I had the privilege of presenting at the Salesforce pop-up Retail events in Sydney and Melbourne last week. In my brief “rapid-fire” pitch, I talked to quality retail of the past, the “little black book” era where brands and store associates really got to know their customers and built meaningful relationships, before turning to quality retail today – how brands that are mastering the art of meaningful interactions and relationships are doing so.  

Today’s retail landscape is far more challenging than that of the past. Customers now have an abundance of alternatives – international retailers shipping worldwide, pure-play platforms offering competitive prices, and dynamic delivery options such as click-and-collect and floor-to-door. The customer now has more power, more choice and more autonomy than ever before. Needless to say, their expectations are very high.

However, it’s not all doom and gloom for physical stores. According to McKinsey, brick-and-mortar stores are still set to account for 85% of US retail sales in 2025. And the brands that are continuing to thrive in today’s challenging environment, are doing so because they are getting closer to their customers, and practicing the “Art of Clienteling”.

Clienteling is a technique used by store associates to establish long-term relationships with key customers based on data about their preferences, behaviours, and purchases. And it delivers mutually beneficial results to the customer and the brand. Customers feel special, looked-after, cared for and understood. They feel a strong sense of affinity to the brand, and often become brand evangelists for life.

And brands see far more engaged customers, typically resulting in significant uplift of basket sizes, repeat visits and high engagement with personalised 1:1 comms. In fact, David Jones, MCM Worldwide, MatchesFashion.com and Agent Provocateur see on average a 26% uplift in basket sizes, with single brands seeing a 5-10% increase in real store sales.

The brands that are mastering clienteling see it as having three tenets:

Clienteling Connect-Inspire-Nurture

 

  • Acquisition – effectively on-boarding new customers and tracking customer and product interaction
  • Retention – nurturing existing customer relationships through meaningful personalised communications
  • Re-engage – re-engaging lapsed customers through relevant, 1:1 communications based on their preferences, tastes and interests

 

Following on from my presentations, several key brands approached me to say they absolutely “needed this”. One brand even said that the presentation was a “lightbulb moment” for them.

While clienteling is a current buzz-word, some retailers still think that it’s a “nice to have”, not something that drives meaningful return on investment. We’re seeing the exact opposite, and the brands that are looking at clienteling slightly differently, as a key transformation tool for sales uplift, are reaping the benefits to the tune of 5-10% increase in store sales.