Clientbook Blog
August 31, 2023

Digital clienteling vs. manual clienteling: What's the difference?

Wondering how to build long-lasting relationships with your patrons and turn them into loyal customers? The key lies in the clienteling process.

Retail clienteling encapsulates many different practices, but at the heart of it, you're really just making connections with customers, nurturing relationships with customers, and making the shopping experience one to remember and return to. Clienteling doesn't just happen in-person—though that is a major part of it—it also happens through online experiences and on digital platforms. 

So what does virtual clienteling look like in practice? How can you improve your manual clienteling and level up the physical retail experience? This article will differentiate between digital clienteling and manual clienteling and how both will lead to greater customer satisfaction.

What is clienteling?

Clienteling is a technique used by retail associates to build long-term relationships with key customers. 

This is also known as relationship-based selling, where client relationships are the basis of any interaction in the retail space. Clienteling involves sales teams keeping track of who comes into the store, noting customer preferences, and then creating personalized experiences and recommendations to build a personal customer experience along the way.

Personalized service is everything when it comes to clienteling. Incorporating clienteling in your retail strategy has several benefits for your retail business, but some of the major ones include: 

  • Increased sales
  • Customer loyalty
  • Differentiation from competition

The benefits of clienteling will show up in your retail sales immediately, impressing and delighting your high-value customers.

Ready to start clienteling today? Download our clienteling starter kit for free and start building customer loyalty

What are the major differences between digital clienteling and manual clienteling? 

Digital clienteling (also known as virtual clienteling) and manual clienteling are two approaches used by retail businesses to build and maintain relationships with their customers, but they differ in terms of tools, methods, and channels used. Here's an overview of the differences between the two:

Digital clienteling

What does digital clienteling entail? Here are some of the key features you'll see in virtual clienteling that make it a successful practice: 

1.Technology driven: Virtual clienteling relies heavily on technology, including customer relationship management or CRM software, mobile apps, and data analytics tools.

2. Omnichannel approach: An omnichannel approach involves engaging with customers across various digital channels, such as email, social media, websites, and mobile apps. It aims to provide a seamless and consistent experience across these channels. Some companies will hire an omnichannel associate who can bridge the shopping experience from online orders to in-store pickup, creating smooth experiences across channels.

3. Data-driven: Digital clienteling uses customer data and marketing analytics to personalize interactions. It tracks customer behavior, preferences, and shopping history to tailor recommendations and offers.

4. Automation: Automation is a key feature of digital clienteling. Automated emails, chatbots, and personalized product recommendations are common tools used to engage with customers.

5. Scalability: Digital clienteling can be more scalable because it leverages automation and data analysis to reach a large customer base efficiently.

6. Real-time communication: It allows for real-time communication with customers through chat features, instant messaging, and personalized notifications.

7. Analytics and reporting: Businesses can track the effectiveness of their digital clienteling efforts through analytics and reporting tools, allowing for continuous improvement.

Manual clienteling:

What does manual clienteling look like? Here are some of the key features in manual clienteling that bring customers back time and time again: 

1. Human-centric: Manual clienteling relies on personal, social interactions and relationships between customers and salespeople or clienteling associates.

2. In-person or phone-based: It often involves face-to-face interactions in physical stores or over the phone. Retail associates build relationships through one-on-one conversations which allows them to get to know their customers in a real way.

3. Personal touch: Manual clienteling emphasizes providing a personalized experience. Associates get to know customers individually and cater to their specific needs and personal preferences.

Hyper-personalization is what customers today are looking for. When you're able to create a customized shopping journey, customers feel seen and heard and are more likely to continue shopping with your retail business.

4. Requires more time: Manual clienteling requires more of a time commitment from your sales associates than digital clienteling. Spending time in-person with clients, manually inputting their information, and manually sending texts takes more time and is less automated than digital clienteling can be. 

5. Product knowledge: Sales associates are expected to have in-depth product knowledge and the ability to make personalized product recommendations based on client preferences.

6. Mostly non-automated: Unlike digital clienteling, manual clienteling doesn't rely on automation or digital tools for communication, though it can be supplemented with digital tools. 

Digital and manual clienteling with Clientbook

Clientbook is an advanced clienteling tool created to help retailers transform their business. With Clientbook;s clienteling software, personalization at scale is possible and even made simple. Customer expectations are met and exceeded with the personalized service Clientbook offers its users. 

With features that allow for unique customer profiles, analytics that provide valuable customer insights, and messaging that improves customer communications, Clientbook is the number one CRM for retail for a reason. 

To see what Clientbook can offer you as you begin your clienteling journey, book a demo with one of our experts today. 


The primary difference between digital clienteling and manual clienteling lies in the methods and tools used. Digital clienteling leverages technology, data, and automation to engage with customers across various digital channels, while manual clienteling relies on human interactions and a personalized, in-person approach.

The choice between the two depends on a business's size, customer base, and its goals for building and maintaining customer relationships. Some businesses may also use a combination of both approaches to create a holistic clienteling strategy. 

Begin virtual clienteling and manual clienteling with Clientbook today. 

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