New Clienteling Tool Empowering Saks Associates

Since Saks Fifth Avenue rolled out is new tablet-enabled clienteling tool last November to all of its 42 full-line stores, the venerable luxury retailer has not been able to isolate its effect on sales. But Don Uselmann, Saks’ senior vice president and director of stores for 15 locations in the New York and Florida regions, said at the NRF Show this week that sales associates are “using it like crazy.”
He has also collected a number of anecdotes from the field. In one case, an associate generated $230,000 in sales from one customer in just five appointments “because of the tool,” he told RIS News following a presentation at the Raymark booth, adding that he’s hearing about clienteling-inspired sales achievements “all the time.”
The rollout of 3,500 iPads equipped with a clienteling application from Raymark, Montreal, was the culmination of an eight-year process of changing the culture at Saks from one that emphasized merchandising to one that stressed building customer relationships and selling.
Saks wants sales associates to regard themselves as a customer’s “trusted adviser” who can help her “dress appropriately for every occasion of her life.” Uselmann tells associates that “what they do on a daily basis is probably more important in every customer’s life than what their doctor or lawyer does.” That’s because “when the customer gets up in the morning and gets dressed, how she looks determines how she feels the rest of the day.”
The clienteling tool puts a rich database of information on shoppers — focusing on the top-100 customers — on the mobile tablet, including a “closet” of their purchases represented in color photos. The system provides follow-up alerts for associates to send thank-you notes to customers and make phone calls saying their favorite products are in stock, their alternation is done, or they received a targeted offer by e-mail. Uselmann sees the clienteling tool helping Saks associates, who earn a draw against commission, sell at least $1 million annually, which would net them a salary of $80,000. He estimated that more than 10% of associates are earning that much, though it’s a harder goal to achieve in departments with lower-ticket items like cosmetics.
Saks plans to add capabilities to the clienteling system, such as an iPhone version that associates can access any time, and an automatic replenishment app indicating that a customer may need to buy more consumable items like cosmetics. The chain is also developing metrics to determine the exact sales impact of the system.

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