Consumers have now wholeheartedly embraced digital shopping. Accelerated by pandemic shutdowns, remote browsing, comparison shopping and purchasing are accepted facets of the overall retail services experience.
Virtual is now the real deal in retailing. Even when consumers fully embrace getting back to in-store shopping, they are perpetually online as they browse the aisles. The customer no longer differentiates between their online and offline activities but considers them part of a single path to purchase.
This behooves brands to take advantage of the opportunity to capture the attention of digitally active retail 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 the virtual brand expert.
How a Virtual Brand Experience Team Works
A virtual brand team is ready to assist customers by connecting with them in myriad ways.
For instance, an in-store retail associate may have a link that connects the customer directly with a virtual 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 brand expert, via a text chat or voice call, or video call. Then, a live conversation can begin! It’s simple and seamless.
The virtual 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 through a purchase decision. He or she may also be able to 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.
Virtual Brand Experts Deliver an Excellent 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, a virtual brand experience serves a multi-purpose role. 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.
The empathy that grows during the course of a conversation can make customers more receptive to product suggestions that will best fill their needs. Brand experts can up-sell and cross-sell, and then complete transactions instantaneously. However, 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.
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.
Virtual Brand Experts Deliver 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, a virtual brand expert is able to 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: Virtual brand experts are ready to serve.
The result? A higher level of efficiency in serving customers at scale. Virtual 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–virtual brand experts assure every customer receives the same, quality customer experience wherever and whenever they need it.
Virtual reps 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.
Virtual Brand Experts Help Meet Customer Expectations
A team of virtual brand experts acts as your ‘brand ambassadors extraordinaire’ because in representing your brand they also support a better customer experience and generate revenues for retailers and your brand at the same time.
A new 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. A team of virtual brand experts can contribute to creating better connections with consumers—without breaking the budget.
A virtual brand expert 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 that is created by a virtual interaction can lead to greater customer satisfaction than merely reading lengthy text descriptions online. After the sale, the virtual brand specialist can assist customers with installation, activation, and more to ensure product adoption and satisfaction.
A virtual brand expert can prevent losing sales to competitors. A virtual brand 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 a product expert share more detailed knowledge of the differences.
A virtual brand expert can build consumer confidence. Accessing a brand specialist virtually offers customers the opportunity to see a product in action, to view it from all angles, or to see different versions or colors of the same item. Customers come away with a definitive understanding of the product and the brand and the assurance of making the right purchase.
A virtual brand expert 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 virtual brand experts as your “omni-associates” easily bridges the gap between online and offline selling channels, makes in-store shopping more convenient and more pleasurable, and leads to improved sales.
The MarketSource virtual experience solutions—AskMe™—can quickly and seamlessly revive your brand so you can realize higher sales volume, increased customer loyalty, and greater market penetration. Want to know more? LET’S TALK! >>