Clienteling: The Fast Shopper In A Slow Store

Shoppers natively are impulse consumers. They buy in what retailers call, “5 by 5” (five seconds by five feet).  At home they may write out lengthy shopping lists and do hours of research on products, but in the store, 80% of their baskets are full of products bought on pure impulse.

The phone has become a shopping aid that can help shoppers be more effective impulse buyers. The retailer that manages to engage effectively with this new shopper will win. This is the industry challenge.

I have always said that the phone in the shopper’s pocket is more powerful than the computer that sent the first person to the moon. But yesterday I was doing some water cooler math with my IT director: We worked out th at the Apollo Guidance Computer had 2kb of memory, 32kb of read-only memory (storage), and a CPU with 1.024 MHz. The new Samsung Galaxy II S smartphone has 1GB of memory (1 048 576 kb), 32GB of storage (33 554 423 kb), and a CPU Dual-core 1.2 GHz (1200 MHz x 2).


That means the hand-sized shopping aid essentially is 2,000 times faster… but that’s just raw speed.


Stores that do not know how to engage effectively on this superphone are under siege. This week Target went on the defensive by talking about“Showrooming,” the phenomenon of consumers using the store to touch and feel a product then checking out in the cloud ― unfortunately, a competitor’s Internet cloud. 

Blockbuster and Borders all have fallen to the digital efficacies of the Internet. Are Target and Best Buy next? These retailers are deep in thought on how to respond. They have tried to leverage the phone and this new channel but are among the many that still consider the phone 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 “showrooming” is it simply crying-uncle to Amazon. For Target to place 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 is 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 and mortar.
  • Trust is the silver bullet.

The shopkeeper needs to use mobile to develop a digital relationship with the loyalist shopper. Two years ago the shopper needed the clerk to navigate the store and find information on a product. Today that clerk has inferior technology and less access to that information than the shopper.

The Store Needs To Clientele

Clienteling, a retail tactic that predates mobile, refers to interacting with the shopper to provide personalized service, offers and communication in the store. While it may older than mobile, mobile has become the ideal channel for this service.

Retailers need to use tablets to interact with the shopper, help them find a product, add items to a wish list then tie this wish list to a profile. They need to engage shoppers at the cash register and ask them for their mobile numbers to send updates, sale reminders VIP invites, follow-on SMS deals and offers.

Most of retail revenue is lost with cross-channel disconnect: between the store and the online site. Clienteling allows the shopkeeper to connect brick and mortar shoppers with its online experience and develop a “trust” relationship that will maintain those shoppers as loyal consumers. 

Stores that can develop a digital trust relationship across all their retail touch points will help the impulse shopper make that impulse buy at check-out.

Gary Schwartz is President of Impact Mobile and author of “The Impulse Economy: Understanding Mobile Shoppers & How They Buy,” published by Simon & Schuster.

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