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4 steps to create the in-store shopping experience online

Posted by Chad O'Connor  March 3, 2014 06:00 AM

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When you think about a great customer service experience you've had, you may recall a story of a friendly salesperson that helped you understand the differences in competing products that seemed the same, of getting great tips on how to maintain the product you are purchasing, or of finding the right accessory to go with the jacket you selected. This type of high-value sales experience is the hallmark of great retail, but, until recently, an asset that retailers have not been able to bring to the online channel. Now, some of todayís leading brands are working on creating these kinds of experiences on their web sites with next-generation customer engagement tools.

There are many great attributes of online shopping in the way of convenience, but the trade-off of a frictionless experience is that it can be too easy for the customer to slip away. In fact, while billions are being spent driving traffic into the top of the online shopping funnel, the current state of customer experience is that up to 98% of customers are abandoning the site before making a purchase. The gap many brands face between in-store and online conversion rates, which in many cases is 10x, can be mitigated by bringing proven in-store retail best practices to the web.

So what exactly does that look like? Many of you probably saw the headlines this fall from industry giants like Amazon introducing the Amazon Mayday button for the Kindle Fire, giving customers immediate access to customer assistance via a live video feed. Then Google launched Helpouts by Google to put consumers in touch with "experts" who provide services over video chat. While these companies drew attention to new ways to surprise and delight customers online, companies like Audi, Vodafone, Land Rover, L'Oreal and Schuh have been blazing trails for some time now.

Here's a look at how these brands are deploying next-generation online customer engagement tools:

Isabella Oliver - This online fashion retailer sells maternity clothes and services customers like Angelina Jolie, Jennifer Garner and Jessica Alba. Isabella Oliver introduced an eStylist to allow online shoppers to book a video appointment with a personal stylist to select styles for a special event or every day wear, helping create the personal stylist or boutique-shopping experience online.

Land Rover - The automaker is offering live help solutions on its website to help customers view cars with a live agent, walk through and research cars of interest and customize their own Land Rover online.

L'Oreal - L'Oreal's campaign to control and prevent photoaging includes its skin care line SkinCeuticals. The company offered customers professional dermatology diagnosis online through a video engagement with a licensed dermatologist.

While vastly different businesses, brands implementing these kinds of next-generation services are realizing real results, including a 25-35% increase in average order size, four to ten times increase in conversion rates and increased customer satisfaction rates.

Convinced itís time to create your own Mayday button? Here are four considerations for getting started with video assistance:

1. Get your Site and your Customers Ready

  • Use images, recorded demonstrations and written instructions to show customers how to use video assistance.

  • Send customers proactive invitations (nudges) to connect to live help. Retailers using video successfully have seen up to 90 percent of their interactions come from outreach.

  • Determine the best pages on your site to include a live help offer. Where do shoppers need help? Picking items or sizes, navigating your site, understanding return policies, checking out?

  • Include a link to video chat in your email communications and social networks to boost awareness.

2. Create a Compelling Customer Experience

  • Greet customers when they enter your site and invite them to video chat if they have questions.

  • Co-browse with the customer to recommend products based on their taste, questions or past purchases. Create cross-selling opportunities like "Oh, we have great shoes to go with that dress."

  • Guide the customer through the check-out process using screen-sharing. Make purchasing and shipping easy for the shopper.

  • Move the camera, or use a second camera, to show the customer your products. Highlight details like size, material and quality to set expectations and reduce the likelihood of a return.

  • Track, evaluate and enhance your video assistance program using analytics and surveys.

3. Build the Best Call Center Environment for Video Assistants

  • Keep a small monitor at the operator's eye level, right below the camera, so they are always looking the consumer in the eye.

  • Use an on-air light on your hardware so co-workers won't interrupt live assistants while they're helping customers.

  • Consider using a backboard behind the agent for a clean, non-distracting look. Have it designed to match your company's brand.

  • Give operators noise-cancelling headsets.

  • Use backlight and front light for better quality video production.

4. Train your Staff to Excel

  • Teach agents to maintain eye contact with the camera lens.

  • Make sure representatives know the merchandise so they can make recommendations and show-off your products.

  • Help your video assistants represent your company brand in how they dress, manner, tone and style.

  • Consider having store employees train your operators on customer interaction skills to create a consistent experience across stores and online.

While re-creating the in-store experience online may feel too good to be true, the reality is closer than you can imagine.

James Keller is CEO of Vee24.

This blog is not written or edited by or the Boston Globe.
The author is solely responsible for the content.

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