recommendation still exists. She may visit the store the following week, with the intention to see the bag for herself, and the associate on hand will be able to see what she bought prior and what was recommended, helping the process go that much smoother. Perhaps the bag is great, but Sarah would rather think on it a little. The associate helping her this time adds it to a virtual basket along with a bulky coat that she likes, and pushes it to Salesforce Commerce Cloud. When she gets home, Sarah logs in, views the basket and checks out from the comfort of her sofa, with the coat and bag delivered to her home shortly after.

Personalisation Is Everything

Leveraging both A.I. and human interaction is the key to unlocking customer satisfaction. By leveraging the power of automation and people working together retailers can service all tiers of customers, making it easy to over index on delighting the customer and putting in the extra effort where it’s appreciated, and therefore rewarded, the most. We consistently see outcomes from our clients where that second purchase period is reduced by 2 to 6 weeks and not only do you see an increase in purchase frequency but the average lifetime value of customers who receive personalised outreach increase their transaction values by up to 24%.  We make it easy for associates to nudge customers to purchase 2 to 3 additional products increasing lifetime value and more importantly creating loyal customers who overall engage and purchase more and are therefore more loyal to the brand.

Salesforce Retail Landscape

Salesforce has a solution for every retail touch point with your customers.

  • Marketing Automation with Marketing Cloud
  • Customer Service Center with Service Cloud
  • e-Commerce with Commerce Cloud
  • Clienteling and Assisted Selling with Proximity Insight

A solution providing seamless interactions with your customer at every touch point of their retail journey. Check out this example:

A new customer, Laura, comes into your store and is created in the clienteling app, which triggers a welcome journey through an electronic digital mail (EDM) on Marketing Cloud.  Whilst scrolling through social that evening, she is re-targeted through social advertising which drives her to purchase online through Commerce Cloud. Congratulations Laura, you are now a gold loyalty tier.  

Laura’s birthday is coming, as a Gold loyalty member you want to make sure she gets a personalized touch, this triggers a task from Marketing Cloud to the clienteling app for your store associate to contact Laura with a personal birthday wish and a reminder of new season arrivals.  

Laura comes into the store to purchase one of the new range sweaters but it is out of stock.  Through clienteling to Commerce Cloud, your store associate orders the product online to be delivered to her work.  She receives the product, it does not fit and she wants to return it, she jumps online and talks to a live agent through Service Cloud where the agent has all previous touch points from online to in store and can see she is a Gold loyalty member so adds credit to her account to cover shipping the product back and sending her new size.  Laura spends the evening out celebrating her birthday, in her new sweater.

This is just one example of how all clouds can work together to create a fully connected customer journey.

In Summary

Quite simply, clienteling means different things to different people and retailers need to identify their unique journeys that will make the biggest impact to them and their customers. Successful clienteling involves leveraging data from all channels, and making it available to your greatest asset: your associates. It complements and augments your marketing automation, e-commerce and service channels enabling all teams to work together in unison surfacing the data in a single platform and simplifying the workflow.

By delighting the right customers at the right time, you will achieve increased sales and brand loyalty, and our mission is to help you do that.

Proximity Insight CEO Cathy McCabe has spent her entire career in global retail and IT. She is passionate about bridging the gap between digital and physical experiences by connecting customers, products and services. Cathy was previously CIO at Jaeger and VP at Burberry. Check out Proximity Insight on AppExchange.

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