Clientbook Blog
February 7, 2023

The clienteling gap…and how to close it

In a Clientbook survey conducted among retailers, 90% of respondents said they collect and keep detailed information about their clients who come into their physical stores. (For the purposes of this survey, clients were defined as repeat customers who owners or store associates have developed a personal relationship with).  

However, when we asked those same retailers if they use that information for active clienteling purposes, less than 20% said they do.

This discrepancy is what we call the clienteling gap. This gap happens when retailers think they are clienteling, but in reality, all they're really doing is taking a few notes, sticking them in a folder or drawer, and ultimately forgetting they ever made those notes in the first place. Instead, they end up getting lost in a shuffle of papers and sticky notes. 

We all know that the future of retail depends on how we meet customer expectations so that they become repeat clients. If converting customers into clients is really the best way to grow a retail business, then why isn't it actually happening?

In this article, we'll go deeper into what retail clienteling should look like, its benefits, its challenges, and finally reveal a better and easier way to make it happen at your store—without the stack of paper notes and spreadsheets. 

New to clienteling? Watch our webinar to get an introduction

What does clienteling mean in retail? 

Retail clienteling is a technique used by retail sales associates to build long-term relationships with customers, converting them into loyal clients. The goal of clienteling is to retain loyal customers and provide personalized experiences for each shopper who comes through your door. 

You may have also know this practice as client management, relationship selling, or client tracking. However you put it, building lasting relationships with clients and understanding client preferences is what it's all about. 

Retail clienteling examples

Clienteling in retail will look a little different based on your specific industry and client base, but these are a few general examples of what it can look like at your store: 

  • Creating a customer profile for a key customer to keep track of their name, contact information, important dates, purchase history, and other key information 
  • Sending a meaningful message or thank you note to a shopper after they've visited your store or made a purchase with you
  • Following up with high-value customers with personalized communications on their birthday, anniversary, or other important dates
  • Offering personalized product recommendations based on a client's past purchases to encourage them to return to your store to shop with you again 
  • Focusing on building customer relationships more than simply making a one-time sale or closing a deal

What are the benefits of retail clienteling? 

Effective clienteling by knowledgeable store associates can have a huge impact on everything from your sales to your client retention. Here are just a few of the benefits of active clienteling: 

Boost your sales 

Arguably the most tangible benefit of successful clienteling is an increase in sales revenue. An Epsilon survey found that 80% of consumers are more likely to do business with a company that offers personalized shopping experiences.

So the more you learn about your clients' shopping preferences, the more likely they are to come again and do business with you. 

Better client retention rates

Offering a personal shopping experience for your clients through clienteling also helps improve your client retention rates, which does great things for your business. A Bain & Company report found that increasing customer retention rates by 5% increases
profits by as much as 25%. 

More confident sales associates

The more your in-store associates know about a client when they walk through your door, the easier it will be for them to interact to them. Customer insights gained from clienteling will make their conversations flow more naturally, and even allow your sales team to make personalized recommendations based on the client's previous purchases.

So, why isn't everybody clienteling? 

If clienteling is so great, then why doesn't everybody do it? Why is there that gap? There are a number of reasons for it, but the biggest one is that many retail store associates only know about manual clienteling. 

Most sales teams think they have to use notebooks or spreadsheets to keep track of each individual customer, which is tedious, time-consuming, and honestly not worth the effort. 

It's difficult to manage consistent customer communications when there isn't a good system in place to make clienteling easy. When it's busy on the floor, the phone is ringing, and your team is struggling to keep up, they don't have time to worry about personalized service and keeping track of every single customer's name and birthday. 

And who can blame them? Why would you do anything manually when there's a better way? Enter virtual clienteling.

How digital clienteling tools can help you close the gap

Introducing your team to virtual clienteling is the secret to closing the gap. With it, your team can overcome the traditional challenges that spreadsheets and notebooks present and instead have instant access to customer data and helpful communication tools.

By utilizing retail technology, like Clientbook's clienteling software, sales associates have access to real-time data on all of their clients, all in one place. With features like search, filters, and tags, your team can easily sort and categorize their clients to find the one they're looking for with ease.  

What's more, with automated reminders, sales reps will never forget to follow up with a client again. By searching through a client's shopping history, associates can even make personalized offers based on what they know their client would like best.


Closing the gap requires the right tools and some personalized automation. Software that manages customer follow-up based on past buying history, special occasions like anniversaries and birthdays, and a personal note from the sales associate on each communication creates a tight relationship that builds customer loyalty and makes things easier to manage.

If you're ready to see how Clientbook can help you close the clienteling gap at your retail store, schedule a demo today.

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