Customer experience – a virtual evolution
There’s no doubt that the last few months have seen a rapid evolution of the technology that has become central to our lives, helping the majority of us cope with the necessary changes to how we work, rest and play while we’re spending most of our time at home. And shopping is a key part of this.
According to McKinsey, we’ve covered a ‘decade in days’ when it comes to both retailer and customer behaviours, with permanent changes required to keep up with a new set of demands brought into sharp focus by the current (and ongoing) situation. Their advice to retailers is to ‘Reinvent [the] shopping experience; leapfrog digital capabilities towards a first-class, seamless omnichannel experience’ – and those with an eye on the future have already made services such as virtual consultations central to their strategies.
But the rapidity with which expectations on both sides of the retail contract have changed leads to a consideration that gets to the heart of the matter – we know what retailers are doing and how they’re expected to react, but how do customers feel about having to adapt to a shopping experience which is just as likely to take place in their living room as a physical store?
In general, most of us have been happy to get on board with tech-enabled experiences from zoom-based fitness classes to virtual gigs and social gatherings. Taking part in a one-to-many lesson, tutorial or masterclass is clearly a very popular way to engage consumers, with many thousands tuning in to their favourite influencers and advisors, and retailers are beginning to explore the potential of tapping in to this already enthusiastic audience. Those with specific products, particularly in the health and beauty sector, recognise the benefits of sharing their expertise, demonstrating to customers that it has an intrinsic value – an increasingly compelling proposition for retailers who want to inspire customers and increase sales with enrolment-based offers and discounts.
Audience of one
When it comes to replicating the more intimate experience of having a one-to-one conversation with an advisor or expert, customers have made it clear that they’re looking for something with more substance than a video call. Our own research shows that 75% of shoppers want to have access to people with specialist knowledge to take them through their journey from browsing to buying within a single, seamless virtual consultation. Top of their list is feeling like they still have a personal relationship with someone they trust to be with them every step of the way, whether they’re buying skincare or a special piece of furniture.
Restoring retail craft
As with all customer experience initiatives, while the technology exists to provide nuts-and-bolts virtual consultations (branded zoom calls and video chats) quickly and without a lot of strategising, retailers who want to do more than simply jump on this particular bandwagon need to put the customer at the heart of what they’re doing. Taking the time to establish and deliver what they need, from pre-selected products that match their profile to secure checkout at the end of the consultation, will enable them to demonstrate to their customers that, while traditional in-store experiences may be on hold for now, they are still committed to the ‘retail craft’ that inspires loyalty and increases sales.
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