Building personalized relationships with your existing customers may not be the squeaky wheel in your business, but it is the most important thing to do if you want to survive in today’s retail world. With the popularity of 2-day shipping (even 2-hour shipping depending on where you live) and the broad array of assortment your clients can find online, the value a boutique brings is the personal relationship where a sales associate knows exactly who the client is and reaches out at exactly the right time. When you can execute this strategy, you’ll see a 4x increase in the annual spend of that customer.
So what are the key ways to build these personal relationships? And how can you make it simple enough for your sales associates to execute?
It begins with knowing when to reach out.
When to Reach Out
This topic probably requires a separate blog post to go through all the details about when to reach out. At Clientbook, we deal with a lot of boutiques and higher-end retail. One of the benefits of being in this position is that we see trends across all stores and get a high-level view of what clients respond to. With that perspective, here are the top 5 times in a year to reach out to your clients.
- Her Birthday/Life Events
- A “Purchase-versary” (how long after a purchase depends on the product)
- Store Events
- Follow-up on an Order
If you’re not reaching out to wish your clients a happy birthday on the actual day, you are missing a huge opportunity to be top of mind on the day when she is looking to treat herself. It you want to take it to the next level, reach out two weeks before and send her (or her significant other) a few ideas of things you know she’ll love.
Start collecting birthdays or other life event dates of clients today! As long as you can communicate the value you will give them on their special day, they will be excited to give you that information.
You’re probably thinking, “But what about all those birthday emails they get? How can we stand out?” Glad you asked. It begins with how you should be reaching out.
How to Reach Out
Think about all the emails you receive. How many of those do you read? Promotional emails are so common that it’s going to be impossible to stand out in a sea of 100+ unread emails in their promotions tab in Gmail. Maybe that’s why Mailchimp’s average open rates across retail emails is only 19%.
19%?!?! How hard do you work to capture every email? Do you offer discounts for their emails? Let’s say that you offer 10% off an order to get their email address and only 1 out of every 5 people will ever open your emails. What seems like a simple 10% increase in cost just got a lot higher.
It’s time you start texting your clients. Texting has over 99% read rates and our clients are seeing 20%+ response rates to their texts. With those numbers, why would you ever think of sending out emails again?
Just like everything else, your clients will happily give you their cell number when they know they are going to get value from their interactions with you. The great thing for you as a business owner is that the value doesn’t have to come in the form of discounts. One of our jewelry clients has found a simple and very effective way to get cell numbers is by offering to text the client pictures of the rings they were looking at. After they’ve established a product the person likes, the sales associate says, “It looks like you’re interested in that ring. Would you like me to text a picture of it to you?” Simple, yet extremely effective.
It’s true that some clients won’t want to receive texts, but are fine with emails (although these clients are less and less common every day). Email is better than nothing, so get what you can and make sure to reach out. The best option would be to get a system that handles the communication method for you based on your client’s preferred method of communication without you needing to think about it.
How to Provide Value
I’ve mentioned a couple times that you need to provide value to your clients if you want information from them. What is that value?
What a lot of business owners hear when I say “value” is “promotions” and “discounts.” Why? Because it’s easy. I challenge you to think a little deeper about what value means to your clients. Without fail, your clients can find another product cheaper (albeit not the same) than what you sell by searching online. Although price may push someone over the proverbial buying cliff, price is not the reason they shop with you.
One type of value is customer service. Let’s use an experience I had with Nordstrom as an example. A few years ago I bought a pair of dress shoes from Nordstrom. These dress shoes were not cheap, but I knew I would look good in them, they were going to last me a long time, and if something were to happen to them, Nordstrom would take care of me. A year later something did happen to them and Nordstrom replaced them for me completely free of charge. Yes, that’s right, A YEAR LATER. There was no reason for them to do that, but because they did I have bought every pair of dress shoes from there since. I don’t even think twice about it.
I’m not suggesting you need to replace something a client bought and ruined of their own accord a year after they purchased. I use that example to demonstrate that Nordstrom understands the principle that when I pay a premium price, I expect a premium experience. In your case, the experience may be customer service. Maybe it’s personal stylist support. Or maybe it’s an in-store experience they can’t get anywhere else.
How to Create Personal Relationships
Now that you have a way to connect with your clients outside of the times that they wander into your store, it’s imperative that you use that power to strengthen the relationship between your brand and your clients.
It starts with showing your client that you know who they are and what they like. Can you put together a list of complementary item recommendations based on items they already have purchased? If so, send it over to them near their birthday or a few months after having made a purchase. What about events? Do you blast out a message to everyone letting them know about every event or sale you have? Or are you more personalized in your approach?
Here’s an example from one our clients that helps to paint the picture of how to create these relationships without much extra work.
A fashion boutique pulled a list of all clients that would be interested in attending a “personal shopping” event where they could schedule a time to come into the store and work one-on-one with a personal stylist. The list was based on their clients’ histories and the text message was sent to over 300 recipients and made to look like it came from a sales associate that the client had worked with in the past. They had an incredible response and time slots filled quickly, but one particular message they received from a client really struck home. This client responded to their message saying, “Thank you so much for remembering me and thinking about me! This looks amazing and I just went online and reserved a time for next week. I can’t wait!” I guarantee that the client wouldn’t have felt this way had just received a mass email from the store.
Building personalized relationships with your clients is the most important thing you can do for your business. Without it, you are wasting money on marketing to constantly bring in new clients when your existing clients could be coming back time and time again. So tell me below in the comments, what are you currently doing to build these relationships and what might be holding you back from doing more?
Brandon is the CEO of Clientbook Retail, a mobile app and web dashboard for retailers who are looking for an easy and long-lasting way to send texts to and build personal relationships with their clients. His passion is for helping smaller retailers take advantage of their core strengths to drive sales. Prior to founding Clientbook Retail, Brandon was the CEO of Giftry and worked as a buyer and in multiple strategy roles for Target, including projects such as when Target knew a girl was pregnant before her father did.
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