Beat the big guy

The Retail Revolution: 5 Ways to Adapt, Survive, and Thrive

With the rise of e-commerce and the decline of the shopping mall, the last two decades have seen massive shifts in the world of retail. Consumers are migrating online and demanding more from their purchases: lower prices, faster shipping, sustainable practices. Amazon looms large and threatens players at every stage of the supply chain as both a demanding partner and ruthless competitor. So what can more traditional retailers and manufacturers do to maintain and grow market share in what feels like an entirely new marketplace?

1) Invest in e-commerce

For years, it’s been a sink or swim situation for retailers: get on board the e-commerce train, or get left behind. But how do you keep up with digital giants that have made online transactions their bread and butter?

As Forrester recently put it, “there has not been a time when technology has had a more profound impact on customer experience and revenue performance. By the sheer force of nature, this places CIOs and technology front and center.” To sell in 2019, you need excellent infrastructure supporting e-commerce and merging it with brick-and-mortar processes to create a fluid omnichannel customer experience. Successful retailers are abandoning the traditional model of basing their IT spending on the previous year’s revenues. Instead, they are growing tech spending as a forward-looking endeavor, understanding that state-of-the-art user experience is crucial in both generating sales and making sure customers return. In fact, IHL reported that leading retailers are outspending their weaker competitors sevenfold on IT.

In 2016, Walmart put out a call to technology companies, looking for partners that could offer solutions for its inventory management, cybersecurity, and e-commerce platforms, to name a few. As a result, Walmart is now partnered with Microsoft, using Microsoft’s cloud services to innovate its external services and internal applications through artificial intelligence and data solutions. Walmart’s investment in technology has paid off; according to a benchmark report by SimilarWeb, Walmart is the third most trafficked online retailer. The superstore giant is topped by only Amazon and Ebay, making it the most successful brick-and-mortar retailer in the e-commerce space.

2) But Find Channel Balance

This isn’t to say that retailers should abandon brick-and-mortar entirely and migrate to the web. Omnichannel is the name of the game now, and retailers can no longer pick and choose between digital and brick-and-mortar. Even Amazon, the poster child for online retail, has found a use, and in fact, a need for physical retail in its model. In addition to the 2017 acquisition of Whole Foods that netted Amazon 460 grocery stores, the website that was founded as an online bookstore has built over a dozen Amazon Books stores. Amazon has also recently announced mutually beneficial partnerships that increase its brick-and-mortar presence, such as delivering tires purchased on its platform to Sears Auto Center locations, where the customer can have them installed, or accepting returns at Kohl’s stores, where store-within-a-store space is also set aside to sell Amazon products. At the same time, Amazon is doubling down on its digital presence, for example experimenting with a Snapchat feature that would allow users to search for an item on Amazon based on a picture of an object or barcode. As an industry leader, Amazon demonstrates that if you want to be successful in the current retail space, you can’t be afraid to bring the physical experience online and the digital experience offline.

3) Take Back the Channel

Most manufacturers understand: you can’t rely on your distribution channels to own your relationship with consumers. That’s why the concept of CRM exists. But, in practice how do you get closer to the consumer, and get a better idea of what they want from you?

The Clorox Company has a successful CRM program, where they rely on distributors to sell their products and to provide accurate sales data. However, Clorox also puts heavy emphasis on its Early Performance Indicators. These are signals of performance early in the funnel, drawn from online engagement, that examine how conversation and buzz about the brand could translate into sales performance. While Clorox’s CRM partners manage valuable customer transaction data, EPI’s allow Clorox to assess its brand perceptions and predict sales activity in between CRM reporting cycles.

In this Amazon-dominant retail environment, some manufacturers have taken more extreme measures to regain control over their sales. The decision to become an Amazon wholesaler can be a Catch-22 for manufacturers. You cede control of your pricing, and potentially brand value, but in a world where over half of online shopping traffic goes to Amazon, not being present in the marketplace can be detrimental. Some manufacturers, such as Birkenstock, have taken the calculated risk to pull their product from Amazon altogether, in protest of unpredictable competitive pricing and the presence of counterfeit and knock-offs that dilute brand image.

With omnichannel so ubiquitous, manufacturers need to step back and take stock of the strengths and weaknesses of each channel. In channels where progress can be opaque or where partners require more control, it may be necessary to get creative in order to maintain the caliber of performance your brand expects.

4) Activate Sales Networks

While e-commerce is clearly the direction retail is moving, there are real challenges of implementing e-commerce platforms for more complex services or offerings. Grainger, the largest industrial B2B online retailer, relies on digital transactions. But, Grainger’s notoriously large catalog (over 1.6 million products, most of them highly specialized) can make it challenging for customers, particularly those with larger business accounts, to decide what to order on their own. The company reports that more than 60% of transactions are completed online, and expect that number to rise to 90% in the next several years. However, many of these transactions are aided by a sales rep at some point in the process. These reps may not be closing the final sale, but they are a crucial step in the customer journey.

Industries that have been historically dependent on agents are beginning to feel the threat of digital channels. With the rise of self-service online insurance enrollment, both offered directly by the provider or through third-party aggregation sites, some industry watchers are announcing the death of the agent and broker field. However, brokers and agents are still valuable in some areas. Employers and HR reps report depending on brokers for their group insurance needs and often maintain contact with their brokers for other resources outside of traditional enrollment season. The roles of agents and brokers may be diminishing, but they will not disappear entirely.

To maintain their standing in this shifting landscape, agents are demanding more from their carriers, such as digital tools and technology that bridge the gap between the growing digital and traditional personal customer experiences. Allied has built tools that help its insurance agents develop online content and digital marketing, and has integrated agent-enabled plans into its mobile app, reducing the administrative burden on agents. Transitioning to the digital marketplace, retailers must take stock of where their e-commerce model may fall short, and empower their human salesforce to fill in the gaps.

5) Empower Consumers

Consumers are more demanding than ever and companies have to either move quickly to meet those needs or make way for those who do. Distribution channels are more democratized than ever, allowing consumers to use platforms to curate the resources around them rather than depend on (and frankly, wait for) companies to offer what they want. This gives consumers access to goods and services they didn’t have before due to financial or geographic obstacles. Consumers’ ability to quickly and temporarily find and use anything from a car to a dog-walker has dramatically changed their spending and purchasing habits. This provides both opportunities for companies that get creative and break out of traditional models, and risks for those that can’t adapt fast enough.

Digital channels are making smaller brands more visible to consumers, and that means more competition for established brands. Search engines give consumers easy access to brands they may have never heard of, consumer reports, and customer reviews, allowing them to make more informed purchasing decisions and giving them broader choice than their local store’s shelves. At the same time, digital marketing and the online marketplace is making it easier for smaller, niched brands to get a foothold in market share, following the model of Warby Parker or Dollar Shave Club. These new brands cater to specific, untapped consumer needs or concerns, offering better value, higher quality, health benefits, more sustainable sourcing, or a departure from long-standing oligopoly. Often these emerging brands debut with a direct-to-consumer model, meaning that companies fail to view them as competitors until after they have already established a customer base.

As consumers become more empowered in their purchasing journeys, companies need to adapt to meet them where they are. For larger established companies, agility is key. Your emerging competitors are listening to customer concerns and you need to as well, and develop marketing, product lines, and business models that satisfy these consumers.


Retail is dramatically different than it was just ten years ago, and it continues to evolve at breakneck speed. The shift to e-commerce may be intimidating for businesses, especially those not digitally native, so to speak. But by investing in a strong online channel, leveraging the strengths of existing channels and using technology to patch their weaknesses, and taking cues from consumers, retailers and manufacturers are finding success in the Amazon era.

MarketBridge Wins Two Gold Stevie® Awards In 2019 For Sales & Customer Service

LAS VEGAS, NEVADA – February 25, 2019 – MarketBridge was presented with a Gold Stevie® Award in the Sales Training Practice of the Year category and a Gold Stevie® Award in the Incentive, Rewards, or Recognition Provider of the Year at the 13th annual Stevie Awards for Sales & Customer Service Friday night.

The Stevie Awards for Sales & Customer Service are the world’s top honors for customer service, contact center, business development, and sales professionals.  The Stevie Awards organization stages seven of the world’s leading business awards programs, including the prestigious American Business Awards® and International Business Awards®.

The awards were presented to honorees during a gala banquet on Friday, February 22 at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas, NV.  More than 700 executives from the U.S.A. and several other nations attended.

More than 2,700 nominations from organizations in 45 nations of all sizes and in virtually every industry were evaluated in this year’s competition. Winners were determined by the average scores of more than 150 professionals worldwide in seven specialized judging committees. Entries were considered in 93 categories for customer service and contact center achievements, including Contact Center of the Year, Award for Innovation in Customer Service, and Customer Service Department of the Year; 60 categories for sales and business development achievements, ranging from Senior Sales Executive of the Year to Sales Training or Business Development Executive of the Year to Sales Department of the Year; and categories to recognize new products and services and solution providers.

Judges responded positively to the MarketBridge programs, saying “it is an amazing and interesting nomination…. a complicated system in which every incentive is continuously tested and optimized as business strategies. Marketing based on Incentive, Rewards, or Recognition is a good option nowadays and MarketBridge is a good example.”  “MarketBridge came with a great Go-to-Market solution to help clients succeed fast…”

“Our team is thrilled to reclaim Gold Stevie Awards for Sales & Customer Service in 2019” noted Bill Sheldon, Senior Vice President at MarketBridge. “These awards demonstrate our commitment to delivering a superior client experience and driving positive results by rigorously monitoring and innovating our sales enablement solutions. We leverage powerful customer and market intelligence, along with constant testing and data-driven insights to create innovative multi-channel marketing and sales enablement programs that meet our client’s unique needs.”

“All of the Stevie Award winners should be very proud of their achievements.  Independent professionals around the world have agreed that their accomplishments are worthy of public recognition,” said Stevie Awards President and founder, Michael Gallagher.

Details about the Stevie Awards for Sales & Customer Service and the list of Stevie winners in all categories are available at


About MarketBridge

MarketBridge is a proven innovator of market intelligence, predictive analytics, and digital sales enablement solutions that power breakthrough go-to-market performance.  For over twenty-five years, MarketBridge has worked with global enterprises to sustain revenue growth, improve customer experience and loyalty, and adapt data-driven sales and marketing technologies. 

About the Stevie Awards
Stevie Awards are conferred in seven programs: the Asia-Pacific Stevie Awards, the German Stevie Awards, The American Business Awards®, The International Business Awards®, the Stevie Awards for Great Employers, the Stevie Awards for Women in Business and the Stevie Awards for Sales & Customer Service. Stevie Awards competitions receive more than 12,000 entries each year from organizations in more than 70 nations. Honoring organizations of all types and sizes and the people behind them, the Stevies recognize outstanding performances in the workplace worldwide. Learn more about the Stevie Awards at

Sponsors of the 13th annual Stevie Awards for Sales & Customer Service include Sales Partnerships and ValueSelling Associates.



Media Contact:
Catherine Artz

The Power of Personas

I’ve always been intrigued by the ability of an effective coach to enhance the skills of a highly successful athlete. How do you motivate a decorated veteran like Serena Williams to compete at Wimbledon? How does Michael Phelps’ coach inspire him to break yet another Olympic record? Successful coaching requires understanding the goals, needs and behaviors of an athlete—knowing what frustrates them, what frightens them, and especially, what fuels and triggers changes.

That’s why it surprises me when I see business executives react with skepticism when we discuss the power of tapping into a persona and driving change.

What I See in the Field Every Day

On a daily basis, across the US and Canada, I work in the field with Sales Associates and Executives who are customer-facing and accountable to the different needs and desires of their customers. Training these various Associates requires me to adapt my training strategy to the audience of each city I visit. Why? Teams often take on the identity or persona of the city they reside in. Philadelphia is a working-class city with tough-as-nails sports teams. So, in speaking to my team in Philadelphia, we coach with a no-nonsense and matter-of-fact approach. Palm Desert, located adjacent to Palm Springs, is a more relaxed resort destination; in some ways it’s a throwback to retail during the Mad Men era. The approach in Palm Springs is customer-driven, VIP service with a certain prestige exuded by the Sales Associate. So, as I touchdown in each city, I review the unique characteristics and preferences of my audience and modify and customize the content, communications and training tactics to best suit their needs.

Before You Roll Your Eyes…

Now I know, it’s tempting to think, “You’ve got to be kidding me. Personas are nice to haves, not need-to-haves. I know my audience… I have bigger priorities right now.” And that may be true, depending on what you’re trying to accomplish. In our experience, marketers mistakenly use personas for the wrong reasons. So, let’s start by aligning on what a persona is and isn’t.

A persona is:

  • A clear description of who your ideal customers are, what their days are like, the challenges they face, and how they make decisions
  • A critical tool to help you gain the perspective of a potential buyer or existing customer
  • Used to drive operational, field-level customer experiences

A persona is not:

  • A one-and-done exercise. Rather, persona development is an “always-on” analysis of changes in your customer base, fed with real insights (in my case, from the field)
  • A targeting tool; you should use quantitative segmentation for targeting. However, segmentations can be further fleshed out with personas.

Sourcing Personas

Personas can be low-tech or high-tech. Many big data companies utilize technology and data to build and deliver customized content. Netflix recently revealed that the content they choose to produce—not just the obviously customized viewing experience—is heavily influenced by customer personas. Netflix overlays multiple customer data points onto each persona, creating a full 360-degree picture of their customers and their preferences. But even with this amount of data, Netflix has to make the personas accessible and actionable for the creatives who ultimately select, design, produce, and direct the content. For example, Cary Fukunaga, Emmy award-winning director, recently revealed that Netflix worked with him in the editing room to structure his new show Maniac using their algorithms to reveal the exact moment when likely viewers (based on the persona the show was built around) tune in or out.

Low-tech personas can be created by an individual trainer, or by a store manager, based on direct observation. Talk to enough customers, and you’ll see the patterns emerge. The “bargain-obsessed suburban mom”, the “husband in a rush to buy a gift”, the “I just need some clothes for work, get me out of here.” The trick is writing these observations down, and telling consumers’ stories. This is what I do—and the act of writing and thinking about the consumer gets me even more inside their head.

Getting Traction

Personas help sales reps, trainers, managers, and marketers focus on their customers at an individual level, allowing them to “walk a mile in their shoes”—gaining insight into their goals, needs and behaviors, while at the same time learning what frustrates them. Personas don’t work when they sit on a shelf. This often happens in the translation from a magnificent piece of research work to a sales rep choosing to take them time to really understand and consume the content.

To get traction in a world of constant distractions, personas need to tell a story. They need to be funny and memorable. Oftentimes, two or three key insights per persona are enough. If you’re training a field sales force, do it in person. Play a game; create funny names or mnemonics for the different segments; use visuals. One other trick is to take the time to laminate 9 X 11 double-sided persona cheat-sheets and hand them out. These have a much better chance of getting used—and occupying an honored place on a desk or in a briefcase—than a PDF file or bound PowerPoint presentation.


In summary, whether you’re a director tasked with editing a television series, a trainer modifying tactics to better engage Sales Associates, or a CMO charged with overhauling your value proposition, personas are qualitative, storytelling tools that help people remember who their customer really is. When personas are activated in customer engagement strategies, whether in field or online, you are almost guaranteed to make the customer feel like you really do know them. This goes a long way in driving results.

Local Location-Based Commerce is Far, Far Larger than E-commerce

The modern miracle of e-commerce is entering its third decade. While there is some nitpicking, the consensus reported in the New York Times is that the first purchase on a commercial website was the purchase of a music CD on August 10, 1994.

Fast forwarding to this year, internet spending surpassed $300 billion for the first time, according to the National Retail Federation. Yet even with the awesome rise of e-commerce, offline retail sales volume is still more than 93% of US commerce. In a truly insightful analysis, Mike Ghaffary, a vice president at Yelp!, examined why some business categories will never go principally online and will remain local. Using a simple calculation he assigned a “local coefficient” to business categories based on three important factors on a scale of 1-5:

“Trying, meaning touching or seeing the product or service immediately before buying it; experiencing the service or product in person after buying; and substitutes, meaning whether or not a substitute is available online from a reliable source.”

Ghaffary’s resulting equation–L=(e+ts+5)/15—produced a local coefficient he assigned to retail categories.

Today, location-based commerce is about thirteen times the size of e-commerce.

Ghaffary’s reasonable summary was that future brick-and-mortar commerce at any foreseeable theoretical equilibrium will be at least triple the size of e-commerce, adding it’s “hard to build a mathematical case that e-commerce will surpass local by the end of the decade.”

For the banking or asset management industry, location-based commerce is still important in building trust. For banking, when you open a co-checking account to provide some spending money for your kid going off to college, or open a savings account when you know a child is on the way, your local bank is your go-to source for a frank, honest face-to-face conversation. The way Ghaffary described “trying, meaning touching or selling the product or service” translates in a different way with banking and credit – talking directly with an employee, and much of the time consumers would prefer not to do it over the phone.

So if location-based commerce is growing, how do you, as a large corporation, measure as small as the local branch or advisor office? Things like:

  • How is a given store performing?
  • What actions make sense given the unique communities digital and social presence?
  • Why is a store successful or not?

Data holds the secret, but most of the time, data is hard to understand or your system is too complex. By pulling together all inputs – your customer, your product, public information, firmographics, demographics … you can build analytics to determine the percentage of customers in relation to the size of the area and then deliver campaigns to increase performance.

Times They Are A-Changin’… Especially for Retailers.

Every 20 to 30 years Retail goes through a seismic change that transforms the way in which we engage and service our customers. There was the shift away from the 1-on-1, highly consultative sales in the early 60s to the world of big-box and multi-category retailing, followed by the e-tailing, commoditizing dynamic that emerged with the Amazons and eBays of the world in the early 1990’s.

We’re now witnessing Retail’s next transformation: where the power of data, social media, and Omni-channel delivery are rightfully empowering our shoppers to demand personalized, customer-centric experiences in return for purchases and loyalty.

This new reality is being driven by three paradigm shifts:

1) Our customers are smarter and more empowered than ever before.

Gone are the days where shoppers relied purely on marketing and the word of in-store associates to make decisions. Now, recommendations from friends on Facebook, trends on Twitter and Pinterest, video reviews and other interest-based content guides their decisions.

Studies show that shoppers typically conduct 6 searches before finding the product that best matches their needs, and consume 12 sources of information before making a purchasing decision.

2) The customer experience transcends online vs. offline.

We’ve become accustomed to thinking about the worlds of Online vs. Offline, oftentimes creating a delineation in our strategies across both. But the reality is that our customers simply exist. They want to interact with us without differing experiences between their connected and physical engagement with our brands.

It is estimated that over $2 trillion of offline Retail spend is influenced by experiences Online – and new experiential locations for Bonobos & Warby Parker demonstrates the reverse effect. So remember – your customers continue to exist outside of boundaries convenient to your business.

3) Customer expectations are higher than ever.

With new technology, a connected world, and a rush to convenience, customers demand, and deserve more. Businesses that accept the empowered customer, and leverage technology to solve for their friction points will be the winners. Those that don’t face the infamous Blockbuster outcome.

In order to adapt to these three shifts, Retailers should re-focus on three core principles:

1) Be Relevant at Every Interaction:

It’s 2014, by now we were supposed to be living in the world of hoverboards and, per Tom Cruise, face-recognizing virtual store associates. So how is it possible that we’re still doing the same old same to attract attention, mindshare, and loyalty? Last year, 5.6M tons of DM advertising ended up in landfills–44% of which was unopened. Similar figures exist for email marketing. And what passes as ‘new’ ends up being re-purposing old content through a new medium (e.g. Retailer coupon apps).

Solution: Use the power of your data to define the customer segments that actually matter. This means going beyond Geo, Store, and Category analysis, and instead looking at granular groupings that cut across multiple variables to give you actual personas to target.

We recently helped a large retailer define attitudinal dimensions through focus groups and other qualitative studies to help develop new buyer personas that we incorporated into all of the marketing messaging for the rest of the year. Since launching the new messaging strategy, that retailer saw 167% lift in the number of leads they received.

2) Connect with their Interests:

Retailers exist to service their customers. And sometimes that means going beyond ‘the sell’. Today’s customers – particularly millennials – are asking us to understand who they are, and what they are interested in, in order to deliver them what they want.

Solution: We’ve found that programs that focus on connecting with customer interests, and what inspires those customers, ultimately drive results and long-term loyalty.

We’ve helped a large healthcare company develop a community of over 700,000 members that connects their target audience to free content and tools that are aligned with their customer’s interests…not the company’s products. By doing this, they have seen a huge lift in customer engagement, lower cost of acquisition, and most importantly a higher conversation rate from these members to sales.

3) Democratize the Customer Experience:

Your customers should define the customer experience, on their terms. And they generally tell us what they want.

According to Accenture’s Seamless Retail study, not surprisingly, about 9 out of 10 shoppers said they want Retailers to let them shop on their own terms, ultimately in an Omni-channel manner. That same data rings some alarm bells. For example, three out of 4 respondents said they want consistent pricing across channels, yet only 16% of Retailers deliver on that expectation.

While there may be valid ‘internal’ reasons for a bifurcated experience (e.g. for pricing, economic realities differ across platform), in a world of increasingly empowered customers, with greater expectations than ever, it’s on us to shield them from that complexity.

Solution: Empower your customer-facing assets to deliver an experience that wins. For most Retailers, that means looking to your store associates. They are your brand stewards at the final mile of consideration and purchase for many customers, and your associates should be equipped to not just sell product, but to be your experience and brand ambassadors.

We’ve worked with several retailers to enable their sales associates to have better, more targeted conversations about loyalty programs and credit offerings. This loyalty spin on associate enablement builds stronger relationships with customers, and ultimately increases program membership that really impacts the bottom-line.

Want to learn more about customer loyalty best practices for Retailers, check out whitepaper on How to Gain, Grow, and Maintain Customer Loyalty in the Retail Industry


Get Personal: 5 Steps to Clienteling Success

This happened to me. While driving home from work, I realized I had nothing for my wife’s birthday the next day. I stopped at her favorite store hoping to walk out with an acceptable present. My hopes were not high. A pleasant sales associate greeted me and asked if I needed help. Within five minutes, she identified my wife, pulled up her wish list on an iPad and began showing me options. In 15 minutes, I had purchased three items in my wife’s size, which was also stored on the iPad. I headed home feeling like I had won the lottery. Who knew shopping could be so simple and so rewarding? I know where to go for our anniversary.

Great service has long been a recipe for success for high-end boutiques and the local shopkeepers alike. Neighborhood grocers, independent booksellers and local restaurants greet their best customers by name and remember their preferences. High-end retailers ply customers with food and drink. For many brands, the shopping experience is a core part of brand identity.

This personal attention increases lifetime customer value in two ways. First, the experience itself draws shoppers back to the store, increasing repeat purchases. Second, sales associates develop intimate knowledge of their best shoppers’ preferences, enabling them to make more relevant recommendations. Basket sizes grow in pace with relevance, increasing the value of each visit.

Previously, patrons of national retail chains typically did not expect or receive this level of service. The trade-offs were clear. Chains provided the superior price and selection at the expense of the personal experience offered by local stores. This worked for a while. However, the internet has upset the balance. Now we want it all. Accustomed to a personalized online experience, savvy shoppers increasingly expect that retailers will deliver the same level of personalization in-store. Retailers ignore this trend at their own risk.

Download the PowerPoint slide version of these best practices at the bottom of the page, and use it freely (just please cite us!)

Clienteling is the set of business processes retailers use to increase customer lifetime value through delivery of a personalized shopping experience. Fortunately, the tools needed to create a personalized in-store experience now exist, and they are increasingly affordable. Technology is replacing note pads and address books as a means of storing key client information. Today’s clienteling software can deliver rich data to an associate’s fingertips, allowing him or her to provide a personalized experience that will improve customer satisfaction and increase revenue. Below, I have outlined five key steps to clienteling success.

Step 1: Define the Strategy

A sound loyalty strategy is the foundation for any successful clienteling program. Retailers must design a program that is consistent with the brand, meets growth objectives and can be implemented. A few key questions that must be addressed include:

  • What is the personalized experience the brand wants to deliver?
  • Who is eligible for the program?
  • What is the incentive for shoppers to sign up?
  • How will shoppers be recognized?
  • How do we define success?

The strategy will guide all subsequent decisions and requirements, particularly decisions about data and technology.

Step 2: Assemble the Data

Clienteling is a data intensive practice. Retailers have to collect, assemble, transform and deliver customer data from all available touch points, including the web, mobile apps, catalogs and store visits. A basic program requires the following data.

  • Personally identifiable information (or PII)
  • Prior purchase history
  • Preferences (contact, channel, product, etc.)
  • Customer service contacts
  • Product recommendations

Complexity and functionality expand from here.

Creating the required data asset can be a time-consuming and expensive endeavor. Fortunately, most Retailers have invested heavily in CRM solutions in the past 10-15 years. Those systems typically include most of the data needed to launch a clienteling program.

Step 3: Implement Clienteling Software

The days of writing notes on lined paper in little notebooks are over. As a quick internet search will demonstrate, the market is crowded with software vendors offering clienteling solutions. A brief survey of names turns up Blue Martini, Capgemini, Epicor, GlobalBay, Microsoft and Retaligent, among others. The market is converging on mobile applications with a heavy emphasis on iPads. The primary function of these applications is to empower sales associates with customer information. In addition, the applications may offer integrations with social media, CRM solutions and mobile POS software. Retailers should carefully evaluate functionality, scalability and cost before selecting a solution.

Step 4: Train, Measure and Incentivize Sales Associates

Sales associates are the figurative face of the brand. They are communicating with your best customers, constantly making impressions, creating expectations and delivering on commitments. They will make or break the program. It’s important to ensure that the program is implemented as designed every time by every associate. The only way to maintain quality and consistency is through ongoing training. And, nothing makes training stick like ongoing measurement and incentives for compliance/performance. Sales associates have to own the program. Management must give them the training and incentives to make that a reality.

One thing to dive deep on is privacy. Tell Associates what to say if customers are taken aback by how much data is known about them. Some customers may love clienteling—and others may not realize what they signed up for.

Step 5: Test, Test, Test….

Successful programs evolve over time. In order to get the most out of clienteling solutions, retailers must establish ongoing test and learn programs. This starts with defining, collecting and publishing Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) for the program. The next step involves implementing a testing roadmap to understand the impact of changing major program levers. Important areas for testing include offers (product recommendations, discounts, specials, etc.); sales scripting and engagement protocols; and contract strategy (content, frequency and channel of communication about the program). Correctly designed tests with control groups and adequate samples sizes are a must.

Real-time dashboards should be implemented at the store level. These data empower managers to drive adoption, and tailor how Associates are using clienteling technology to delight customers.

Implementing an effective clienteling program isn’t easy, but it is well worth the effort. A well-designed and implemented program will increase loyalty and revenue from the brand’s most important customers. It will also create brand advocates that provide the social media-driven word-of-mouth buzz that everyone seeks.

Below, download the detailed PowerPoint slide that summarizes this article.