By Jean Shin, Director Strategy and Content, tyntec.
As the pandemic continues to wreak havoc on retail, the fashion sector, in particular, is looking for new ways to engage with customers through new clienteling techniques. No matter where a consumer is – in-store or online – they can communicate with a store associate who can offer tailored buying advice and services based on their existing preferences.
Coined as ‘clienteling 2.0’, fashion brands’ ability to deliver this bespoke service is critical to securing the sector's future even after the world finally emerges from the cruel COVID era.
According to SmarterHQ, 80% of self-classified 'frequent shoppers' will only shop with brands who personalize their experiences. To achieve such deep levels of personalization, store associates need instant access to customer details, coupled with the ability to push out tailored messaging via their preferred channel – whether SMS or messaging applications like WhatsApp – or a combination of both.
It's why fashion brands are now turning to omnichannel communications providers to implement a ‘clienteling 2.0’ strategy that offers such instant connectivity plus the ability to wrangle different channels into a single joined-up service.
Selecting the right provider to deliver a successful clienteling rollout for fashion brands and their store associates is vital — here are the seven steps that will ensure a shortlisted candidate is up to the job:
Step 1 - Match communication channels with customer preferences
Providers must be able to advise on, deliver, and support the right channels for the fashion brand's target market(s). For instance, 57% of Generation Z use messaging apps at least half the time they use their phone (source: MarTech Zone), making chat apps an essential channel if Gen-Zers are a vital market.
Location matters - Viber is dominating Central and Eastern Europe, and CIS, Facebook Messenger the USA, and WhatsApp is leading in 105 countries. This means providers should be able to offer a portfolio of channels that match a brand's specific needs now and critically, can incorporate more channels if and when required in the future.
Step 2 - Enable two-way communication
At the heart of a successful fashion clienteling is the experience - the relationship between the store associate and the customer. An omnichannel comms provider must allow the associate to hold two-way conversations with the consumer, enabling both to chat with one another informally and allow the customer to initiate a conversation if they choose to.
Step 3 - Personalise your customer messages
The provider should offer associates the ability to send out a pre-formulated template message as is, as well as edit the message to personalize it for each customer. This helps agents add personal touches as well as save precious time. Once the customer has replied to the message, the associate should also be able to respond with free-form messages, enabling them to answer specific questions and make tailored offers in a conversational style.
Step 4 - Leverage every media format
It's critical that an associate can send rich media to their prospective customer via any mobile-based chat app. Whether it's a simple web link (including a website preview image) or a QR code, photo, or even video of the fashion item, it's the provider's job to empower the store associate so they can offer a full, instant, and rich experience to their consumers.
Step 5 - Choose the best API integrations
Integration is essential for successful customer engagement. It's why fashion brands should ask the communications provider for the REST API. This provides the flexibility to integrate new communication channels or omnichannel solutions directly with existing CRM, commerce, and ERP systems, enabling all systems to share the data necessary to make the buying experience seamless.
Today, many store associates are already using mobile devices to access CRM and ERP systems to check customer profiles and inventory status. By integrating omnichannel service APIs directly with the systems used by the associates, companies can empower them to connect with their customers on communication channels preferred by each customer.
Step 6 - Respect customer opt-out
The ability to update customer data with communication channel preferences and opt-outs should be provided. Here’s a great litmus test: While a customer's opt-in for messaging platforms such as WhatsApp will appear listed in the company's CRM, can the provider update the database if that customer's opt-in status changes?
For example, if the consumer blocks messages from the brand, such intelligence is vital and should be noted on CRM records while identifying potential customer interaction issues. Most importantly, such immediacy ensures that a customer's wish to opt-out is always acted on and respected.
Step 7 - Offer tailored support
A provider should demonstrate it can deliver a service that meets all the fashion brand's CX and ROI expectations. From the initial consultation, implementation, and technical integration to ongoing support, ask the provider to walk you through the process and steps involved.
To ensure their solution is tailored explicitly to in-house workflows, a clear brief should be drawn up by the brand and cross-checked against the provider’s proposal so that all the resources and support required can be correctly identified and delivered.
Asking the right questions
By being proactive now, fashion brands can ensure they are not anchored to a solution that fails to deliver in the future. Asking the right questions helps unearth whether the provider's solution will provide a return on investment and deepen customer relations. The right provider will also ensure store associates are enabled to engage with customers by giving them access to the tools and channels they need to continue delivering a great customer experience and creating new sales opportunities.
And finally, let's not forget the customer. With the right combination of messaging channels powering clienteling systems, they can interact with the brand on their terms whenever they want. And for a sector that dedicates itself to delivering on customers' wishes, that represents a massive opportunity for fashion brands to grow and even prosper during these challenging times.