A Consumer Engagement Solution That Turns Retail Shoppers From Browsers to Buyers
Retail customer engagement has undergone profound changes over the past few years. In-store shoppers are in control. They expect a lot. And when it comes to engagement, they want it all. Instantly.
Demands for better engagement with customers have put retailers and brands to the test. They know the old ways don’t work anymore; or, at best, they realize they must re-examine, if not completely overhaul, their existing customer engagement methods.
One thing retailers and brands can agree on is that any solution that relies solely on sophisticated technology—AI, for instance—is not sufficient. When shoppers visit physical stores, they generally crave human connections. Yet, neither can the solution fall solely on the shoulders of retail associates—especially in light of ongoing labor shortages that have left many retailers short-staffed.
Any workable solution must incorporate an overarching appreciation of every customer as an individual, and a recognition that every customer wants to be treated as unique and feel valued.
This would seem to further complicate matters of consumer engagement. And it does.
Better Customer Engagement Starts with Personalized Connections
To unravel the seemingly complex nuances of a successful customer experience, it’s important to uncover the fundamentals of creating and enhancing customer connections. These fundamentals are easily comparable with the basics of good journalism. Journalists are taught to ensure that every story is clear and comprehensive by addressing who, what, where, when, and why. Doing so improves engagement with customers—i.e., readers. Your retail store or brand should think like journalists to ensure a positive consumer engagement experience.
- Who do customers want to engage with?
- What do customers want to talk about?
- Where—on which channels—do customers prefer connections to take place?
- When is the ideal time to connect with customers?
- Why engage with customers at all?
Who Do Customers Want to Engage With?
Fed up with total reliance on computerized chatbots—with all their limitations—as a means of managing their personal concerns, and tired of relying on absent or ill-informed store associates, customers want to engage with knowledgeable experts.
A real-time solution such as AskMe® provides that much-desired human connection. AskMe virtual brand experts directly connect with shoppers remotely via instant message, text, phone, or video chat. Highly trained to be as helpful as possible and attuned to customers’ most pressing needs, these brand reps assist shoppers when in-store associates are not available or are unable to answer customers’ detailed product questions. AskMe can also connect with associates to provide additional support and expertise and reinforce their training and knowledge base.
What Do Customers Want to Talk About?
Now more than ever, retailers are challenged to be nimble and responsive. A customer’s presenting problem one day is quickly replaced with another totally different concern tomorrow.
Take a shopper’s perspective for a moment. You can probably think of a shopping trip where you were in search of something in the home appliance, electronics, or digital device category. Roaming the aisles, you are presented with several brands and models at different price points, with myriad features, and in various sizes. All the choices cause your eyes to glaze over, and your mind races with an array of questions you hadn’t even thought of until you hit the shelves.
Now, you’re stuck. Yet, a typical store associate isn’t sufficiently trained on all the nuances of every product to adequately answer your questions, so you can’t narrow down your choices enough to make an informed or confident buying decision. Furthermore, lacking data about your prior browsing or buying history, the store associate can’t deliver the high level of personalized customer service experience that you desire.
On the other hand, an AskMe brand expert will know all about a brand’s product line, the differences among various models, and how each compares to other brands. Supported by data analytics, a trained brand expert will have a greater understanding of the individual needs of a customer and can offer more straightforward assistance.
Where—on Which Channels—do Customers Prefer Connections to Take Place?
Shoppers come to physical stores to touch, feel, and try out—or on—what they might want to buy. At the same time, they are likely on their phones. They may be active on a brand or retail app or browsing and comparing items and prices online. Maybe they are on social media or reading reviews about a product or your brand on your website. Wherever they are, they appreciate receiving relevant messages and helpful advice that relates to their interests. Not only that, but having become used to accessing information instantaneously online, customers’ “need to know” has a greater degree of urgency for retailers. Connecting with shoppers where they are, whether by instant message, text, phone, or video chat will satisfy their urges. AskMe makes that successful connection happen instantly.
When is the Ideal Time to Connect with Customers?
Consumers are clearly getting more impatient. A recent study shows that waiting particularly irks them. As the clock ticks, the time spent waiting for resolution of a question or concern is considered wasted time, giving the customer a stronger reason NOT to hang around to make a purchase. In fact, some shoppers are beginning to regard shopping as a hassle, and shoppers’ mounting frustrations are raising the ire and lowering the morale of store associates, who are often powerless to make the customer experience more pleasant.
Reducing customers’ wait time during the purchase decision-making process is an advantage of AskMe. It transforms the retail customer experience by establishing instant, meaningful connections when customers most desire it.
Before the Sale
Customers may need comparative pricing information, an understanding of various features among differing brands, and pros and cons of different models. They may want to know what your brand stands for, your sustainability commitment, and your foundational ethos.
During the Sale
An array of questions may arise as the customer desires more confidence in their purchase. Is this model the best choice for me? What advice do you have for any necessary peripherals or accessories to maximize my satisfaction with the product? When can I get it? Is delivery free? Do you have any discount offers I can use? What kind of warranty or guarantee is available? What is the store’s return policy?
After the Sale
When customers buy high-end or big-ticket items or devices, they appreciate the availability of a virtual brand representative who can assist them with installation, offer troubleshooting tips, and even give access to demo videos.
Why Engage with Customers at All?
Every opportunity to interact with a customer is an opportunity to solidify a relationship and to invite a customer’s loyalty. Even if you have the largest selection of any brand on the planet… even if you have the most competitive prices… even if you provide plenty of friction-free customer conveniences… shoppers expect more. They want to engage with your brand.
Sophisticated technological advances such as mobile payment systems and self-checkout can help expedite purchases, but they often merely reduce the number of, rather than increase the value of, interactions with customers. The convenience factor often masks shoppers’ overriding desire for human connection. Consumers often need help and assistance that only a human can provide.
Top Advantages of AskMe
The many advantages of AskMe are evident in how it successfully resolves all five of the journalist questions.
AskMe offers the ideal balance of humanized operation with technical sophistication and can be tailored to meet the unique needs of customers.
Here’s what retailers and brands can attain with the help of AskMe virtual brand representatives:
- Expanded coverage for understaffed stores or markets
- Increased brand sell-through
- Higher average selling price (ASP)
- Reduced returns
- Improved customer loyalty
- Enhanced customer buying experience with direct-to-consumer products and services
- Greater retail sales associates’ product knowledge and promotion awareness training
The AskMe Difference
AskMe allows retailers and brands to extend brand advocacy by providing virtual access to live brand representatives across multiple geographic locations, and even nationwide. Shoppers can count on AskMe to connect with a brand expert wherever and whenever it suits them.
Proactively assisting customers with useful information at the right time in their shopping journey is essential to sustaining a satisfying customer experience. Retail brands may not have the proper resources at hand to achieve this, which is why they often seek support from companies like MarketSource.
By totally immersing ourselves in your business, we identify gaps in customer engagement and assess where and how AskMe will fit into your operations to deliver the strongest measurable outcomes. Our expert brand and retail team provides proven tools, techniques, and customizable solutions to meet your strategic objectives.
Ready to talk?