American Marketer


Clienteling: The fast shopper in a slow store

February 6, 2012


By Gary Schwartz

Shoppers are natively an impulse consumer. 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 percent of their basket is full of products bought on pure impulse.

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

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 the other day I was doing some water-cooler math with my IT director.

We worked out that AGC (Apollo Guidance Computer) had 2kb memory, 32kb of read-only memory (storage), CPU 1.024 MHz. By contrast, the new Samsung Galaxy II S has 1 GB memory (1 048 576 kb), 32 GB storage (33 554 423 kb), CPU Dual-core 1.2 GHz (1200 MHz x 2).

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

It is clear that stores that do not know how engage effectively on this super phone are under siege. Last week Target went on the defensive talking about “showrooming,” the phenomenon of using the store to touch and feel a product and then checking out in the cloud – unfortunately a competitor’s internet cloud.

Blockbuster and Borders have all 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 many still consider the phone a threat and not an opportunity.

Amazon clearly feels that its success with the PriceCheck application 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 it is right.

If the retail industry continues to lament the rise of showrooming, it is 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.

Until 24 months ago, the shopper needed the clerk to navigate the store. The shopper needed the clerk to find information on a product. Now the clerk has inferior technology and less access to that information than the shopper.

Store needs 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 has become the ideal channel for the service.

Retailers need to use tablets to interact with shoppers. Help them find a product. Add this to a wish list – tie this wish list to a profile. Ask them for their mobile number to send updates, sale reminders and VIP invites.

Retailers need to engage the shopper at the cash register and ask for their mobile number for follow-on SMS deals and offers.

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

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

Gary Schwartz is president/CEO of Impact Mobile, Toronto, and author of “The Impulse Economy” (Simon & Schuster, 2011). Reach him at