By Karina Kholodova, Senior Consultant – KIT.

Are we currently witnessing the rebirth of our understanding of communication and its impact in the retail world? To address this question, let’s look back and take a quick trip down memory lane. Back in the days when communicating with your butcher, baker, and yes, even your grocer meant that you discussed shopping needs alongside the local gossip, and the shopkeeper would fetch what you required.

But imprecise communications led to poor service. The shopkeeper would not know what you wanted to purchase, and as you were not able to self-serve in the shop, you would leave with nothing. Although, it all changed when the self-service supermarket arrived, closely followed by the out-of-town superstores. This approach resonated across the retail sector: we evolved from talking directly to the shopkeeper, through to self-service, with maybe no interaction with anyone, and we are now back to where we started. We are once again communicating directly with the Store Associate, the 21st-century version of the storekeeper, who relies more and more on technology to guide us through our purchasing journey.

New art or a reworked master?

We can trace the word communication back to communicare – the Latin word for share, whereas, according to the English Dictionary: Communication is the act of sharing or exchanging information with someone. But today, communication comes in many forms. It has been adjusted and developed over centuries to adapt and meet our needs – even more so as consumers. Not just a means of interacting one-to-one, transactional communication is at the centre of our shopping universe. We have seen communication evolve and expand the simple Click & Collect method of retail shopping into new ideologies such as BOPIS (Buy Online, Pick-up in Store), ROPIS (Reserve Online, Pick-up in Store) and even Curbside Pick-up.

But here is where Clienteling reworks and changes the game, helping Store Associates become Visual Style Consultants or Product Advisors, enabling bricks and mortar to reinvent themselves. In the new normal, the customer is closer to the store – all underpinned and made possible with Clienteling tools such as KIT, which are intrinsic to how we communicate today in the retail sector. Consequently, it is no surprise that retailers have made it abundantly clear that an online, omnichannel approach is the way forward: 69% of retailers and investors state that this is top of their list for 2021 (source: PwC Retail & Consumer 2021). To support this approach, KIT lets the Store Associate communicate with customers in whichever way they prefer. And according to multiple consumer surveys in 2020, almost half of UK customers prefer email, 38% web chat, 37% WhatsApp, 36% video calls and 34% SMS, highlighting a multi-pronged approach to communication is needed to meet all customer needs.

It is important to note that this approach also needs to consider geographical nuances. Certain regions favour (or have legal restrictions) around the tools they wish to, or can, use (WeChat in China, and other unique examples around Russia and the Asia Pacific region).

Clienteling is defined as “a technique that allows retailers to improve the shopping experience by personalising the interactions they have with customers”. It is enabling the personal service of the local shopkeeper, with the global reach provided by modern technology. It is communicating on a whole different level.