As eCommerce brands give people the ability to buy products anywhere in the world, at any time of the day or night, the challenge of providing virtual shoppers with an immersive customer experience is becoming more difficult.
In the rapidly evolving retail landscape, one technological advancement stands out for its potential to reshape the industry: virtual shopping.
Virtual shopping is the intersection between eCommerce and physical retail - blending the convenience and accessibility of online shopping with the tangible, immersive experience of physical retail. This emerging concept is creating a truly omnichannel platform that caters to the modern customer's need for flexibility, personalization, and efficiency.
The essence of virtual shopping lies in its ability to recreate the physical retail environment within a technology platform.
These "recreations" could take the form of a 1:1 human connection with a personal shopper like a customer would experience in a retail store - known as "concierge commerce." They could be augmented reality (AR), or virtual reality (VR) experiences that allow customers to "try on" clothes, accessories, and even furniture in an immersive environment.
Soon, (if not already) we'll see LIDAR used to "fit check" items and even see them on our bodies in apps. Customer-facing technologies such as conversational commerce software, chatbots, AI-enabled product discovery, and facial recognition can further deepen the customer experience by offering personalized recommendations and customized service.
Through the lens of virtual shopping, customers can navigate the retail landscape from the comfort of their homes, yet still enjoy the immersive, interactive experience traditionally associated with in-store shopping.
Technology has allowed brands to blur the lines between virtual shopping and physical retail stores by utilizing technologies like Humankind to create immediate, intuitive, and seamless interactions with customers that elevate the shopping experience for even the most tech-savvy consumers.
Think about it, if you were operating a brick and mortar business, would you ever open the doors without sales representatives to help your shoppers? My bet is that you answered, no. So why would we launch our eCommerce stores without humans to help shoppers with their navigation? Great question, indeed.
Virtual clienteling is a groundbreaking approach that has emerged alongside virtual shopping, enabling retailers to offer personalized experiences to customers in the online sphere.
Virtual clienteling uses the principles of traditional "retail clienteling," but with technology as the medium of communication.
"Retail clienteling" has been used for a century in high-end shopping experiences to drive personalization and a relationship with the customer. A retail clienteling system creates a profile for each customer and stores information such as past purchases, preferences, and interests - then uses this data to suggest relevant products or services that may be of interest to them.
With virtual clienteling tools, retailers can offer customers the same personalized experience as traditional retail clienteling, but in an online environment. These tools provide a platform for personal shoppers and remote concierges to access customers' profiles and use the data to make expert recommendations and suggest appropriate products or services while providing a more personal interaction than a chatbot.
One of the most interactive virtual clienteling solutions is Humankind. Our conversational commerce software empowers personal shoppers to build 1:1 connections with customers that create a seamless virtual clienteling experience.
This technique is designed to mimic the one-on-one interactions that customers have come to enjoy in physical stores, effectively replicating the in-store experience within the digital environment and via SMS.
Virtual clienteling interactions between the eCommerce brand and the customer don't have to be limited to the transaction - Instead, they can evolve into a dialogue that focuses on understanding the customer's needs, preferences, and expectations.
This is a huge advantage of virtual clienteling over traditional e-commerce methods and it gives brands the ability to connect with customers on a deeper, more personal level, adding a human touch to the digital shopping experience.
To show you how this works, let's look at a marathon runner we'll call Olivia. Olivia has recently finished her second marathon and she "caught the bug," as they say.
Marathoners often experience an elevated level of what's called runners high and she's just gotten her first taste of it, and she wants more.
Olivia follows a popular marathon influencer on Youtube and saw that this marathoner was recently sponsored by Saucony and has switched to using their running shoes and gear - but Olivia has never tried on any of their gear before, so she has some questions.
When Olivia visits Saucony’s website, she sees a link that says "Text with an Expert" and immediately prompts a virtual personal shopper who walks alongside her through the entire shopping experience.
She asks questions about how the shoes fit, how they feel, sizing, clothing dimensions, and what layers she'll need for her next race. The virtual personal shopper serves as a product expert drawing from her knowledge of the Saucony brand and provides Olivia with personalized recommendations - just as a physical retail associate would.
And, this is how conversational commerce software like Humankind is powering the virtual shopping revolution.
As we saw in the last section, virtual shopping doesn't mean less "human touch," it means more.
One of the key benefits of integrating virtual shopping and clienteling into a brand's strategy is the potential to enhance sales performance and increase average order values (AOV). Think about it, Olivia saw shoes on an influencer and ended up buying everything she'd need for race day while chatting with her virtual shopper.
Brands that have embraced the power of virtual shopping and clienteling have reported remarkable results.
This level of personalization, facilitated by virtual consultations, enables retailers to upsell and cross-sell products, thereby enhancing the customer's shopping experience while simultaneously increasing CSAT scores, LTV, and AOV, as well as lowering CAC - which increases the bottom line and overall revenue potential.
Virtual clienteling and shopping have emerged as powerful tools for creating a comprehensive omnichannel shopping experience. If you plug the principles of virtual clienteling into your SMS strategy (the most powerful channel), you now have a match made in heaven.
Think about it for just a second, how often are you without your phone?
I can tell you, the last time that I was away from mine for any length of time it was either because I forgot it, or because I was trying to get away from it- but the answer for most people is, "never!"
In an omnichannel retail setup, the brand can extend communications across multiple touchpoints anywhere the customer may be. Whether it's a physical location, mobile store, or via SMS, the goal is to create a seamless transition between touchpoints, ensuring a consistent and engaging shopping experience irrespective of the platform or channel where the customer chooses to interact with your brand.
This level of connectivity builds a relationship between the customer and the brand unlike that of retail experiences of the past. Customers and brands now have 24/7 access to one another and the data to make things personal. This level of service adds depth and dimension to the e-commerce experience, bridging the gap between online and in-store shopping.
Several of our customers are successfully integrating virtual shopping and clienteling into their eretail strategies, demonstrating the transformative potential of these digital tools.
You can read the recent Case study that we launched with OLAPLEX, the leading Hair care brand. They used Humankind's conversational commerce platform to launch a group of licensed stylists as product experts to help customers with their purchasing decisions and increase AOVs and LTVs - CSAT went to 4.94 almost immediately.
Then there's Saucony Shoes, which has implemented conversational commerce tools by Humankind to help customers make purchase decisions and also included VR shopping experiences where you can see their shoes in your environment.
These brands are using the virtual shopper experience to drive real value to their customers and this approach has not only enhanced the shopping experience overall but also established a stronger connection and open lines of communication between personal shoppers and customers.
With the right tools and strategies, eCommerce brands can successfully incorporate virtual shopping and clienteling into their business model. While there are a variety of products and services that can facilitate the process, it's important to select one that can help you prioritize customer experience and enhance engagement.
There are already AR/ VR, SMS, and chatbot solutions available that can help you create a true omnichannel shopping experience and implement your clienteling strategy. Investing in the right technology to enable virtual clienteling and shopping will allow your brand to offer exceptional customer experiences across channels, thereby enhancing the relationship between customers and your brand.
Humankind's conversational commerce platform is one such solution, and we'd love to help you create 1:1 human connections with your customers.
In summary, virtual shopping is a game-changer for eCommerce. It takes old principles of clienteling and breathes new life into them - merging online and in-store shopping to offer a personalized experience.
With the continuous advancement of technology and the evolving needs of consumers, the retail landscape is bound to change and adapt. However, the essence of retail – the connection between the retailer and the customer – will always remain at its core.
As brands navigate and adapt to these new technologies, one thing is certain: the future of retail is here, and it will continue to evolve.
As you continue to explore creating a powerfully connected virtual clienteling experience for your customers, book your demo of Humankind to see how we can help you deliver more engaging and connected customer experiences than ever.