The rise of conversational clienteling in COVID-19

7th Sep 2020
Christian Wiediger, Unsplash

The pandemic has hit every industry hard, and few more so than fashion retail. The sector has seen store closings and customers moving online — hardly an environment conducive to selecting and buying clothes — sidestepping one-to-one personal interactions with store staff who are so vital to creating great customer experiences and building loyalty.

And that personal touch matters: 80% of self-classified 'frequent shoppers' will only shop with brands who personalize their experience, according to SmarterHQ. However, the 'new normal' brought about by the pandemic has effectively shelved opportunities for those in-store interactions.

To counteract this, forward-thinking fashion brands are turning to ‘digital clienteling,’ offering personalized, scalable conversations by transforming store associates into digital stylists via popular chat apps such as WhatsApp and Viber.

Clienteling is a customer service technique used by brands to create long-term relationships based on customer buying preferences. While clienteling is commonly associated with luxury brands, its usage is increasing among more mainstream fashion labels.

‘Conversational clienteling’ relies on messaging-driven conversations that create opportunities for securing business continuity for fashion brands in three key areas: increased customer engagement, more sales, and improved operational efficiency. 

What fusing clienteling with messaging apps means in real-world terms

Fashion retail brands should look at other sectors to gain insight into how chat apps can transform operations. For instance, Globe Air, the private jet charter, rolled out the WhatsApp Business solution last year, offering clients a personal, secure channel to directly chat with customer agents about flight availability, booking, and payments.

GlobeAir messaging service

Bernhard Fragner, CEO of Globe Air, points out: “The interaction is so quick and so informal [on WhatsApp], you actually develop even more trust and even more bonding with your customer."

The switch to WhatsApp has seen Globe Air’s clients enjoy 225% faster customer service while the company has experienced 27% more sales leads plus a 20% higher booking. Best of all, WhatsApp's functionality has been fully integrated with the company’s existing systems to boost operational efficiency. For instance, Globe Air’s chat channel is incorporated with its Slack teams. This allows for fast, seamless collaboration between departments, negating the need to switch between platforms when processing a client's booking.

Why integrating conversational channels is key to a successful clienteling rollout

To enrich customer experience and generate more sales, it’s important to integrate the chat channel with existing commerce systems and customer data sources. This technical challenge can understandably pose some questions about how quickly the rollout can happen.

The answer? The technology exists: easy-to-integrate APIs available that bring popular messaging channels into a single access point provided by global communication APIs companies like tyntec. Brands are integrating their Conversations API  with their existing clienteling systems or use no-code/low-code options that can be deployed out-of-the-box.

Whichever integration option is chosen, such versatility and support mean fashion brands can create intimate, private, and informed online conversations with customers that were previously only available in-store.

 Critically, adopting an integrated digital approach offers opportunities for deeper digital learning that can be used to target other customer segments. In turn, this will enable fashion brands to build up successful personalized relationships with all of its customer base, no matter where they are on their buying journey.

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