AskMe: The Customer Experience Innovation That’s a Booster Shot for Your Brand

Consumers have wholeheartedly embraced digital shopping, demanding retailers embrace virtual customer experience solutions. Comparison shopping and purchasing from mobile devices are accepted facets of the overall retail services experience, whether customers are in store or online.

This is why digital customer engagement is now the real deal in retailing. When in-store shopping, customers are perpetually online as they browse the aisles. And they no longer differentiate between their online and offline customer journey activities but consider them part of a single path to purchase.

This behooves brands to take advantage of the opportunity to capture the attention of digitally active in-store customers. What can brands do to engage with consumers at critical in-store touchpoints? How can they personalize these engagements? And is it possible to connect with customers in a way that differentiates your brand?

Enter AskMe®, your virtual brand experience team.

How AskMe Works

An AskMe virtual brand experience team is accessible to your customers whenever, however, they want to shop, whether in store or online. Standing by via a click on a shelf QR code next to a product or a link on your website, they’re ready to assist shoppers along every part of their customer journey.

For instance, an in-store retail associate may have a link that connects the customer directly with an AskMe brand expert. The customer may use their own mobile device to access the link, or the associate can facilitate access using an in-store device. This initiates an immediate, one-on-one interaction between the customer and the AskMe rep, via a text chat, voice call, or video chat. Then, a live conversation can begin! It’s simple and seamless.

The AskMe brand expert has deep brand and product knowledge, and, by helping customers understand product features and differences among competing products, assists them in selecting the product that fits their needs and guides them to a confident purchase decision. He or she may also be able to help complete the purchase and confirm delivery options. If the customer decides to purchase a product that is not currently on the shelf, the brand expert may be able to locate it in another store or online and then have it shipped or scheduled for pickup or delivery.

Another way the in-store shopper may instantly connect to a virtual brand expert is by scanning a QR code on a shelf or the product itself with their mobile device. Again, the interaction can proceed via text messaging, voice, or video.

Deliver an Enhanced Customer Experience

Having a meaningful face-to-face conversation with a live person in real time can strengthen a customer’s personal relationship with your brand, generate more and faster sales, and build long-lasting loyalty. Compared with other kinds of interactive technologies such as chatbots, AskMe experts play a multi-purpose role. They understand your brand’s values, stance on relevant social and sustainability issues, and the features that differentiate your products from your competitors.

The empathy that grows during a conversation with an AskMe expert can make customers more receptive to product suggestions that will best fill their needs. AskMe experts can up-sell and cross-sell, and then complete transactions instantaneously. And even if the interaction does not result in an immediate purchase, the customer comes away with a more trusting and personalized relationship with your brand.

AskMe Delivers Efficiency and Scale

Placing enough brand reps in stores to answer customer questions, conduct demos, or otherwise accommodate customers’ needs, would strain most staffing budgets. On the other hand, AskMe brand experts can provide a high level of service, remotely, to a multitude of customers across a geographic region or the entire nation. It doesn’t matter whether you have five stores or five thousand stores: AskMe experts are ready to serve.

The result? A higher level of efficiency in serving customers at scale. AskMe teams can deliver more frequent coverage, across more stores, and do it more consistently than in-person reps, who are making rounds to multiple stores every few days. Because they are available to assist customers at any store—whether a high-volume location or a less busy, smaller location—AskMe experts assure every customer receives the same, quality customer experience and brand story wherever and whenever they are.

AskMe teams are a great solution for brands and retailers that are looking to deliver excellent customer interactions with their brand, whether the customer is in the store, at home, or online any time—including non-store hours when customers are shopping online.

AskMe® brand experts understand your brand’s values, your brand’s stance on relevant social and sustainability issues, and the features that differentiate your products from those of your competitors.

AskMe Brand Experts Help Meet Customer Expectations

A team of AskMe brand experts acts as your ”brand ambassadors extraordinaire” because in representing your brand compellingly and consistently, they foster a better customer experience and generate revenues for retailers and your brand at the same time.

A Harris Poll sponsored by Redpoint Global shows that brands should be doing a lot more to meet customer expectations. According to their survey of consumers, only 26% consider that brands deliver excellent customer experiences. On the other hand:

  • 48% say that brand experiences rarely meet their expectations
  • 55% say they feel unseen by brands they interact with
  • 48% say they feel undervalued by those brands

This is not a good sign for retail brands.

But all is not lost. AskMe can create better connections with consumers—without breaking the budget. AskMe:

Creates an all-important live interaction. Surveys show that online shoppers yearn to see products in person and interact with someone who can give them confidence in their purchasing decision. The one-on-one connection AskMe creates can lead to greater customer satisfaction than merely reading lengthy text descriptions online. After the sale, the AskMe specialist can assist customers with installation, activation, and more to ensure product adoption and satisfaction.

Prevents you from losing sales to competitors. An AskMe expert is able to overcome buyer uncertainty by revealing nuanced product features and how they compare with competing products. Customers who are comparing different product versions, color, or sizes—both within the same line or with other brands—appreciate the added value of having an on-demand product expert share more detailed knowledge of the differences.

Builds consumer confidence.Accessing an AskMe specialist virtually offers customers the opportunity to see a product in action, to view it from all angles, or to explore different versions or colors of the same item. Customers come away with a definitive understanding of the product and the brand and the assurance they’ll make the right purchase.

Overcomes understaffed retail associate teams. Retail associates have more responsibilities than ever before. Compounded by the current labor shortage, retail associates are busy performing routine tasks such as restocking shelves, cleaning, and sanitizing spaces, and directing customers to product departments. They are also responsible for selling merchandise, but in many stores that is not their main focus, and they often have neither the time nor the depth of brand knowledge necessary to completely satisfy every customer. When a retail associate can guide a customer to a virtual source of comprehensive product information, the customer is well-served while the associate is freed to perform other duties.

Virtual Experts, Real Results

In an article on distance selling, author Sebastien Rankin refers to “omni-associates” who will be “…creating demand for a brand’s products, and using technology to surprise, delight (and convert)” customers as they shop.

Entrusting AskMe brand experts to be your “omni-associates” easily bridges the gap between online and offline selling channels, makes in-store shopping more convenient and pleasurable, and leads to improved sales.

AskM® can transform your customer experience so you can realize higher sales volume, increased customer loyalty, and greater market penetration.

Author: Karen Salamone

Author: Karen Salamone

Karen is Head of Marketing for MarketSource. She is a transformational B2B and B2B2C leader with a history of building marketing organizations, content teams, and demand generation centers of excellence from the ground up. She is recognized for delivering meaningful insights and fresh approaches and for earning best-in-class content, design, and multi-media awards.

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