As brick-and-mortar and e-commerce retailing blend into a unified experience for shoppers, video chat has become more popular as a means to enhance sales—whether the final purchase is made online or in store. In its article 3 Technology Trends Set to Revolutionize Retail, CIO Magazine points out, “To offer customers a shopping experience that is accessible, seamless, and engaging, retail IT leaders must devise revenue-focused strategies that harness cutting-edge technology to address present and future needs of the business.”
Enter virtual brand engagement. It’s a strategy that leverages digital engagement technology to connect your customers to live, virtual brand experts who can guide them through their entire purchasing journey. It can make customers feel like they’re in your store or interacting with your brand—without actually being there. MarketSource’s virtual brand engagement solution is called AskMe®, and it’s brought our clients close to their customers in new ways they hadn’t thought possible.
Customers can video chat, text, or talk real time with AskMe brand experts via a QR code on or next to a product or a link on your website. While video technology has been readily adopted by many strictly e-commerce retailers, physical retailers may not recognize how much they stand to gain in terms of conversions and customer retention when they properly integrate technology into consumer-focused websites, blogs, mobile apps, and other digital channels. Although global retail e-commerce sales are forecasted to reach $5.8 trillion in 2023, the human touch is altogether missing from most virtual shopping experiences. Video chat adds a face-to-face interaction to virtual shopping that customers not only crave but that can actually mimic the in-store shopping experience.
Live video chat with AskMe brand experts can also be an excellent adjunct for shoppers during their in-store visits. AskMe reps can easily augment the regular on-site retail associate team, freeing them up to focus on other customer-facing duties. Since AskMe experts are stationed remotely, retailers enjoy the added advantage of greater sales associate staffing and scheduling flexibility.
AskMe Makes Efficient Use of Resources
At first, it may be hard to fathom how connecting with a customer via video can be more effective than a face-to-face interaction, but it’s all a matter of how you leverage video. The numbers tell the story.
Virtual teams—whether connecting by chat, text, email, or video—can reach more customers at a far lower cost per interaction than in-person teams. Based on our experience at MarketSource, a virtual team can complete four times as many customer interactions versus in-store reps and can do so at 4.22 times less the cost. Imagine instead of interacting with 1,000 customers, for the same cost, you could interact with 4,000 customers. Or, instead of 1 million interactions, you could have 4 million interactions!
As an example, let’s take a 15-person team and look at what they can accomplish virtually versus in-person.
In a real-world application, a long-time MarketSource partner wanted to increase its sales program efficiency and strengthen its customer connection through a major home improvement retailer to drive greater in-store sales across its product line. Data from this pilot program suggested that, rolled out chain-wide, an AskMe-supported program could result in over one hundred thousand direct consumer and retail associate interactions annually, delivering over two million hours of in-store, real-time customer-brand engagement. Further, MarketSource data shows that when customers interact with an AskMe brand expert, our clients experience a 19% higher conversion rate and a 6x return on investment.
A virtual brand expert team offers broader geographic coverage across all locations and turns non-operating store hours into online shopping hours.
Besides optimizing operational expenses, AskMe experts mitigate the staffing and scheduling hassles associated with balancing high-traffic and low-traffic stores and seasonal fluctuations. Every customer can reach a product or brand specialist, no matter the time of day, location, or shopping season.
An AskMe team can do more with the same or even less investment. It’s easily incorporated as a viable component of your hiring strategy, especially during a labor shortage, able to be up and running in a matter of weeks.
AskMe Enables Personalized Brand Relationships
Recent studies show that as many as 80% of consumers are likely to research products online well before visiting a retail store. Putting consumers in touch with an AskMe brand expert via live video chat from your website or mobile app can reinforce your brand’s distinctive qualities. The direct, one-on-one conversation allows customers the chance to understand your products and make an authentic connection with your brand. Furthermore, offering customers the option of an instantaneous, real-time, human interaction shows the degree of importance you place on serving and caring for your customers in the ways they want and need.
Proactive questioning on the part of your video chat representative can move consumers closer to making a purchase in a way that still images and blogs can’t.
From beauty brands, to appliances, to luxury items, to everyday electronics—any kind of products can easily get a brand boost from a chat with an AskMe expert.
AskMe Amplifies Product Details
Lengthy text descriptions about products featured on retail websites may overwhelm some customers, and photo images don’t always show sufficient details about a product to move customers to buy. In fact, some photos and prerecorded product videos just raise more questions!
Scripted and prerecorded phone messages and chatbot responses are frustrating and are rarely designed to adequately answer real-world questions a customer will inevitably have, let alone help them compare products or ask for recommendations for products that are best suited for their needs.
Alternatively, an instant connection to a live AskMe expert via video chat puts the customer face-to-face with a product specialist—and, potentially, actual products—helping the customer sort out product particulars, discover new features, and differentiate your brand from your competitors’ so they can make an informed, confident buying decision.
AskMe product specialists have the advantage of being able to read each customer’s facial expressions and body language, fostering responses that are more personalized to each customer. After establishing rapport with the customer, the AskMe rep can then make product suggestions to cross-sell and up-sell in a way that chatbots can’t and that will lead to more satisfying—and perhaps multiple—purchases.
AskMe Promotes Buyer Confidence In-Store
AskMe can easily augment your in-store selling strategy.
Interacting with a retail associate adds a human element to the buyer’s journey, which can lead to a more pleasing buying experience. However, as much as consumers look forward to seeing, touching, and trying out products when they visit a store, retailers may not be able to carry every available product model in a branded line; and even if a product is on the shelf or the sales floor, associates cannot be expected to know all the nuanced details about every item. In this case, associates can connect customers with an AskMe product expert, who can have a one-on-one discussion with the customer about the product and see a live product demonstration. The AskMe expert can help clarify the customer’s needs and desires, compare features of different models, and make suggestions to move them toward a decision that makes them confident in their purchase.
In another scenario, a hangtag on the product displays a QR code that the customer can scan with a mobile phone, instantly connecting the customer to an AskMe expert. Again, a one-on-one interaction takes place, in which the customer is fully informed about a brand’s or product’s distinctive aspects and can use their newfound understanding to become a more confident shopper. Ideally, the AskMe expert can facilitate the purchase before ending the chat.
These meaningful, personalized, human interactions are integral to expanding customer retention and brand loyalty.
By the end of the chat with an AskMe rep, the customer is fully engaged with your brand.
AskMe Streamlines Customer Support
AskMe adds a “real-life” component that is missing from other methods of customer engagement, such as chatbots. Customers appreciate the two-way communication, especially when they can connect instantly without waiting on the phone or for a call back from a representative.
When a customer can not only hear but see an AskMe representative as they discuss an issue, they are more confident that their question can be better understood, and their problem more readily resolved. This is especially the case when the issue relates to a product’s physical features, assembly, or mechanics. Sending a still photo image attached to an email or as a text message helps, but an in-person, real-time video conversation can put customers at ease, build their trust, clear away their misconceptions about a product, and make troubleshooting more efficient and effective. Not to mention complete the sale.
Explore innovative ways to expand your retail reach with AskMe® now.