Selecting the right provider to deliver a successful 'clienteling 2.0' rollout for fashion brands and their store associates is vital — here's how to ensure a shortlisted candidate is up to the job.
As the pandemic continues to wreak havoc on retail, the fashion sector in particular is looking for new ways to engage with customers through 'clienteling 2.0': No matter where a consumer is — in-store or online — they can communicate with a store associate who is able to offer tailored buying advice and services based on the customer's existing preferences.
The ability for fashion brands to deliver such a bespoke service is critical to securing the sector's future even after the world finally emerges from the cruel COVID era. After all, according to SmarterHQ, 80% of self-classified 'frequent shoppers' will only shop with brands who personalize their experiences.
To achieve such deep levels of personalization, store associates need instant access to a customer's details, coupled with an ability to push out tailored messaging via the consumer's preferred channel, whether SMS or chat app — or a combination of different channels. It's why fashion brands are now turning to omnichannel communications providers to implement a clienteling 2.0 strategy that offers such instant connectivity plus the ability to wrangle different channels into a single joined-up service.
Question Time: Assessing an Omnichannel Comms Provider
To ensure a prospective provider can actually deliver, fashion brands must ask the right questions so they can sort the genuine specialists from the 'service shifters':
1. Match channels with preferences
"Do you support a full range of channels based on customer preferences?"
Providers must be able to advise on, deliver, and support the right channels for the fashion brand's target market(s). For instance, 57% of Generation Z use messaging apps at least half the time they use their phone, states BrainBoxol, making chat apps an essential channel if Gen-Zers are a key market. Location matters as well with Viber dominating in Central and Eastern Europe and CIS, Facebook Messenger ruling the roost in the USA, and the world's number one messaging platform WhatsApp leading in 105 countries. It means providers should be able to offer a portfolio of channels that match the brand's specific needs now, and critically, can incorporate further channels if and when required in the future.
"[It is] more important than ever for businesses to be available across a broad spectrum of channels, and to make sure you're communicating the way people prefer to communicate."
• David Cancel, CEO of Drift, the conversational marketing platform specialist.
2. Enable two-way comms
"Does your solution support two-way communications between store associates and customers?"
At the heart of a successful fashion clienteling experience is the relationship between the store associate and the customer. An omnichannel comms provider must allow the associate to hold two-way conversations with the consumer, enabling both to chat with one another informally as well as give the customer the opportunity to initiate a conversation if they choose to.
Personalize to mobilize
"The future of retail involves personalization and chat…People want something that is akin to a retail experience, but they want it through their mobiles."
• Sophia Hill, founder of the high-end fashion seller Threads.
3. Tailor messages to customers
"Does your solution allow store associates to alter templated messages as well as write free-form messages?"
The provider should offer associates the ability to send out a pre-formulated template message as is, as well as edit the message to make it more personalized for each customer. This helps agents add personal touches as well as save on precious time. Once the customer has replied to the message, the associate should also be able to respond with free-form messages, enabling them to answer specific questions and make tailored offers in a conversational style.
4. Leverage every media type
"Can store associates send images, video, and links directly to the customer?"
It's critical that an associate can send rich media to their prospective customer via any mobile-based chat app. Whether it's a simple web link (including a website preview image) or a QR code, photo or even video of the fashion item, it's the provider's job to empower the store associate so they can offer a full, instant and rich experience to their consumers.
5. Choose direct API integrations
"Does your solution fully integrate with existing back-office and front-end systems?"
Integration is essential for successful customer engagement. It's why fashion brands should ask the communications provider for the REST API. This provides the flexibility to integrate new communication channels or omnichannel solutions directly with existing CRM, commerce and ERP systems, enabling all systems to share the data necessary to make the buying experience seamless. Today, many store associates are already using mobile devices to access CRM and ERP systems to check customer profiles and inventory status. By integrating omnichannel service APIs directly with the systems used by the associates, companies can empower them to connect with their customers on communication channels preferred by each customer.
For technical information about REST API integration, ask the provider for documentations and tutorials, click here to view tyntec's doc center.
6. Respect customer opt-outs
"Do you provide updates about customers who have chosen to opt out of a social messaging channel?"
The ability to update customer data with communication channel preferences and opt-outs should be provided. Here’s a great litmus test: While a customer's opt-in for messaging platforms such as WhatsApp will appear listed in the company's CRM, can the provider feed back the update if that customer's opt-in status changes? For example, if the consumer blocks messages from the brand, such intelligence is vital and should be noted on CRM records while identifying potential issues with their customer interactions. Most importantly, such immediacy ensures that a customer's wish to opt out are always acted on and respected.
7. Offer tailored support
"Do you offer a complete roadmap for successfully implementing an omnichannel strategy?"
A provider should clearly demonstrate it is capable of delivering a service that meets all the fashion brand's CX and ROI expectations: From initial consulting, implementation, and technical integration through to ongoing support, ask the provider to walk you through the process and steps involved. To ensure their solution is specifically tailored to in-house workflows, a clear brief should be drawn up by the brand and cross-checked against provider’s proposal so that all the resources and support required can be correctly identified and delivered.
It takes teamwork
“tyntec’s developers helped us a lot in integrating. We had a very short time to market. It took only two weeks and it was an outstanding support from the beginning to the end of the integration.”
- Johannes Skrivanek, head of digital marketing at the leading private jet company GlobeAir.
Smarter Omnichannel Rollouts: Ask the Right Questions Today to Avoid Paying Later
By being proactive now, fashion brands can ensure they are not anchored to a solution that fails to deliver in the future. Asking the right questions helps unearth whether the provider's solution will deliver a return on investment as well as deepen customer relations. The right provider will also ensure store associates are enabled to engage with customers by giving them access to the tools and channels they need to continue delivering a great customer experience and creating new sales opportunities.
And finally, let's not forget the customer. With the right combination of messaging channels powering clienteling systems, they can interact with the brand on their own terms whenever they want. And for a sector that dedicates itself to delivering on customers' wishes, that represents a huge opportunity for fashion brands to grow and even prosper during these tough times.