Some fear the pandemic could ring the death knell for deep customer connections and personalization in the fashion sector: Here's why clienteling 2.0 powered by chatbots is set to prove them wrong.
The luxury fashion sector is already the market leader in clienteling, deploying personal shoppers to offer best-in-class personalized buying journeys to its customers. To combat the drop in store footfall as a result of the pandemic, mainstream fashion players are now exploring clienteling as well, specifically its second generation variant.
Clienteling 2.0's concept is simple: Instead of a customer heading to the nearest mall for a consultation, they boot up their preferred messaging platform such as WhatsApp or Viber, and are instantly connected with a personal assistant who chats in-app about their needs before offering a range of personalized options.
Why clienteling 2.0 represents a huge opportunity for fashion (… but with a caveat)
The mobile-first approach of clienteling 2.0 has already proven hugely successful for high end fashion outliers including Threads and Yoox Net-A-Porter. Both have been leveraging chat apps to deliver clienteling 2.0 experiences well before the pandemic hit. And as this tyntec infographic reveals, it's an approach that works: For instance, a McKinsey & Company report revealed that just under of 80% of luxury sales were “digitally influenced" with high-end spending online expected to increase threefold to €74 billion ($87 billion USD) by 2025.
All in, that represents a seriously powerful offering especially as more customers are choosing to head online to shop instead of risking a visit to the mall:
But there's an elephant in the room: While luxury brands can afford to deploy the small, specialist teams of personal shoppers needed to service big ticket customers via clienteling 2.0, it's not a viable option for mainstream fashion players looking to introduce a similar service.
Much larger customer bases coupled with cheaper product ranges i.e., far tighter profit margins, mean mainstream brands cannot afford to recruit the huge swathes of staff needed to deliver effective chat app-based conversational commerce.
Why chatbots offer the perfect balance between automation and human interaction
To overcome such budgetary and logistical bottlenecks, fashion outlets are combining clienteling 2.0 with chatbots. Featuring the latest AI and machine learning technology, bots allow mainstream brands to introduce a manageable, scalable digital clienteling service that can:
- Pull up selections of potential purchases for the customer based on their buying histories with the brand.
- Take consumers through simple guided sales processes using predefined conversation flows.
- Send out conversational-style notifications — think delivery updates — to keep customers engaged through out their buying journey.
- Deliver documentation (such as invoices, PDFs, and photos) relevant to the order.
Critically, bots can seamlessly introduce a human live agent into the conversation if an in-depth answer to a more challenging customer query is required. For instance, Make Up For Ever uses a chat app-based bot that helps customers source concealers and foundations that match their skin tone. However, it also offers the ability for customers to connect with a make up artist in an instant if and when needed.
Ultimately, bots can act as a bridge between the physical and digital worlds for mainstream fashion players, helping to create a cohesive omnichannel experience for customers who want the personalization of an in-store visit but in safety of an online environment — especially during and after the COVID-19 pandemic.
Perfect partners: Why chat apps are the ideal fit for clienteling 2.0
Just as critical to clienteling 2.0's success are the messaging platforms that deliver it. Two market leaders — WhatsApp and Viber — are already hugely popular with customers in their personal lives, and allow for full chatbot integration at scale as well as a host of other conversational commerce-critical features:
- Leverage both platforms' rich media options that enable brands to use images, videos, audio, carousels, and more to show their products in the best possible light.
- Reassure consumers that their messages are secure and their privacy protected thanks to each platform's end-to-end encryption.
- Use notifications to keep customers in the loop about their order's delivery, plus source invaluable feedback via quick-fire surveys.
- Integrate either platform into existing company backend systems such as CRMs to ensure zero disruption to existing services (see below).
Don't wait: It's time for the fashion sector to kick up its heels
To offer such rich digital customer experiences requires effective organization of customer data plus the roll out of deep analytics functionality. However, the fashion sector has previously been slow to leverage the potential of big data and the systems required to wrangle it. Because of the pandemic, the industry can no remain on the sidelines and instead, must actively explore ways to capture and funnel customer data from every sales channels on to a single analytics platform.
This in turn can inform the company and its business decisions across every channel and workflow: Whether it's a bot determining product suggestions based on a customer's entry in a CRM system or the management of inventories, promotions, and more, a 'single source of truth' will enable brands to offer CX-driven experiences that are personalized, immediate, and optimized.
Those are the benefits — but how can the fashion sector make the digital leap?
Of course, any fashion brand currently lagging behind the technology curve may question how such a significant transformation is possible. Fears about costly off-the-shelf solutions or putting together in-house specialists teams is leading to many brands in and outside of the sector partnering with third party specialists in conversational commerce and chatbot creation to do the heavy lifting for them.
For instance, tyntec offers conversational commerce APIs for both WhatsApp and Viber, enabling either platform to be integrated with existing commerce systems including Salesforce, Shopify, and more. Through tyntec's partnerships with bot developers, chatbots can also be designed, created, and integrated at speed within WhatsApp and Viber.
Combined, this offering allows fashion brands and outlets to roll out digital clienteling experiences powered by chat app and bots that complement and support in-store experiences. This, in turn, means substantial benefits for fashion brands too — from boosted conversion rates to massively improved operational efficiency — that will help secure fashion retail's future in this increasingly unpredictable world.