RetailTechExec Blog


Survivor 2017: Retail Edition

Survivor 2017 Image

We’re being bombarded daily by prognostications of retail doom and the imminent death of bricks and mortar retailing. If one is to believe the pundits, in the near future shopping strips and regional malls will be abandoned decaying structures, reminiscent of Alcatraz.

Admittedly, the advent of digital and 24/7 pervasive ecommerce has enabled a seismic shift in consumer shopping habits. It’s important to note that digital didn’t create the desire for “always on” shopping, it simply enabled it. Retailers that complain of being marginalized in an ever increasing digital commerce environment simply need to ask themselves, “Why is this happening?” Ask yourself: Is your current format the most efficient way for consumers to explore, learn and buy your products? Do you engage, excite and educate shoppers when they invest their precious time in your stores? How are you exceeding their expectations? Are you saving them time, creating value or offering emotional reward in their shopping journeys? If you aren’t doing these things, it’s not your competitors or Amazon’s that is killing you – it’s your lack of customer-centric focus!

On My Terms

Customer centricity has become an over-used catch phrase, and the problem with such catch phrases is that once we know its meaning, we usually stop asking the deeper questions. Rather than actively study the complexity and concepts that underlie the “shorthand”, we profess the phrase and assume others will know the specifics. Clienteling, CRM and Loyalty are some of the worst offenders.

Simply put, customer centricity means that your organization’s physical environment, culture, staffing, technology, assortment and financial decisions are all made from the perspective of the customer. It requires taking absolute responsibility for the customer’s satisfaction through every possible step of their preferred shopping journey. It means solving their “problem” on their “terms”.

To more fully understand the future of retail and the increasing role of digital we need to do a better job defining what is meant by “RETAIL”. Merriam Webster defines it as “to sell in small quantities directly to the ultimate consumer.” The definition implicitly contrasts retail to wholesale but tells us nothing of how consumers interact with sellers to conduct commerce. Clearly, the anticipated demise of retail is not referring to the end of commerce, but instead it refers to a transformation of how and where commerce is conducted.

Clearly, the anticipated demise of retail is not referring to the end of commerce, but instead it refers to a transformation of how and where commerce is conducted.

Unfortunately, we lack the precise lexicon to accurately describe retail in all its various forms. The way consumers engage with their grocer is unlike how they purchase a new outfit, or engagement ring, or laptop or new kitchen. While all of these transactions are technically “RETAIL”, the path to purchase, underlying consumer behavior and level of engagement differs greatly. Those retailers that succeed in the years ahead will digitally transform their businesses to address the changing behaviors of their increasingly demanding customers.

Repeating History

While the pace of change may be accelerating, retailer have always adapted to the influences of new technology and resulting social change. Since the 12th-century merchants have sold curated products at organized markets or bazaars, using many of the same basic retailing principals we see today. The proverbial market square then, like the high streets and regional malls of the recent past, have always been an important aspect of daily life — further enhanced by an environment that creates connection with the community. Then like now, curation, connection and commerce were fundamental elements of a positive retail experience. What has changed over the centuries is the efficiency, transparency and scalability of the underlying “selling platform” that supports these three elements of the retail process.

Then like now, curation , connection and commerce were fundamental elements of a positive retail experience. What has changed over the centuries is the efficiency, transparency and scalability of the underlying “selling platform” that supports these three elements of the retail process.

In the past, merchants and traders conveniently assembled in town squares and along high streets, adhering to quality standards and transacting on a uniform currency. As new technologies like automobiles and the influence of media reshaped societies, that retail platform was usurped. Starting as early as the late 1950’s large regional suburban malls and shopping centers reinvented retail, offering improved experiences. With hundreds of stores, these shopping centers resulted in more relevant curation and selection, fostered social connection (restaurants, amusements, and theatres) and took advantage of efficient infrastructure to enable commerce (POS, payment, merchandising systems, ERP, etc.). In towns across America, high street shopping virtually disappeared and thousands of previously vibrant retailers shuttered their stores. Retail didn’t die, it simply evolved to meet the changing needs, tastes and lifestyles of its customers. For those multigenerational neighborhood retailers it felt like a “retail apocalypse”, but it was just retail adapting to the market and technological capabilities of the day.

Similarly, the normative shift that retail is undergoing today is the result of new technologies transforming the curation, connection and commerce equation. Online search, marketplaces, curation apps, location-based marketing and subscription retailing are the digital equivalent of a village markets and regional malls. Digital is transforming the social connection element as well, especially for younger shoppers. Digital natives experience their physical and digital lives simultaneously, creating real-time human connection and “shop-alongs” with their friends. These shopping journeys are aided by chat, digital cameras and myriad social platforms. For these digitally savvy consumers, omni-channel is assumed and flowing in and out of the online and physical experience must be frictionless, transparent and fun.

So, will the growth of digital decimate bricks and mortar retailing? That depends…

How Will Retail Survive?

Conventional retail selling platforms (stores) are capital and real-estate intensive and lack the agility to address dynamic changes in market demand. Double digit decreases in customer traffic and a shift toward digital commerce has many retailers closing stores and reducing staff. This might be a prudent response if one sees the growth of digital simply as a shift from one retail selling platform to another. An argument can be made that for many categories (i.e. consumables and other regularly purchased products), disruption will be swift as IoT platforms like Amazon’s Alexa, Samsung’s Smart Refrigerator and HP’s Instant Ink will address the consumers need for convenience. However, for many more retail categories, blending digital consumer engagement with the physical store will best address the evolving needs and desires of their customers.

A recent study by Sapient Razorfish concluded that while most consumers start their hunt outside the walls of the store, between 53-67% of consumers preferred shopping in physical stores.

A recent study by Sapient Razorfish concluded that while most consumers start their hunt outside the walls of the store, between 53-67% (age-based) of consumers preferred shopping in physical stores. This is particularly true when retailers invest in clienteling tools for their associates and focus on personalization, demonstrations, in-store events, and concierge level services. Let’s examine just a few different types of shopping categories to see how each will be supported by emerging digital and physical store practices and technologies.

Emerging Digital Solutions Image

Surviving in an era of technological change requires that the entire retail landscape be reimagined. Fortunately, retail has historically excelled at creatively adapting to changing tastes, behavior and economic conditions. Today’s retail leaders are redefining malls, stores, business models, experiences and organizational structures to exploit new digital opportunities and exciting new ways so they can engage the customer before, during and after the sale. There will undoubtedly be retail winners and losers in the months and years ahead, but those that survive will ultimately thrive by building innovative business models that meet the customer-centric demands of a digitally enabled in-store experience.


The Retail Maelstrom: Plotting a Course for What Comes Next

 

 

Retail is undergoing a customer-driven transformation and the pace of innovation is accelerating geometrically. This has technologists and retailers struggling with the same basic question: “With the explosion of promising new digital technologies and the shifting behaviors of omni-channel consumers, how do I know which technology investments will provide real immediate value?”

Every year the retail industry proclaims the next big thing — promising a new technology that will help retailers compete in an ever more challenging omni-commerce arena. Unfortunately, many retailers don’t have a clear picture on what is actually happening inside their businesses or what investments would insure a successful future. The complexity of changing customer demand and decreasing store traffic, online competition, BOPUS, DOM, showrooming and excessive returns are wreaking havoc with traditional operational and merchandising decisions. Simply put, “true north” is illusive and many are hopelessly guessing at what to do next. In an attempt to “stay afloat” retailers are testing myriad social, proximity-based, mobile, loyalty, clienteling, digital marketing, IoT or CRM solutions.  However they are seldom the result of charting a well-defined customer engagement strategy.

So, how does a retailer cut through the noise and hype? My recommendation: start by going back to the basics…

First: Understand the Customer

Retail has always been about people and relationships. Engage customers, solve their problems and take responsibility for their satisfaction throughout the entire “want-it, buy-it, and use-it experience”. Finding ways to create that satisfaction and delivering satisfying customer journeys is the foundation of a well- executed customer strategy. Success comes from knowing your customer and thoughtfully differentiating your service and assortment in ways that meet their individual desires. Every retailer has it’s own unique DNA and accordingly must have its own way of expressing itself in the lives of its customers.

After years of working with some of the world’s most successful customer-centric retailers, I’ve identified over 150 retail best practices, proven to differentiate the customer experience and drive significant incremental profitability. While it may sound heretical, it’s really not about the technology… it’s about the people! We recommend that retailers reflect deeply on what customers hope to experience from their brand and then select a half dozen practices/initiatives that drive customer satisfaction throughout each step of those potential customer journeys. Find the “easy wins” first and build upon those with future customer journey initiatives. Create a culture of extraordinary customer service and realize increased loyalty and revenue.

Second: Analyze the Math

Consider how any new initiative is likely to impact corporate KPI’s. Retail math is pretty simple. Revenue = (Traffic) x (Conversion) x (Average Transaction Value). While everyone knows that these KPI’s determine the health of a retail business, it is amazing to me how often technology decisions aren’t first run through these KPI filters. Any online or store-level solution is likely going to affect one or more of these metrics. Even small changes in any one will result in significant shifts in profit. The goal is to identify which practices will drive each of these factors. Analyze and identify how the solution is going to move these metrics and consider the investment based on those projected results. We strongly suggest building out more sophisticated Business Impact Models that consider all of the potential levers a solution may impact and using that model to measure potential and realized business benefit. Remember, just because your competitors are jumping onto the latest tech trend, doesn’t mean it fits your customer strategy or the KPI’s that matter most to your business.

Third: Test and Innovate with Technology

Select or build solutions with functionality that supports the desired practices and strive for minimal “friction” in adoption. Use agile methodologies to innovate and test new ideas that are consistent with the unique customer journeys you’ve prioritized. For example, if you are trying to drive appointment sales, consider the detailed workflows of customer communication, online scheduling, task assignment and other client-centric functions. Inducing a sales associate to use a new tool can be a formidable task if there is conflict with established norms. Getting staff involvement early is critical to solution implementation success. Be clear on which behaviors you are trying to influence and bring multiple disciplines together in gathering business and technical requirements. As for consumers, most won’t try new technologies (or download a retail app) unless there is immediate perceived value in doing so. If in-store mobile engagement is central to your strategy, consider how the interaction of staff can improve the customer experience through shared digital experiences. Always build or buy technologies that are intuitive and designed from the user point of view.

Disruption often leads to opportunity and retail is no exception. Plotting a course for what comes next requires a clear vision, a solid financial analysis and the application of innovative technologies. As one CEO told me, “managing business requires setting a well-reasoned course, with the right crew and vessel… then carefully steering around the rocks.”


Fortune: How Technology Will Bring Enterprises Closer To Their Customers

fortune-the-tie-that-binds

 

I was recently interviewed by Fortune for an article exploring ways that enterprises are getting closer to their customers by leveraging technology. In retail, we are seeing an explosion of new Mobile, Social and BI/Analytic capabilities being deployed in the hands of store associates,  managers and marketers, striving to provide more value to their customers. To read the entire article, click here.

Here are a few excerpts from the article:

“That’s the value proposition for most retail enterprises other than the big-box retailers, which compete on the depth and breadth of their inventory, and on being a low-cost provider, says Bryan Amaral, head of Atlanta-based retail-industry consultancy Clientricity. “Know the customer, know your product, be relevant, and solve what they are looking for. You need sales associates who are savvy. Most retailers have to provide a higher level of engagement, or they won’t survive,” he says.

Amaral has spent his career advising retailers on how to use technology to shepherd customers from an entry point with a brand to a completed transaction (including returns). He believes that retailers need to take absolute responsibility for their customers’ satisfaction throughout the entire want-it, buy-it, use-it experience. He says it’s instructive for companies planning ahead to look back at the history of retailer customer interactions.

It’s “back to the future in many ways,” he says. In the early days, the neighborhood retailer knew his customers by name, knew what they wanted and knew how to merchandise accordingly. In the late 1970s and early ’80s, there was a lot of consolidation in retail, creating department-store mega-retailers. The bar code came along, making it a lot easier for a retailer to understand product movements, he recalls. Companies could more closely monitor what customers desired and plan inventory assortment and replenishment more effectively. Amaral calls this the Ivory Tower approach. “Neighborhood retailing was on the way out,” he says, “and the thought was that sales could be controlled back at HQ from the dashboard. Better merchandising, promotion, and the designer revolution, all had the vendors taking a role of driving traffic into stores. If you had the right brands, underlying transaction and merchandising systems could well manage your stores.”

But back then, the axiom retail enterprises relied on – location, location, location – came into question with the beginning of what would eventually become online commerce, he says. And with digital, retailers could reach a customer in any geography. As commerce shifted toward the latest technology, and a universe of products became one click away, “it became clear that to survive, certain segments of retailing just couldn’t commoditize. They needed to do a better job of servicing customers. Retailers began to realize that store sales clerks needed to become ‘knowledge workers,’ and begin to really understand customers’ needs to give them a reason to walk into a store. You had to provide this value. And by the early 2000s, the cast was set and the customer experience had become king.” For the past 10 years, Amaral says, customer expectations have become increasingly demanding and the pace of retail transformation has been accelerating to meet that value proposition.

Going forward, he says, companies need to ask: “How do I make sure that I am an integral part of a customer’s decision-making process? How do I become the ‘destination of choice’ when a customer wants a product in my category?” Amaral says that in the end, it’s going to come down to how effectively an enterprise can use technology to demonstrate a commitment to the best interests of the customer, not the enterprise.

“It’s no longer about owning a portfolio of products and finding customers who want them. Now, it’s about having a portfolio of customers and looking for high-value products and services that meet their needs.”

‘Clientelling’ is an example: A sales associate with a deep, deep knowledge of a department store’s stock and individual preferences takes the initiative to call a customer who has a store credit card and a history of, say, cosmetics transactions there, to alert the customer to a terrific new skin-care product or in-store service. The customer may or may not be interested in the new product or service, but the store-initiated contact can lead to other sales and a deeper, more profitable relationship between the store/associate and the customer. “Customers expect sales associates to have complete visibility into all the inventory throughout your enterprise, including the warehouse. It’s all about empowering the sales associate,” he says. Furthermore, Amaral says, stores should recognize the way in which Big Data and online engagement combine to fit into a wider sales philosophy.

“The majority of transactions are in some way influenced by online. It’s part of the buying journey. Customers start their search for a product online, get an idea of the possibilities, and look at product reviews. They then go into a store thinking they can find what they need. And when they go in, you have up-sell opportunities to really build that ticket by getting to know more and more about the customer. But it starts by adopting their perspective.”

Mobile technology should make the process easier, Amaral says. “Five years from now, there will be a lot more personalization,” he says. “Enterprises will collect more information, know better what to do with it, be more efficient storing it and analyzing it, and modeling around it. Take beacon and other types of location-based technology. A store can know you are nearby, or in a specific department, and they know about other people just like you, what you and they have bought, what you’ve clicked on their website,” and they can then tailor a proactive mobile message appropriately.

Go out at least 10 years from now, Amaral says, “every sales associate will have a mobile device in hand, will know their customer, offering a higher level of service, all tying back to the technology infrastructure. Operating systems may eventually be so context-aware that they will only show us the stuff we really need to know; our mobile device will be able to personalize the experience for us.” He continues: “The logical extension of today’s personalization trends is mass-customization of the products we buy. We are already starting to see new uses of technology in fitting rooms. Imagine that a customer goes into one and just interacts directly with the technology in there.

“Customers expect sales associates to have complete visibility into all the inventory throughout your enterprise, including the warehouse. It’s all about empowering the sales associate.” Bryan Amaral, head of retail-industry consultancy Clientricity

Today, retailers are experimenting with devices on the wall that can give product recommendations and look up alternatives and coordinate recommendations. By pressing a button, an associate is alerted to retrieve those items and bring them to the customer. But eventually, consumers will see and try on new clothes virtually, using various physical gestures to interact with the technology. The logical end game? Get it made and delivered to the customer in just a few days.”


Customer Centricity: A Primer for Retailers

169270968FULLHello and welcome to my blog. Over the last three years, technology has transformed commerce in ways we wouldn’t have imagined a decade ago…for consumers, retailers and vendors alike. This has kept those of us in the retail technology advisory business very busy. I thought I would take a few minutes to visit and update a post I shared back in 2012. This blog and it’s parent site Clientricity.net is a great place to find thoughful posts on how retailers can better engage, influence and inspire their best customers.

So, lets start with the basic premise that delivering a customer-centric retail strategy is essential for keeping customer, gaining market share and enhancing profitability.

At the center of that strategy is the realization that the disruptive forces of technology have changed retail as we knew it and that the consumer is in charge – ably armed with social, local and mobile technologies. Savvy retailers are finally starting to master their new reality, cutting through the hype and deploying the best new customer-facing and associate-facing solutions, supported by enhanced business practices. It is pretty clear that everyone from the world’s most prestigious department and specialty stores to big box electronic giants, has some flavor of customer centricity on it’s mind. Customer centricity puts the customer at the nexus of retail strategy and it is the logical evolution of retail resulting from years of depersonalized store formats and inattention to customer satisfaction. Retailers have finally realized that they can no longer simply depend upon cost cutting and optimization of their supply chain to provide sustainable competitive advantage. Instead, industry leading retailers are implementing strategies and tactics that improve top line sales, increase associate productivity, while delivering a better customer experience built on a relevant dialogue with their customers.

Today’s connected consumers expect the brands they shop to intimately understand their needs and to be served consistently across all channels (e.g. in­-store, online, social media, kiosks and consumer mobile applications). They want their Omni-Channel shopping experience to be personalized, relevant, convenient and enjoyable. They are demanding more from the stores they patronize, because they have access to more information than ever before and use mobile devices and the web to learn, shop and communicate in new ways. Furthermore, the recent recession has taught them new budget discipline, making consumers less willing to compromise and more likely to defect to another retailer if an associate provides better service or more options.

Retailers need to change to succeed in this new reality. To keep customers and gain market share, they need to connect people, insight and customer relationships in new, innovative ways. Retailers need to use all the touch points available to them to learn and understand more about their customers’ distinct needs, wants and desires. Doing so will enable retailers to deliver customers a personalized differentiated experience and new forms of communication through the consumer’s preferred channel. If they are going to execute successfully on this new agenda, retailers will need to integrate the entire retail operation, enterprise to store with a comprehensive solution. that addresses three key objectives:

Increase customer insight and brand communication using data analysis, business intelligence tools and multi-channel marketing with a sophisticated personal offer capabilities.

Empower associates to personalize the experience and build relationships with customers using a combination of outreach tools (call, text, email, etc.) and in-store clienteling and loyalty tools. Extend that capability beyond the store using consumer facing mobile applications and online personalization technology.

Provide management with real-time access to key performance and behavioral data in order to improve their decision making, assortment and business building activities.

Successfully deploying a thoughtful, disciplined and repeatable customer centric strategy can be a challenge, but if executed well, will reward a retailer with virtually immediate sales lift and improved customer lifetime value.

 

What is Customer Centricity?

Like so many catch phrases today, the term customer centricity is often misused, and has become the rally cry for any decision or activity that impacts the customer. In an attempt to differentiate their businesses, few retailers grasp the fundamental operational and cultural shift necessary to achieve real enterprise-wide customer centricity. Customer centric retailing requires the traditional retail model to be turned on its head. Instead of executing strategies against a portfolio of products to induce customers to buy ̶ true customer-centric retailers focus on a portfolio of loyal customers and provide products and services that meet their distinct individual needs. During the boom-boom days of retail, it was a field of dreams — ‘if we hang it they will come.’ Today, that simply does not work. A winning customer-centric strategy requires the development of enterprise-wide practices focused around taking absolute responsibility for a customers satisfaction throughout the entire want it, buy it, use it experience.

It is however important to note that customer intimacy and truly personalized communication can’t be accomplished without knowing their communication channel preference and having access to extensive customer knowledge and product feature information. Fitted with the right tools and insight, retailers have was is needed to build relationships that bring together individually articulated customer preferences, lifestyle information and product knowledge to create high-value solutions for their customers.

Unfortunately most retailers are reactive and tend to think in terms of point solutions and quick fix solutions. Most have never developed the required all­-encompassing customer engagement methodology that will ultimately align the corporate and marketing vision with in-store execution of those best practices that improve customer service. Most often retail store-level employees ̶ those who are most directly engaged with customers ̶ are isolated. They don’t have the customer and product information they need nor do they have the operational sales support tools required to meet ever demanding customer expectations. The result is unpredictable service levels, unrepeatable customer experiences, dissatisfied customers and diminished store performance.

 

A Technology-based Customer Infrastructure

Underlying any customer-centric initiative is some type of customer-focused technology platform. At its center, is data that provides a 360-degree view of the customer. This multi-dimensional customer, transaction and product repository may be aggregated (or accessed in real time) from numerous existing enterprise data sources including POS transaction systems, product inventory, merchandising and e-commerce. Once the master data is available, business intelligence and campaign management tools at HQ and clienteling, loyalty and product recommendation tools at store-level, transforms this underlying data into actionable knowledge.

Using workflow tools and mobile applications, customer preference and lifestyle information is collected during each customer interaction, improving customer insight and increasing responsiveness to ever more personalized and relevant corporate and store level communication. Leaders are investing in sophisticated enterprise-wide solutions, enabling management to access loyalty, marketing and campaign management tools to analyze and segment data. Armed with these, marketers can identify new multi-channel sales campaigns and deliver personalized offers directly to customers or prompt associates to take specific actions with those individuals.

There will always be many technical considerations to make this technology infrastructure a reality but this is one of Clientricity’s key areas of competency. The underlying infrastructure must be secure, easily integrated and flexible enough to meet the constantly-changing needs of the retailer and consumer. In-store solutions must be highly intuitive, responsive and transportable on existing hardware as diverse as PC/POS terminals, kiosks, mobile tablets, phones and PDAs. Finally, the technology must have extensible multi-channel architecture, allowing retailers to meet their consumer needs online or via a customer’s own smart phone.

 

The Retail Customer Centricity Playbook

The overarching objective of customer centricity is to create a value proposition that is unique and not easily repeated. Given with the right strategy, tactics and customer engagement tools, retailers can now gain a 360­-degree view of their customers. More importantly they can build a learning relationship based on individual preferences that cannot be easily replicated by other retailers. What follows is a list of things that retailers should think about.

• DEFINE: Start by defining institutionalizing your organizations operational best practices. The goal is to ensure consistency across the brand, whether it is an in­-store and online experience. Think about the customer journey and optimize for maximum value.

• UNDERSTAND: Use tools to analyze and segment your customers’ buying behavior. Within the data, look for opportunities to create personalized value propositions and promotions targeted to specific customers using favored channels. Leverage structured enterprise data and unstructured “Big-Data” to enhance the efficacy of the analysis. Deploy real-time dashboards and reporting tools that are accessible throughout the organization.

TAKE ACTION: Deploy technology such as clienteling, loyalty and assisted selling tools to sales associate with easy to use POS, PC, and handheld tablets and other mobile devices. Invest in effective change management to transform the organization and teach your team how to use the customer profile data, preferences, lifestyle information and transaction history during client interaction. Provide all users with access to key product information. Approximate what the perfect sales associate would do with information and express those workflows through intelligent self-service technologies and smart phone apps. Be sure to synchronize all activities across all channels in order to generate increase traffic, conversion and average transaction size

The disruptive impact of technological change will continue to make retail ever more competitive. Brand differentiation and relevant customer communication and improved services levels across all touchpoints are the natural defense to that competition. Implementing a customer centricity solution that incorporates clienteling, loyalty and campaign management solutions ensures a seamless, interactive environment where customers can shop over multiple sales channels delighted by associates empowered to deliver an extraordinary customer experience.


Introducing Clientricity, LLC

Social Clienteling & Customer Centricity

Welcome and thanks for visiting my updated blog. Challenges often lead to change and 2011 was a year of unparalleled transformation…for consumers, retailers, and vendors alike. It was the year that retailers acknowledged that the consumer was in charge – ably armed with social, local and mobile technologies. In 2012 savvy retailers will learn to master their new reality, cutting through the hype and deploying the best new solutions and business practices. The democratizing effects of consumer technology have fundamentally redefined retail business models and time-honored management principals. Mobile consumers are demanding real-time product information, relevant communication, peer commentary and personalized in-store experiences.

Every day, retailers watch the efficacy of traditional marketing, merchandising and service methods erode as consumers defect to multi-channel competitors that engage and inspire with new innovative omni-channel approaches. This consumer led innovation is forcing retailers to explore an array of social, local, mobile and loyalty solutions targeted at consumers and the associates that interact with them. While “social experiments” abound, at the top of 2012 wish lists are mobile associate selling tools and consumer facing applications. Soon tablets and other mobile devices with digital shopping applications will be ubiquitous for associates and consumers alike. Retail as we knew it will never be the same…

In my 30 years as a retailer, retail technologist and clienteling, loyalty & CRM expert, there has never been a more exciting time. It’s been rewarding for me to see how an idea and technology that I envisioned and developed for my own small retail business in the mid 1980’s has grown into a significant segment of the global retail technology industry — and I had the opportunity to start and lead Retaligent to become the segment’s early recognized leader and the springboard for what happens next. I founded Retaligent in 2005, spinning-off my earlier developed mobile retail clienteling IP from Symbol Technologies and its predecessor, ImageWare Technologies. The journey has been nothing less than incredible. Over the last six years I have had the opportunity to work with some of the world’s top retailers including Saks Fifth Avenue, Hugo Boss, Ralph Lauren, Giorgio Armani, Calvin Klein, Grupo Sanborns, Hudson’s Bay Company, Harrods and others.  In late 2010, we reached a new milestone. Working with Microsoft’s Worldwide Dynamics team, and their global partner ecosystem, I lead the team that developed and brought to market Charisma 1:1, the next generation Clienteling, Loyalty and CRM solution. Earlier this year Retaligent Solutions was acquired by Raymark, a globally recognized retail technology provider, headquartered in Montreal. The transition has given me the time to survey the industry on a global level, meeting the best and brightest from leading companies in retail, retail technology and online/mobile commerce. I had the opportunity to advise leading innovative companies in the UK, Silicon Valley, New York, and the Southeast. Like the proverbial Phoenician trader, I’ve gained unique perspectives and insights, influenced in part by deep retail industry knowledge and the collective wisdom of tomorrow’s retail innovators.

Just a few months ago, I decided it was time to jump back in and re-apply my vision, entrepreneurial energy, executive experience and unbridled passion for retail technologies to yet another endeavor. To that end, I launched Clientricity, LLC. a customer-centricity advisory that leverages a network of industry luminaries and my unique retail and technology domain expertise. Clientricity does two things well. First, it provides mid-sized and larger retailers with customer engagement strategy services, solution design and implementation/change management consulting. Clientricity also provides retail industry technology vendors & investment firms with an array of services ranging from solution strategy development,  industry insight, market planning,  management consulting and retail clienteling, loyalty, CRM social,  mobile product road-maps and other subject matter expertise. You can learn more about Clientricity by clicking on the Consulting Services tab above. This RetailTechExec blog contains a compilation of some of my published prior work, including videos, white-papers, brochures, newsletters, editorials and articles that I have authored. You will also find my most current thoughts related to retail Clienteling, Loyalty, Social, Mobile & CRM. You may want to start by reviewing a March 2011 post called “Customer Centricity:  A Primer for Retailers.” With frequent guest articles and original content, this site brings together the brightest minds in retail Marketing, Operations, Merchandising, eComm/mComm and IT. We will share real-world lessons, strategy and insights related to implementing transformational retail customer-centric solutions. Whether you are a retailer or a technology provider, I hope you find the posts valuable and I welcome your comments and perspectives. Take a moment to sign up and I will send you a periodic compilation of the “best of the best” related to the topics above. If you passionate about retail customer engagement, in-store and omni-channel best practices you may also want to join my LinkedIn Group, The Clienteling, Loyalty and CRM Retail Forum. You can follow me on Twitter at @RetailTechExec and @Clientricity. Again, let me thank you for taking the time to visit and if you think I can help you in any way, I’d enjoy hearing from you. Best regards, Bryan

bryan@retailtechexec.com or bamaral@clientricity.net

Its All About People…

It seems that lately, my conversations with both retailers and retail industry technologists arrive at the same basic question. “With the explosion of hot new technologies, which of these will really provide value?” Obviously retailers are concerned about the disruptive consumer-based apps that are about to dramatically impact their businesses — but for most retailers, the decision on which social, local, mobile, loyalty, clienteling, digital marketing or CRM solution to pursue is seldom guided by a well-defined customer engagement strategy.

So, how does a retailer cut through the noise? My recommendation: start by going back to the basics…

First: Retail is about people. Knowing people, solving their problems and taking responsibility for their satisfaction throughout the entire want-it, buy-it, and use-it experience. Finding ways to create that satisfaction and delivering engaging customer journeys is the foundation of a well- executed customer strategy. It’s about knowing who you want to be and what will differentiate your business. I’ve identified over 150 retail best practices that can differentiate your customer experience and drive profitability. While it may sound heretical, it’s not about the technology… it’s about the people! Start by selecting a half dozen best practices/initiatives that matter most to your customers and have the greatest likelihood of improving the business. Find the “easy wins” and build upon those with future initiatives.

Second:  Consider how any new initiative is likely to impact corporate KPI’s. Retail math is pretty simple. Revenue = (Traffic) x(Conversion) x (Transaction size). While everyone knows that these KPI’s determine the health of a retail business, it is amazing to me how often technology decisions aren’t first run through these KPI filters. Any online or store-level solution is likely going to affect one or more of these metrics. Analyze and identify how the solution is going to move the metrics and consider the investment based on those projected results. Just because everyone else is jumping onto the latest hot trend, doesn’t mean it fits your customer strategy or the KPI’s that matter most to your business.

Third: Select/build solutions with functionality that maps to the desired practices and strive for little or no “friction” in adoption. Inducing a sales associate to use a new tool can be a formidable task if there is even the slightest mismatch with established workflows. Most consumers won’t try new technologies or download a retail app unless there is immediate perceived value in doing so. Be clear on which behaviors you trying to influence and bring multiple disciplines together in gathering requirements. Always build or buy technologies that are intuitive and designed from the user point of view.

With the customer in mind, I would like to share a recent article written by Will Roche of Microsoft. Mr. Roche has spent his career working with some of the worlds largest retailers and technology vendors. I think Will really understands the intersection of technology and “people-centric” issues. With his permission, I have included it below.

Enjoy!

Bryan

The Business of People…

Guest Post by Will Roche – Retail Solutions Executive, Microsoft Dynamics

It is interesting how we use words like customer and consumer to refer to people who purchase goods and services from our companies. I recently heard the term “B to P” vs “B to C” which really caught my attention. The quest to have a closer more relevant relationship with people who purchase goods and services from us is about understanding human behavior. I can see how retailers are chasing the hype of social networking, mobility and such things as clienteling to get ahead of competition not really understanding the core drivers. At the core people generally behave on fairly predictable terms so it is important to understand what levers you have as a retailer to drive these behaviors and to whom you choose to do it with.

I use this example often when I talk about observing customer centric initiatives (maybe it should be people centric?)with retailers. I have a grocery store close by which a number of years back spent a lot of money re-inventing themselves as a high end food competitor. One big problem was they thought they could automate service and bypass employee costs via automation. As I walk into this store I am immediately presented with the option of joining their “loyalty card” program via a nice looking kiosk. I walk by as I am not interested in spending my time typing on a computer. As I enter the start of my shopping experience with my shopping cart I am immediately presented with a wall of  “personal shopper” devices that I can use if I had a “loyalty card” and the desire to figure out what they were for?

Entering the fresh produce area there is a large flat screen with someone talking which I can’t quite understand and frankly not interested in hearing. As I choose some fresh produce I see that I have the opportunity to weigh and print out a label which can be scanned at the checkout. Interesting, why would I want to do that I ask myself?

As I go through the store I see additional attempts to add value such as touch screen devices on certain isles to locate a product I could not find. Usually it was out of order or when usable difficult and frustrating to navigate.  To cut to the chase of this experience, when I went to finally checkout I was forced to go through a self-checkout because there was only one lane open for full service and it was full? I am not sure whether the thought was how to improve service or just cut costs for employee’s, but in either case I dreaded going to this store even though they did a reasonably good job merchandising their products and providing the products I wanted. I actually would drive a few miles out of my way not to go there. Consequently I never really saw any traffic at this store and they are no longer a brand in business.

Morale of this story is to understand what real value means to the people you want to serve!

Technology is a wonderful thing and provides many improvements to our lives and even how we purchase things. Understand though that technology is a tool and as retailers you need to first understand and know who your customers are and what makes them tick as it pertains to your offerings. So before running off and buying some expensive new gadget for your stores, think hard about how it will help drive your core mission and value proposition. You should never waiver from this; it is easy to get caught up in the latest “shiny thing”. However as a person that has spent over thirty years in technology for retailers I do have some insight that I would like to share.

The first is data. You cannot know your customers without data. Not being a local corner store and with constant turnover of employees you cannot depend on (for the most part) long established personal relationships to drive value if you are a typical chain retailer. Data about your customers and more importantly what you do with this data is critical to the development of relevant relationships with the people you serve. Most everything in this world fits into Pareto’s Principle – The 80-20 Rule. Twenty percent of your customers will or should statistically provide 80% of your profit. So your first mission is to understand who these people are and manically treat them special. How do I know how to treat them special? Part of that is what makes you unique and is required for you to be in business, the other is to have predictive analytic tools that can help you sort and model out signal indicators helping to pinpoint those human behaviors you wish to influence with that twenty percent. This is the real “secret sauce” and you need to really look hard at the many options you have as a retailer in this area. Many companies want to sell you large complex storage eating monsters, you don’t need that! What you need is a comprehensive solution that acts as an engine using this data in many ways and channels to better serve the people you have chosen to have a relevant relationship with. This engine is typically called CRM. CRM is the repository and delivery mechanism of customer information which allows you to operate real time with your customers providing consistent and relevant experiences.

Let me use this example. You have a Facebook page with many people signed up. You know certain affinities about those chosen twenty percent on your Facebook site. You could for example make an offer on Facebook to one of these special people creating a coupon on their  phone for redemption at their favorite store. When they arrive the sales associate using their clienteling application connects with the phone offer pulling up all the data on this customer along with the coupon to really create a “I know you” experience. This engagement should be a well thought out sales process and executed consistently throughout your organization. By the way, executed well friends of this person will see on Facebook (if he/she elects) that they bought this item and had a great experience. Make sense?

There are many business processes and technology tools including, emails, events and texting that also are part of this comprehensive system, but one fact needs to happen. You need to increase the frequency of visitation and dollars spent per visitation by that twenty percent or all of this is money for technology is down the proverbial toilet. If done well making sure you have metrics and a feedback loop to your process you can then expand to a new frontier, the 70-30 rule.

Will can be reached at will.roche@microsoft.com

 


Dimensionalizing the Shopping Experience

With 2-D Barcodes

I am sure you have noticed the accelerating pervasiveness of QR Codes in magazines, billboards, TV, T-shirts and of course retail.  It’s being touted as the “virtual bridge” between the physical world and the internet, but too often in the US, execution does more to disenfranchise customers than engage them.

Let me explain. Many large retailers and the vendors that supply them (think bigger boxes) are starting to label their products with 2-D codes in hopes of converting smartphone wielding customers at the point of decision. Unfortunately, in the US at least,  the user experience is seldom worth the effort because scan results can be slow and generally lead the user to a smaller, harder to read version of the vendors existing website. What a loss of opportunity!

 In Asia, QR codes have been the rage for a couple of years and the experience is becoming more  enticing and innovative. One study claims that 90% of all Japanese consumers have “shot a code” in the past year.

In Korea, Tesco wanted to become the #1 retailer without opening more stores. This is a market with hard-working time-starved, commuting  consumers who dread shopping. So, Tesco created life-like retail environment on the walls of the subway stations, where commuters could “shop” by scanning  codes of pictured items and have them  delivered that same day.

Following this campaign, online sales increased dramatically (Nov 2010 to Jan 2011). Through this campaign, 10,287 consumers visited the online Tesco (recently renamed Homeplus) mall using smartphones. The number of new registered members rose by 76%, and online sales increased 130%. Currently, Homeplus has become No.1 in online market and is a very close 2nd offline.

By comparison, US adoption is slower. A ComScore study released last month said that 6% of US mobile shoppers scanned a QR code in June of 2011.  These users tend to be relatively affluent, under 45 years old and more often than not, male.  I’ve attached Comscore’s results to the left. Most surprisingly, a total of 64% of users claimed to have scanned inside a retail or grocery store. That 9.2M people scanning retail codes in a single month… not a bad start.

  (Click to Enlarge)

What will it take for QR codes to reach critical mass? Real consumer value! Using the technology in creative ways that make the consumer want to interact with the brand and learn more about complex product offerings. I saw Mick McCormick, EVP of Global Sales & Marketing for Columbia Sportswear speak at last weeks Shop.org 2011 Summit. McCormick demonstrated a few QR code-driven videos that were improving in-store conversion on technical  apparel by as much 500%!  Based upon that kind of  sales improvement, they have plans on using QR codes across all of their product lines.

During the presentation, one apparel vendor expressed frustration with retailer hessitancy in allowing coded tags within their stores. McCormick’s advice was clear – deliver relevant content that drives the retailer’s objectives (e.g. conversion) and avoid redirecting consumers to vendor landing pages.  For retailers, the brand experience is everything. Redirection to potentially thousands of vendor sites undermines that objective.

ClickGenie, a mobile QR startup in North Carolina has an interesting approach to managing this problem. They have developed a hosted solution that simplifies the content management from disparate vendors. This is accomplished by customizing a number of pre-approve templates that are branded to match the retailer’s desired user experience. Vendors simply upload content and the environment is controlled and branded by the solution, using generally available smartphone QR readers.  Additionally, the solution enables other retail-specific workflows like consumer wish lists, product recommendations and real-time offers.

See the recent Apparel article or scan the QR code below to learn more about ClikGenie.

The mobile revolution is in it’s infancy and in the not too distant future all of us will be using new technologies like mobile NFC  and QR to learn more about the products we buy and hopefully, to simplify our lives.

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Posted Date: 8/19/2011

ClikGenie Video

Leverage the QR Craze to Engage Shoppers

By  George Hoffman

Apparel retailers and brand owners looking to open a mobile channel for virtually unrestricted customer engagement on the selling floor and beyond, need search no further than QR (quick response) bar codes and their own imaginative merchandising practices. The increasingly ubiquitous checkerboard-like bar codes have become a staple at such big box venues as Home Depot, Lowe’s and Best Buy where they enable smartphone delivery of information on retail products ranging from potted plants to high-def TVs.

Apparel businesses are likely close behind, and those that launch early will gain a competitive advantage, especially with the young, tech-savvy demographic so coveted by clothing retailers. In 2011, the smart play for apparel retailers and brands is to set business objectives for QR bar codes and develop merchandising strategies to achieve them.

Opening the door to two-way engagement  

If you’re like most retailers, chances are good that increasing interaction with customers will rank high among your QR business objectives. According to a recent Forrester Research Study, 66 percent of retailers stated their number one objective for investing in mobile technology was to increase customer engagement.

But QR codes alone will not create an engaging customer experience. It’s how you employ the technology that will determine its success. The opportunities to engage in-store shoppers via QR codes are limited only by a retailer’s or brand’s creativity. The code opens a two-way channel that can accommodate video, chat, text, images and virtually any other type of messaging. Providing additional product information is one obvious potential QR use. Helping shoppers to accessorize is another.

In each case, imaginative merchandising will be key to increasing sales…

Click Here to Read the Full Article.

George Hoffman is president of ClikGenie, Inc., a QR merchandising solutions firm based in Charlotte, N.C. Reach him at Ghoffman@ClikGenie.com


Leverage the QR Craze to Engage Shoppers

Posted Date: 8/19/2011

By  George Hoffman

Apparel retailers and brand owners looking to open a mobile channel for virtually unrestricted customer engagement on the selling floor and beyond, need search no further than QR (quick response) bar codes and their own imaginative merchandising practices. The increasingly ubiquitous checkerboard-like bar codes have become a staple at such big box venues as Home Depot, Lowe’s and Best Buy where they enable smartphone delivery of information on retail products ranging from potted plants to high-def TVs.
Apparel businesses are likely close behind, and those that launch early will gain a competitive advantage, especially with the young, tech-savvy demographic so coveted by clothing retailers. In 2011, the smart play for apparel retailers and brands is to set business objectives for QR bar codes and develop merchandising strategies to achieve them.
 
Opening the door to two-way engagement

If you’re like most retailers, chances are good that increasing interaction with customers will rank high among your QR business objectives. According to a recent Forrester Research Study, 66 percent of retailers stated their number one objective for investing in mobile technology was to increase customer engagement.
But QR codes alone will not create an engaging customer experience. It’s how you employ the technology that will determine its success. The opportunities to engage in-store shoppers via QR codes are limited only by a retailer’s or brand’s creativity. The code opens a two-way channel that can accommodate video, chat, text, images and virtually any other type of messaging. Providing additional product information is one obvious potential QR use. Helping shoppers to accessorize is another.
In each case, imaginative merchandising will be key to increasing sales.
Consider the potential for helping a shopper to accessorize. A teenage girl who wants a new look who has just fallen in love with a trendy yellow top, for instance. When she scans your QR code, will she receive a simple message on her mobile phone saying, “Thank you for shopping at Fashiontown Stores”? Or will she enter into a private merchandising session where she is presented with content and video featuring the latest teen star wearing the same blouse, coordinating capris, and the season’s newest sandals – items available in store and ready to be purchased?
The world of fashion truly lends itself to this type of merchandising. That same two-way open channel can be used to deliver instant coupons, add in-store items to wish lists, sign customer up for future email or SMS notifications and obtain customer feedback. There are fashion trends that you may want to present to your shopper. With imaginative merchandising, you can suggest a look and provide an inspirational message, one that appeals to your specific customers.
Moreover, engagements initiated by a QR scan can be extended — perhaps indefinitely — between you and the shopper and between you and the shopper and his or her peers.
For example, you can offer to alert shoppers to future sales via text message or use the occasion to sign them up with a loyalty program that includes immediate savings on current purchases. Both pave the way for continuing interaction between the retailer and likely returning customers.
Beyond that, your shopper’s in-store experience can be extended through social media links such as FaceBook. That trendy yellow top again! Your shopper can add it to platforms such as Facebook or Twitter, where her friends will be exposed to your merchandise and influenced by your customer’s implied endorsement of your store.
Product information
The more product information a retailer provides to a customer, the higher the probability that he or she will buy. That instinctive bit of retail knowledge is confirmed by a January 2011 study by Accenture, titled Retail in an Era of Mobility, which reports that  “70 percent of smart phone users would find it useful to scan the product barcode to obtain more information about the item.”

Performance apparel is a good case in point. It tends to fall into a higher pricing category and is purchased by shoppers with deep interests in understanding the item’s performance characteristics. Consider a shopper evaluating a $200 pair of running shoes. The QR code, which opens a two-way channel of engagement, enables the retailer to supply the shopper with a wealth of information, such as the shoe’s engineering, its comfort and stability, how much it allows the wearer’s foot to breathe, and customer reviews. Further, this can be presented in more engaging media formats such as video or audio which are not possible via traditional promotional tags.
Click here for a brief video on how the QR/smartphone process works.
A short course
A 2011 Google survey, titled The Mobile Movement: Understanding Smartphone Users, reports that 79 percent of respondents use their smartphones to help with shopping and 70 percent use them while in a store. Of those using their smartphone for shopping, 74 percent make a purchase.
If you are thinking of making QR codes a part of your in-store shopping experience to capitalize on its enormous potential, consider the steps below as a primer for getting started:
  • Consider which products should be tagged. Does the product lend itself to accessory suggestions or other crossselling opportunities? Does the consumer spend a thoughtful period considering the purchase of this product? Does the customer usually require more information about this product?
  • Start small. Select a group of 10-15 items and implement in one pilot store.
  • Educate your shoppers and associates on the technology and how to use it.
  • Incentivize shoppers to try it out.
  • Survey shoppers to find out what they like and don’t like with the technology.
  • Measure everything, especially sales, total scans and scans per item.
Be creative! Remember, it’s how imaginatively you employ the technology that will determine your level of success.George Hoffman is president of ClikGenie, Inc., a QR merchandising solutions firm based in Charlotte, N.C. Reach him at Ghoffman@ClikGenie.com

Social Couponing and the “Bubble Effect”

While I don’t pretend to be a social coupon expert, I have been a troubled observer of this growing phenomenon for some time. As Rocky Agrawal said in Monday’s widely circulated post, the model simply does not make sense. http://techcrunch.com/2011/06/13/why-groupon-is-poised-for-collapse/

There are all types of economic reasons why this model is poised to fail, but that is not what troubles me most. I am most concerned about the long term “destruction of value” that this tactic promotes.  Let me explain. Jack decides to buy Jill something nice for Mothers Day, perhaps a $75 massage.  Miraculously, ping,  a $17 Swedish massage coupon appears on his iPhone.  Its an incredible deal so  he buys it, gives it to Jill, and everybody is happy…right?

Well, not really…  First, the spa probably wasn’t doing well in the first place, which explains why it was so desperate to “buy” a customer.  Now the spa is so overwhelmed that it was almost impossible for Jill to get an appointment. A month later she finally has her massage, from a service provider who has been losing $30 on every customer since Mothers Day! Maybe the quality of the spa’s service hasn’t degraded yet, but customers are tipping less and I am willing to bet that it won’t be the kind of extraordinary experience that builds long-lasting loyalty.  Maybe Jill comes back, maybe she doesn’t… but neither she nor Jack will pay anything close to $75 for her next massage. Furthermore, those loyal customers that have been gladly paying full price are now feeling cheated.  Apparently, it was worth less! Eventually this retailer, and others like it,  complete their death spiral and go out of business.

In some ways the “irrational exuberance” of social couponing was predictable, much like the dot com and real estate bubbles. Consumers and investors get excited by opportunities where the cost to value equation is dramatically in their favor. But, long term, that imbalance is simply not sustainable. No retailer can lose money on every customer but hope to make it up in volume. That is simply mortgaging the future. Eventually it has to collapse.

But the collapse doesn’t hurt just that retailer. It hurts all of us. The pervasiveness of deeply discounted couponing is changing consumers perception of value and driving down margin for many reputable retailers in competitive categories. It’s very similar to the dynamics of the current real estate market. Why would a buyer pay “retail” for my home when my neighbor or his banker is willing to sell a comparable product at a distressed sale price? Ultimately, value is destroyed because a few ill performing merchants are willing to canabalize themselves in a futile effort to survive another month or two.

Retail excellence and corresponding financial success comes from delivering real value not the lowest cost. Retailers need to identify those products, services, activities, behaviours and customer experiences that differentiate them from their competitors in a way that supersedes price.  Create a learning relationship with your customers, become the destination of choice in the category… and you’ll have customers for life!


Demystifying the Luxury Customer (Guest Article)

I was recently speaking with a good friend and former client at two well known Italian luxury brands. We got onto the topic of the roles and responsbilities of a luxury CIO and how it differed from the traditional high-street retailer.  Having worked the luxury segment in IT and CRM for many years, she had some very interesting stories to share. Luxury  is simply different, perhaps more so than many of my readers realize. So, at the end of our conversastion I asked her if she would like to share her perspective as an IT executive on the inside, supporting  two of the worlds most demanding retail brands, catering to the difficult to reach, “rich and famous” customer.

The article that follows highlights some of the considerations that luxury retailers must incorporate into their Clienteling and CRM strategy.

Demystifying the Luxury Customer

     In my years working as a VP of Information Systems within luxury fashion retail I have often been at the center of CRM vendor intrigue.  The luxury client is a customer few understand and fewer still know how to reach.  They can’t be induced by traditional retailing techniques. Loyalty cards, promotional savings, free gifts are simply ignored, or worse, damage the brand. This leaves most  marketers wondering, “How do you reach this client?”  My answer is emphatically — by building a Customer Centric organization.   By effectively and creatively utilizing BI and CRM analytical tools in conjunction with consistent clienteling activities, with an enterprise-wide customer centric philosophy, a luxury retailer can begin to connect and build loyalty with their client.

     The key to reaching the luxury client is to really know them, their lifestyle and shopping behavior.  However,  success is based on how you use that information and how relevant the channel and messaging.  Every customer has a unique value equation that must come into balance before they buy.  The mass market customer  generally buys based on “need” and is motivated by savings and incremental offers.  The luxury client buys because of “want” and is willing to pay a premium for an experience.

     Let’s take a minute to examine the lifestyle of the luxury client.  We already know their income bracket is high, but what else do we know?  They are social, aware of their status, often busy (perhaps too busy to even shop during regular hours), uncompromising and specific with style, they value quality and service over quantity, are event or experience driven, and value trust at the hands of experts.  Knowing these “soft” characteristics and combining them with “hard” purchase behavior provides the retailer with the data to personalize, influence and delight their customers.  Armed with this customer knowledge and the analytical detail provided by CRM and BI tools, the purveyor of luxury products can sustain a relevant profitable relationship with their exclusive clientele.

     Let’s look further.  As I mentioned, they are social and event driven. So, why not create social shopping events like an invite a friend (new shopper) luncheon or a charity fashion show (forgive me, I am in luxury fashion). These are fabulous ways to bring in existing clients and add their closest friends to your roster of customers.   While a sale will not necessarily cause the luxury client to shop, selecting pieces that their trusted associate believes is “just right for them”  is often irresistible.  In home shopping and approval shipments to top customers has been proven to build exceptional loyalty.  Since a luxury client is looking for a shopping experience built on convenience and trust, the relationship you build with them must be one that welcomes them in to your company’s “family”.  Their associate becomes their friend, their confidant who knows them and knows what is best for them.  This level of customer intimacy requires capturing and leveraging information at every customer touch point and making that knowledge accessible to all constituents across the organization.

     A great place to start is to ask questions and LISTEN to their story.  Know your local social event calendar and know their personal interests and events.  Knowledge is power particularly in luxury.  Think out of the box when analyzing their shopping behavior and look for the patterns that will guide your next move.  Every decision your luxury client makes tells you something about who they are.  Every piece of information, from how often they shop, with whom they choose to shop, what pieces they buy, to when they buy helps you create a picture of “your client”.  Build and continually revise your client “profile” to remain current with an ever changing world and how our world affects your client.  The foundation for approaching luxury clientele is the same as it is for all customers.  It is your response to the data you uncover that is different.  The key success factor is to gain a deep understanding of whom your client is and what they value.  Analyze your successes and failures and always be willing to adjust your strategy to connect with an ever changing clientele culture.

     The author, Genine Fargnoli is the former VP of IS  and Director of CRM at Georgio Armani. She previously worked in Program Managment for  Gucci Group NYC. She can be reached at fargnolig@aol.com