Social Clienteling

Parker Avery Point of View

The Art of Customer Engagement

by Tricia Chismer Gustin

                                       Meet Heather.

Heather Heather is a social shopper who loves lily B.'s* clothing and follows the retailer on Facebook, Pinterest and Twitter. Heather receives an invitation to a customer appreciation event at her local lily B. store this Friday night. Heather enthusiastically RSVPs the invitation and immediately posts a comment about the event on her Facebook page for her friends to see. Heather also visits lily B.'s Facebook page to browse the catalogue. She looks at her wish list and "visits" the bright fuchsia loafers she really, really wants.

Meanwhile, lily B. Store Associate, Alma, receives a message that one of her VIP customers has responded to the customer appreciation event invitation. Alma accesses Heather's account and reviews Heather's wish list as well as several other system generated recommendations for Heather. Alma sends Heather a Facebook message: "Those fuchsia loafers you like so much are on sale during the customer appreciation event and we have a pair in your size waiting for you here at the store, along with a cute bag to match." Alma also sends Heather a Pin from lily B.'s Pinterest pages showing an outfit using Heather's coveted shoes and the suggested bag.

While at work, Heather receives the message and Pin; she re-Pins and tweets the great news for all her friends to see. She feels appreciated and special. She is happy that lily B. is interested in having her business. She can't wait to attend the event.
* Heather is a fictional character; lily B. is a fictional retailer.

What is Social Clienteling?

The traditional way retailers drove customer behaviors has dramatically changed. As shown in the previous example, the digital environment is reshaping how customers access and share information. Today, shoppers are using online and mobile peer reviews, portable product research, and online price comparisons before purchasing. It is estimated that by 2015, as many as 75% of customers (up from 25% in 2010), will tell their friends about good or bad shopping experiences using social media.

Social Clienteling is much more than equipping store associates with mobile technology to facilitate transactions or lookup customer purchase history. To succeed in this new world, retailers must proactively seek insights into their customers' likes, dislikes, and preferences and then use this insight to create personal customer experiences. Merchants are adopting Social Clienteling strategies to engage with customers to provide the quality, pricing, personal service and convenience that today's customers demand.

Social Clienteling leverages real-time visibility into shoppers' omnichannel and social media activities. Done well, this practice gives the retailer a 360-degree view of each shopper's social profile through data collection, storage and analysis. In the most limited circumstances, a shopper's social profile includes all transaction information across all channels, shopper wish lists, stated preferences, shopper contact details and payment information. More robust social profiles also take into consideration shopper lifestyle attributes and preferences from multiple external data sources.

What are the Benefits of Social Clienteling?

Social Clienteling can improve customer loyalty and create shopper advocates who will purchase and promote a brand for the long term. Social Clienteling provides a variety of benefits to both the customer and the retailer, as shown below.

Benefits of Social Clienteling

Putting Social Clienteling into Practice

In order to take advantage of Social Clienteling strategies, retailers must develop their enterprise-wide omnichannel strategy, which involves fundamental organizational and process transformation, enabled by technology. Roles and responsibilities at the store level, the call-center, and at corporate need to change to become customer-centric. New processes need to be defined and implemented to incorporate much more personalized customer interactions.

Technology enablers can include customer databases, Customer Relationship Management (CRM) systems, social media monitoring tools, data warehouses, analytic tools, Point-of-Sale (POS) systems, mobile devices and more.

Effective use of data is also critical. Traditional retail clienteling may have included collecting information in-store, through catalogue communications, via the call center or online. However, those interactions were disjointed and siloed, and historically, most retailers did little with the data they collected. Social Clienteling is a customer-centric, intelligent, near-real time way to analyze and act upon what customers are telling the retailer. This means strong integration of all data available, including traditional enterprise data coupled with new data sources such as social, mobile, geo-location, external, reviews, etc. The holistic use of these data sources and understanding how they work together to create an actionable, 360° view of the customer is absolutely essential.

Engagement with the customer must be personalized to that customer's specific needs. By collecting customer communications from social media, as well as data such as purchase history, wish lists, etc. from all channels, retailers can create a social profile for each customer that can be used to develop one-to-one marketing and communication strategies. In addition to customer shopping preferences and lifestyle data, it is critical to understand how each customer wants to interact with the retailer. This includes understanding the customer's specific preferences around timing, frequency, devices, and vehicles for the retailer's communications. For example, one shopper's preference may be to receive communications via text on a daily basis, while another may only wish to receive weekly notices via email. Developing the appropriate strategies to incorporate these preferences can result in increased sales and long-term customer loyalty.

The brand message must also be consistent across all channels. Social media channels and mobile applications let shoppers interact with brands at any time, anywhere. This access can also assist the retailer in building personal relationships with their customers. When retailers listen to what shoppers are saying about their brand and their competition, they can uncover crucial influencers, benchmark the competition, and introduce proactive responses within their customer service teams.

Lastly, Social Clienteling involves the use of new measurements and rewarding employees who are on the front lines and interacting with customers on a daily basis. Rewarding sales associates should take into consideration their performance against key metrics such as new customer attainment, gathering incremental customer data, customer satisfaction and sales growth. Employees who are rewarded by their Social Clienteling efforts will work harder for their company and have more employer-loyalty, since they understand how it directly benefits them.

Final Word

The new world of Social Clienteling is different than traditional clienteling in many significant ways. Traditional clienteling is stationary. Social Clienteling is actionable and ever changing. Social Clienteling involves a holistic view of the shopper that is developed by multi-channel interactions over time, coupled with enthusiastic sales associates and advanced technology to drive the ongoing customer shopping experience and keep customers delighted and engaged with the brand.

If you’d like to learn more about our vision or understand how you might take advantage of this strategy, contact us at or call 770.882.2205.

Download PDF Version (1.3 MB)

Return to previous page