The number one thing on e-commerce marketers' minds today seems to be driving excellent customer experiences - and rightfully so! The competition for customer attention and therefore dollars is higher than ever.
As the market evolves, so too must e-commerce practices to ensure that customers are delighted time and time again.
This need to create a unique and special experience for customers has led to revolutionary developments in the e-commerce industry, one of which is virtual retail stores.
A virtual retail store is an interactive 3D shopping experience with optional features such as 360-degree product views, zoomable images and videos, personalized product recommendations, and more. Customers can "walk" through the store, check out products and get pricing information.
This type of retail experience is revolutionizing e-commerce, as it allows customers to feel like they are in an actual physical store, without having to leave the comfort of their own home.
Examples of virtual retail experiences are when brands like Saucony use augmented reality (AR) to allow shoppers to see products in their own environment. Think of this like being able to virtually try on a running jacket or shoes before your next marathon…
The innovative technologies that empower virtual eCommerce shopping allow customers to immerse themselves in a shopping experience that is closer to being in a physical store than sitting at their computer or browsing from a mobile device.
Understanding virtual retail stores actually requires a bit of a history lesson. From the beginning of recorded human history, human beings have always enjoyed guided shopping experiences. Whether it was the corner store clerk or the bespoke tailor on Savile Row, shoppers in the past have been guided by human associates.
This all changed in 1982 with the Boston Computer Exchange (BCE). As the first true eCommerce catalog, BCE offered customers the ability to shop "online" for the first time.
However, shopping on BCE was very close to what we think of today as Craigslist. Someone would list an item for sale, and the buyer could ask the seller questions to ensure that the product was what they wanted.
By 1995, Amazon had officially launched, and the way we think about eCommerce completely changed. With technology, we no longer needed human associates to help us make informed purchase decisions. Instead, we could just read reviews and make our own decisions.
But something was missing. When 2020 hit and the world went into lockdown because of C19, isolation began to set in. We saw in real-time the effects of replacing human beings with technology and its effects on mental health. eCommerce platforms saw this as an opportunity to create the best of both worlds - the convenience of online shopping and the human touch of personal guidance.
This evolution combined with the rapid growth and adoption of augmented reality (AR), virtual reality (VR), and conversational commerce software (CCS) has given rise to virtual retail stores. With the advent of these new technologies, brands can offer virtual shopping experiences that are even more connected, realistic, and engaging than ever before.
Recent global events, such as the COVID-19 pandemic, taught us that as good as technology is, we need humans to create truly great customer experiences... something we'll talk about later.
The primary benefit of virtual retail stores is that it offers customers immersive, interactive shopping experiences. Customers can now virtually walk through a store, try on products, ask questions about items they're interested in, and even get personalized product recommendations from "virtual sales associates" (personal shoppers and remote concierges).
This is very cool, but let's look at things from a different angle.
Imagine if you were in a wheelchair, and didn't physically have the ability to shop in the physical stores of brands that you admire. With virtual retail stores, you can now experience the same level of shopping as everyone else without those limitations- making virtual shopping a way of opening up your brand to customers who may never have been able to shop with you before.
Another benefit is that virtual retail stores provide a great way for brands to promote their products and services in an extremely engaging and interactive way. Online shopping allows customers to purchase things quickly but doesn't necessarily offer the opportunity for a customer to ask detailed questions, to understand what they're buying, and this leads to higher cart abandonment rates - especially on high-consideration products.
With virtual stores, customers can actually explore products in detail before making a purchase, virtually trying them on and seeing them in their environment, allowing for more informed decision-making.
In essence, virtual retail stores offer a unique, immersive shopping experience that combines the convenience of online shopping with the tactile, visual appeal of in-store shopping…
You could say it's "the best of both worlds."
According to WebsiteBuilder.org, there are approximately 26 million online stores. 26,000,000!
Simply put - when you sell things online, there is lots of competition.
To stand out, you need to connect with customers differently, not just when you try to sell them something. This is where customer engagement and satisfaction (CSAT) come in. Creating an experience that leaves them thinking, "WOW, how'd they do that," (OR) "They really listened to me..." as they leave your store, is how you keep them coming back.
These factors directly influence key metrics such as conversion rates (CVR), customer lifetime value (LTV), repeat purchase rates, and churn rates which affect the profitability and longevity of your brand.
Conversational Commerce is the intersection between technology and the customer experience to facilitate purchases - you can see how it works by going to Cascadia Tents and clicking the icon on the right side of the screen that says, "Help me Choose."
This is conversational commerce by Humankind.
Humankind's conversational commerce software is designed to help businesses make the most of their eCommerce store. This powerful solution allows for a 1:1 human connection between customers and personal shoppers.
By facilitating direct, real-time conversations between virtual retail stores and customers, Humankind's conversational commerce platform can create excellent customer experiences and dramatically increase customer satisfaction (CSAT).
One example of this is how we've helped OLAPLEX Haircare increase its CSAT score to 4.94 using our conversational commerce software. By connecting their product experts with customers who have questions about their products, Humankind is able to provide a personalized experience that customers can't get anywhere else.
The result? More satisfied customers and more conversions for OLAPLEX! This helps to reduce cart abandonment rates, increase loyalty, and drive higher conversion rates (CVR) overall... and did we mention increasing CSAT to 4.94 (out of 5)?
To read our complete Case-Study with OLAPLEX, click here.
The rise of virtual retail stores represents a significant shift in the eCommerce landscape. With the help of tools like Humankind's conversational commerce software, businesses can harness the power of this trend to enhance customer engagement, improve customer satisfaction, and drive growth.
By leveraging conversational commerce by Humankind to create a human connection between customers and virtual retail stores, businesses can increase customer loyalty, satisfaction, repeat purchases, and overall profitability.
To learn more about how Humankind's conversational commerce platform can help your brand reach its full potential, book your demo today. We'll be happy to answer any questions you may have!