Clienteling: the fast shopper in a slow store

Gary Schwartz, president and CEO of Impact Mobile, says stores should get mobile to woo customers in-store or risk losing them to the cloud.

By Gary Schwartz

The shopper is, natively, an impulse consumer. He or she buys in what retailers call the “five-by-five zone” (five seconds by five feet). At home, the shopper might write out a lengthy shopping list and do hours of research on products, but in the store, 80% of their basket is bought on pure impulse.

The smartphone has become a shopping aid and it can help the shopper be a more effective impulse buyer. The hand-sized tool is now faster than the computer that put the first man on the moon, but stores aren’t taking advantage. Instead, retailers are shying away from the technology.

It is clear that stores that do not know how to engage effectively on mobile are under siege. This week Target went on the defensive talking about “show-rooming,” the phenomenon of using the store to touch and feel a product but then buying it in the cloud (unfortunately a competitor’s internet cloud).

Blockbuster and Borders have both fallen victim to the digital efficacies of the internet. Will Target and Best Buy be next?

These retailers are deep in thought on how to respond. They have tried to leverage the phone and new channels but many still consider it a threat, not an opportunity.

Amazon clearly feels that its success with the PriceCheck app is a good indicator that the new Kindle Fire tablet will be the mobile commerce device of choice. Amazon sees its role as “pro consumer” and if it is all about price, then they are right.

If the retail industry continues to lament the rise of “show-rooming” is it simply crying uncle to Amazon? Placing unique products in-store that cannot be price checked on Amazon is not a sustainable answer. Turning off WiFi or changing UPCs will not work.

The top three factors in shopper decision making are price, convenience and trust:

  • If it is all about price, we should all close up shop and go home.
  • Convenience can work for the cloud and bricks & mortar.
  • Trust is the silver bullet.

The shopkeeper needs to use mobile to develop a digital relationship with the loyalist shopper. Stores need to clientele.

Clienteling is a retail tactic that predates mobile. It is the act of interacting with the shopper to provide personalized service, offers and communication in the store. While it may be older than mobile, mobile is the new channel for the service.

Retailers need to use tablets to interact with the shopper: help them find a product, add it to a wish list , tie the wish list to a profile. Ask customers for their mobile number to send updates, sales reminders, VIP invites. Retailers need to engage the shopper at the cash register and ask if they can send SMS deals and offers.

Cross-channel disconnect is where most of the retail revenue is lost: between the store and the online site. Clienteling allows the shopkeeper to connect the bricks and mortar shopper with their online experience and develop a trust relationship that will ensure a loyal consumer.

Stores that can develop a digital trust relationship across all their retail touchpoints will help the impulse shopper make that impulse buy at their checkout.

Gary Schwartz is the CEO of Impact Mobile, chair of MEF North America and the author of The Impulse Economy,  published by Simon & Schuster, Aria Imprint.