While clienteling is an applicable skill in nearly all service-focused retail organizations, with my 15 years in retail management in the men’s apparel industry, I thought I would write a little bit about how to apply capabilities of clienteling to the menswear business in particular.
As I have discussed in previous articles, clienteling is a colloquial term that came about to describe the activities a sales staff might take with their clientele. It is a verb that describes the actions an associate takes to better service their customers, and to establish long-lasting relationships. In practice, these activities can be grouped into two buckets: collection of information that establishes a learning relationship, and the personalized actions one takes, based on the information.
While the menswear business is not entirely unique, the shopping habits of men and women are often quite different. In fact, according to an article by Jay H. Baker Retail Initiative and the Verde Group titled “Men Buy, Women Shop”, the differences are significant. Women enjoy the whole shopping experience, whereas men tend to see it as a necessity, something to accomplish quickly, and with little interaction. For men, shopping is often a means to an end, while for women, shopping itself is the primary goal.
These differing approaches to shopping should be considered when planning the approach to serving male shoppers in nearly any retail environment. The quicker you can assist the customer in locating a product, the more likely you are to make a sale. So how is this relevant to clienteling? Isn’t clienteling about regular interaction with the hopes of bringing the customer into the store more regularly, providing them recommendations of add-on items, and providing targeted personalized communications? Yes, that is precisely what clienteling is designed to do, and in fact what it is highly effective at doing, entirely because of the male shopping habits. If a retailer embraces these tendencies, they can in fact become even more effective in clienteling.
Here are a few simple suggestions:
Help Him Shop
While helping men to shop sounds like common sense, there’s more to it than you might think. It’s not only the act of helping the male shopper when he is in the store that is particularly effective, it’s assisting him before he arrives in the store. Schedule appointments if possible, or plan his visits in advance. Put outfits together based on what you know about the customer, and do your cross-selling in the form of coordinating items prior to the visit. This preparation helps ensure the speedy service men expect. Check for wish list items, notes and preferences ahead of time, to ensure that you are equipped with all relevant information.
Understand His Needs and Preferences
Understand what motivates the customer by asking questions and making note of their propensities. Use these primary motivators when selecting products to suggest, and don’t be afraid to remind the customer of the added benefits they may not have considered. With each interaction, engage customers so that you are equipped with even more knowledge the next time. Take note of sizes, preferences, lifestyle, and add items to wish lists.
Make it Quick
Most men don’t want to linger in a store. Facilitate the customer’s ability to get in and out as quickly as possible. Have a fitting room ready, and a fitter queued up in advance. Use Look Book tools to locate out of stock items where a product might be in the enterprise, if not in stock, and work with the customer so items can be shipped directly to the customer.
Since men tend to visit stores less frequently than women, they are typically less likely to come back if they have an issue. Set a follow-up a week out to be sure the customer is satisfied, and schedule an outreach three to six months out to remind you to reach out to the customer and get into a regular routine. For products with limited lifespans such as dress shirts, set a replenishment reminder, even if it’s two years out. Knowing when wardrobe items will need replacement enables you to get ahead of the customer, preventing them from shopping with the competition when a need arises.
Contact His Spouse
Women do a disproportionate amount of apparel shopping, so working with the customer’s wife or significant other can pay dividends in the form of more frequent visits, both from the customer and the spouse. While there is often still a need for the customer to enter the store (clothing that needs alterations for example), having the spouse as an ally can pay dividends in bringing the customer in more frequently. Women also tend to be more loyal to their sales associates than men, so this approach also helps to solidify relationships.
Understanding the shopping habits of the male shopper can help to increase sales through effective clienteling. Leveraging your knowledge of these habits can help to increase frequency, increase units per transaction, and most importantly, increase customer loyalty and satisfaction.