August 14, 2012, 4:09 PM

The salesman’s little black book goes digital at Tourneau

The luxury watch retailer is arming store employees with web-enabled tablets. 

Lead Photo

Like many luxury merchants, watch retailer Tourneau puts a strong emphasis on clienteling, or maintaining highly personal relationships between sales associates and customers. Historically, associates have kept track of their clients with their own notes, as in the celebrated “little black book” of relationship details. These days however, Tourneau is finding a “little black tablet” works better—and by the end of September its more than 700 sales associates nationwide will all have them, the retailer says.

So far employees in five Tourneau stores in New York have been testing iPads connected to a clienteling application from Micros Systems Inc. via the web . The tablets are connected to the retailer’s web site, inventory management system and customer database. With them, store associates can look up individual customer’s preferences and purchasing history or mine aggregate customer data for leads—for example, to see who the top 50 area Cartier buyers are and reach out to them with a personal e-mail when the brand releases a new product, perhaps inviting them to an exclusive wine and cheese viewing event.

“What we have realized is, there are groups and segments of customers in the database that are specific to salespeople that are much more interested in visiting Tourneau when there are things of specific interest to them,” says Don McNichol, senior vice president of marketing and digital at Tourneau. “So use that type of analysis on a customer list.”

So far, the beta testing stores have seen eight times the normal conversion rate as well as a 24% lift in average order value, both based on sales from in-store appointments set up via the online appointment tool. “Consumers are responding to this very well, we’re bringing a lot of pre-selling and knowledge right when they come in the door,” McNichol says. “The intent was: How do we infuse the technology, education and discovery of watches into the consumers’ lives, in the way they want to engage with us?”

Other employees are using the access to data for tasks like looking up a few of their best customers and checking if they are receiving e-mail updates; if not, the employee might invite them to sign up.

Associates can also use the tablets to see which watches a customer has placed in a “watch tray,” akin to a wish list, on Tourneau.com and have the items ready when she comes in for a fitting appointment. They can also add further watches to the tray that they think she’d like. And once she’s trying watches on, if the item she wants is not available in the store, the associate can use his tablet to help her place an order online.

Additionally, the clienteling application includes a library of all Tourneau brands with their recent news, product updates and sales training information. That helps associates keep up to date on the 85 to 90 brands and 8,000 to 9,000 products the retailer carries.

Employees are learning how to make the most of the tablets through webinar lessons and in-person training from their most sophisticated early adopting colleagues. “It’s almost like giving the keys to a Ferrari to a person who can’t drive yet,” McNichol says of distributing the tools to staff. “So we’re doing the rollout in phases, very pragmatically: Here are the five or six things you should be doing with this immediately.”

McNichol also notes that, because Micros’ clienteling product is a web-based app, he’s not locked into the iPad forever. If the clienteling system was a piece of software, it would require re-development every time employees switch or upgrade tablets; since it’s web-based, it will always work the same on any tablet with a web browser.

In the first quarter of this year, he says, about one-third of all sales came from appointments scheduled online, one-third from orders placed online and one-third from call centers closing the deal. “So we believe we fall into the sweet spot of where the customers want to interact with this clienteling,” he says.

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