Is Clienteling in Your Future?

By ​Nathan Richter

January 15, 2014

When you’re a luxury brand, one of the biggest post-holiday concerns is how to get rid of unsold merchandise without devaluing your brand. Perception is crucial, and a $1,500 handbag on clearance doesn’t really scream cachet.

Enter clienteling. By turning excess inventory into a VIP environment for a group of premier clients―and giving them first dibs at the reduced-priced items―you’re not only getting rid of unsold merchandise that you’d have to do anyway, but you’re upping engagement and customer loyalty.

So how do you do this online, similar to what luxury brands like Ralph Lauren are doing in-store?

Start by carving out an audience of existing customers who should receive this exclusive benefit. The customers you choose will likely be your most loyal ones. What you ultimately decide to execute should be done in an incremental, yet agile, manner. This customer-centric approach could look at shoppers with the highest average order value (AOV), or could extend to customer lifetime value through RFM (Recency, Frequency, Monetary) analysis.

Before taking action on this entire customer segment, start by creating unique experiences to a small group of these buyers. Here are some ideas.

Offer a promo code in an email to this valuable customer segment.

• Deploy a lightbox to promote the special sale, providing entry to anyone who gives you an email address and/or refers a friend on Facebook.

• Send out an email, plus a separate direct mail campaign, both of which use either a PURL like customername.yourdomain.com, or a vanity URL like yourdomain.com/customer name. This is a great way to create a multi-channel experience.

• Use product badging to call out items for VIPs, or create new categories that could help move specially priced products.

• Create a banner above primary navigation or below secondary navigation that tells the returning customer about the super-secret clearance sale. Only certain customers would see the banner, giving only them access to this special area of your website.

Luxury shoppers are not unlike the average consumer who waits for the best offer and knows that a better deal will eventually come their way. However, these high-profile shoppers require more finesse and focused handling, after all they are your most valuable ones. They’re powerful buyers who you don’t want to upset by, frankly, treating them like everyone else.

Nathan Richter advises top enterprise clients including Best Buy, QVC, Sports Authority, and PETCO on website optimization. A veteran of digital marketing and online retailing, Richter has extensive hands-on experience helping enterprise clients implement successful multichannel marketing campaigns. Richter has directed online marketing and site optimization programs for David’s Bridal, QVC, The Franklin Mint, and dELiA's.

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