As the percentage of purchases consumers make online continues to grow exponentially, retailers are facing a challenge — how to educate online shoppers and close the sale for certain products traditionally bought in person. These “considered purchases” require highly personal consultations, where customers are looking for advice and guidance before committing to a purchase. Examples include jewelry, cosmetics, apparel, luxury items, automobiles and furniture.
Retailers know that the way to close these sales is to provide the customer with a high-touch, personalized and informative experience that is responsive to their every question or concern. Many retailers have mastered this for in-person shoppers but now need to find better strategies for making these sales digitally.
The key to facilitating considered purchases for digital customers is giving guidance and education that builds comfort and confidence in the purchase. Retailers have tried to address this by providing lots of information on their sites, such as detailed product specs, photos and how-to videos, but that’s often not enough to bridge the gap between digital and in-person shopping.
A customer shopping for a dining room set or expensive pearl earrings needs a more immersive, highly consultative experience geared to their specific questions and concerns, and static video or product brochures aren’t enough to get them to yes. Retailers are upping their game to educate and guide consumers online by using live video engagement technology to make the shopping experience as informative, immersive and delightful as in-person shopping.
Educate Shoppers to Help Them Make the Right Choice
In a recent webinar on ecommerce, Coresight Research President Ken Fenyo noted that, when it comes to online customer engagement, “the best solutions are a blend of digital and human,” especially for products that require a more consultative approach. Online shoppers like AI-powered self-service that can provide quick answers to basic questions. However, when shopping for something like a leather couch or a diamond pendant, consumers tend to have an endless stream of questions, most of which are best answered by a human. These questions could include: Will the quality match my expectations? Will it fit in my space? Will the product integrate into my existing beauty routine? Can you show me how it works?
These shoppers are often looking for reassurance about the item they are considering. Engaging with a patient, knowledgeable expert can go a long way to convincing the customer to close the deal. Jewelry and furniture retailers likely have already established a brand promise of providing excellent customer service, with experts in-store to guide customers in their purchase decisions. Now they can carry that brand promise through their digital operations.
Real-time help in an ecommerce setting via live video chat can increase conversion rates by 5X, because shoppers will feel more excited and confident about their choices when an educated expert looks them in the eye and addresses their questions. An experienced consultant can guide the customer through the buying process by providing a high-definition close-up of the product, demonstrating how it’s used, co-browsing details with the shopper, and helping the shopper check out and complete their purchase with secure sharing.
Provide Face-To-Face Video Consultations to Personalize the Experience and Build Confidence
When shoppers go into a store, they are often seeking hands-on experience with the product they are considering and reassurance from a trusted expert. Retailers can bring that experience to life online through virtual boutiques and a seamless connection between the virtual and in-store experience. For example, Clarins UK, Europe’s leading luxury cosmetics brand, uses a virtual boutique to conduct one-on-one consultations with its customers. Clarins’ expert beauty consultants provide individualized insight into product selection, demonstrate application techniques or recommend additional skincare products that might suit the customer.
Similarly, DFS, Britain’s number-one sofa manufacturer, uses one-to-one video chat to enable in-store sales staff to connect individually with online customers. A sales agent can walk the showroom, showcasing furniture based on the customer’s description of what they are seeking. They can provide 360-degree views of furniture arrangements as well as close-ups to show off fabric texture and quality, all while looking the customer in the eye and providing details the customer requests like size specifications, cost, delivery time and fabric options.
As shopping habits change, some retailers have converted low-traffic stores to “dark stores,” used exclusively for sales agents supporting virtual shoppers. Retailers can channel in-person shopping traffic to busier stores, circulate staff amongst both sites to maximize space and staff resources, and retain knowledgeable salespeople to serve customers both in-person and virtually.
Provide Comprehensive, Personalized Service to Maximize AOV
Virtual boutiques and face-to-face video consultations can help build shopper trust and loyalty to a brand. These technologies can provide experiences that both delight customers and inform them about products. Whether shoppers are methodical, scheduling a consultation with a product expert and running through a carefully drafted list of questions, or they are spontaneous, wandering onto a retailer’s ecommerce site and starting an impromptu face-to-face chat with a product expert, live, knowledgeable assistance increases AOV. Retailers will see higher sales from both planned and impulse shoppers when they can connect with salespeople who can answer all their questions and provide expertise.
Joseph Noonan is the CEO of Vee24. He is passionate about building SaaS enterprise software businesses that deliver exceptional value for customers and stakeholders. At Vee24 he is leading the growth of this conversational multi-experience customer engagement business, allowing world-leading brands to deliver an exceptional digital experience across sales, customer service and marketing.