The shift from in-store shopping to e-commerce has been happening for some time, but a new survey from Coresight Research finds that the trend is being exacerbated by the coronavirus outbreak. As more shoppers choose to purchase digitally to minimize health risks, technology platform Hero has launched a new video-call feature to further close the gap between consumers and store associates.
Being able to see a product in person has given in-store shopping an edge over e-commerce, particularly for the fashion and footwear markets. But Coresight Research reports that 40% of Americans plan to avoid shopping centers and malls, while 30% will avoid stores completely, as a result of coronavirus-related fears. Therefore, a strong omnichannel experience is more important than ever for retailers to succeed in this current climate.
Hero’s platform allows consumers to ask questions to store associates in real time, utilizing a chat function to receive personalized service and improved guidance when shopping. The new video-call feature takes this one step further, offering shoppers the ability to be shown products in real time. Associates can then field questions and demonstrate alternatives to the customer, just as they would if they were shopping in the physical store.
“The ubiquity of platforms like FaceTime, Zoom and Skype mean that the vast majority of consumers are now comfortable with video calling,” said Adam Levene, founder of Hero. “While, as a general rule, younger people are more comfortable with this kind of technology, text, chat and video calling have become popular ways for individuals of all ages to connect with businesses.”
This is particularly relevant amid the coronavirus pandemic. Officials are recommending, for example, that the public take precautions to avoid exposure to the coronavirus, which includes avoiding public spaces whenever possible. Brands and retailers that can maintain their standard of consumer experience across e-commerce by leveraging new technologies like Hero will be less likely to lose revenues to digital competitors.
“Retailers need to start doubling down on their omnichannel strategies and preparing for an influx of online traffic,” said Levene. “Our video-calling feature is a perfect way to help customers who are looking to buy but aren’t able to visit the physical store.”
Through the Hero app, which customers can access through desktop or tablet on participating retailers’ websites, associates are able to mark themselves as “available” during quiet store hours. Incoming consumer questions are then routed to an appropriate staff member in order to ensure a timely response without impacting the quality of service in-store.
For retail associates who are required to be present at brick-and-mortar locations, this allows for a more effective use of their time, during the coronavirus period and beyond. The service is also suited to handicapped shoppers and those who don’t live near a store and are therefore unable to view products in person.
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