Clienteling and the In-Store Retail Renaissance

make-or-break factor for brick-and-mortar retail success.

"The more retailers understand each customer before they walk in the door, the greater chance they have of delivering that positive moment of truth—a personalized, satisfactory buying experience that will keep them coming back for more," PwC said in a 2013 report.

A CRM solution that captures and consolidates customer interactions across all digital and physical touch points empowers your store associates, through tablets or other devices, to easily access customers' transactional histories, online profiles they may have created with your Web store, and product ratings and reviews they may have submitted. With the right system, your associates have real-time access to personal information such as birthdays, anniversary dates, and demographics about customers.

Rather than dealing with strangers from behind a counter, your associates can work on the floor to satisfy shoppers based on an understanding of their needs and interests, whether they're shopping for a bicycle, a camera, or a suit. And when your CRM and inventory information is connected, your associates can also look up inventory for items that may be out of stock or not available in stores and save the sale, ensuring the customer gets the product he or she wants.

Engaging with Real-Time Offers

Unified CRM can put the information you've captured on customers to work by triggering recommendations based on their store visit and purchase history—delivered by store associates, a POS device, or a Web kiosk that lets shoppers interact with your brand without fiddling with their smartphones. POS systems tied to CRM solutions can deliver personalized recommendations and discount offers for complementary products to prompt a return visit.

Kiosks are especially useful for engaging "self-servicers" who may not want or need an associate's help, but who do want an enriched shopping experience. With in-store kiosks, customers can easily access their wish lists, read product reviews, and view recommended products and offers that can be tailored to a current store visit or made available across any channel. This helps satisfy rising consumer demand for access to digital information while shopping in stores.

For instance, 71 percent of U.S. shoppers want to be able to access such digital content as price comparisons, product ratings and reviews, and information on deals and promotions within physical stores, according to a 2013 Cisco study. A kiosk is also a good mechanism to showcase products that might not be available in the store but are available at another location or online. Offering ordering with home delivery over a kiosk is an effective way to save the sale.

Understanding the customer is key to creating a best-in-class in-store shopping experience. Think about what information you already have about your consumers and what information you'd like to collect to build out your customer profiles.

Then consider what a consolidated CRM solution geared toward using that information to engage consumers in stores and across all channels can do for your brand.

Matt Rhodus is the retail vertical market expert at NetSuite, a provider of cloud-based omnichannel commerce software.

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