Why Virtual Concierge Services are Revolutionizing Online Retail
April 27, 2023

Why Virtual Concierge Services are Revolutionizing Online Retail

Virtual concierge services are an emerging market of tools that help online retailers provide excellent customer service to prospective buyers of their products. Sometimes called, "clienteling," or "conversational commerce," a virtual concierge acts as a guide to help customers find what they are looking for in an online store.

Contrary to popular belief, a virtual concierge and a digital concierge are very different solutions.

A digital concierge is an Ai (artificial intelligence) or ML (machine learning) platform that uses natural language processing to respond to customer inquiries and provide no-touch shopping experiences that mimic the experience of being in a physical store. By providing recommendations and answers to questions about product availability, pricing, inventory levels, and other relevant details, digital concierges simplify the online shopping process.

But they're not infallible. Digital concierge systems often require near-exact keyword matches to human questions, meaning that if someone isn't familiar with the industry, terms, or other specific identifiers, digital concierge tools may have a hard time delivering what the user wants.

Conversely, virtual concierge services are more like human personal assistants who can provide real-time advice and guidance to customers during their shopping experience. These services typically use actual experts who serve as guides, personal shoppers, and consultants to help customers make the right buying decisions. Virtual concierge services can be used to provide timely product recommendations, offer special deals, and even proactively contact customers with personalized offers and advice.

Unlike digital concierges, virtual concierge services are designed to deliver a far more personalized customer experience by using live staff who are trained to treat customers as individuals, answer their questions in detail, and provide sound advice. This virtual concierge can be a direct employee of the brand or a trained remote product expert.

How do virtual concierge services benefit the eCommerce industry?

Virtual Concierge services can help online retailers in a variety of ways. Think back to the shopping experiences we've seen in movies like Pretty Woman. Julia Roberts's character goes shopping on Rodeo Drive, in Los Angeles, California,  under-dressed for the occasion and the sales staff of one particular boutique treats her like she doesn't belong there. Later in the day, she returns to another boutique and is treated like a princess.

Now you may think this analogy is silly, but the truth is that customers want to feel like they matter - no matter how large or small their purchase.

As the internet gets more crowded with competitive content and products, standing out from the crowd is becoming increasingly important for retailers. By providing a personalized virtual concierge service to their customers, online businesses can quickly build relationships with shoppers that will encourage them to return and spend more money in the future.

Another factor in the growth of virtual concierge services in eCommerce is age. As much of the population matures and gets busier with life it's becoming more and more difficult for them to find the time for shopping. As a result, customers are turning to instant ordering features and online stores that offer auto delivery in greater numbers than ever before.

But these instant order options can't help first-time buyers of high consideration or highly customized products. Think about the person ordering a specific handbag who's looking for dimensions because they're a frequent traveler and need to know that the bag they're considering will fit into the overhead compartment on a plane.

Or the buyer of skin and hair care products who needs to know how many uses they can expect out of a bottle? What about the buyer of a rooftop tent for their vehicle, custom golf clubs, or shoes?

Virtual concierge services are especially well suited to address these types of issues, as an expertly trained staff member can offer personalized consultations in real-time - giving them the full personal shopper experience.

By providing the right combination of quality experience and personal touch, virtual concierge services integrated with eCommerce stores can create an engaging shopping experience without the customer ever having to leave the comfort of their own home.

What are the Advantages of a Virtual Concierge?

Here are just a few of the advantages of having a virtual concierge service integrated into your eCommerce store:

  • Improving CSAT (customer satisfaction scores) and loyalty by providing personalized advice and support during the purchasing process.
  • Enhancing cross-sell and upsell opportunities by recommending related products after customers have made their initial purchase, increasing AOV (average order value) and LTV (lifetime customer value).
  • Increasing revenue by creating an overall better shopping experience.
  • Generating customer referrals by creating a positive impression with customers.
  • Reducing shopping cart abandonment rates by providing live support to customers who have questions or need help during checkout.
  • Creating a competitive advantage over other eCommerce stores by delivering a more personal service to customers.
  • Providing customers with valuable information about products and services, enabling them to make more informed decisions.
  • Increasing customer retention by providing timely follow-up emails and other offers during the shopping process increasing the repeat purchase rate (RPR).

All of these advantages are great, but perhaps the biggest benefit of all is that virtual concierge services can add a human touch. As a result, customers feel more connected to the store and the products they’re buying.

Virtual Concierge for eCommerce Retailers

We've listed a few of the benefits of a virtual concierge system for eCommerce retailers, but it's important to note that this service isn't a one-size fits all solution. The type of virtual concierge system you choose should be tailored to the specific needs and budget of your business.

For example, if you're a small online retailer and working on tight margins, it may work better for you to start with a digital concierge-like chatbot starting out. Consider integrating a simple chatbot-based digital concierge system that can provide basic support and advice to customers with the long-term goal of integrating a virtual concierge.

On the other hand, if you're a larger eCommerce store, you may want to invest in a more comprehensive solution with live product experts and customer service teams available to help shoppers with their purchases, even up to adding new recommended products to a customer's cart.

No matter what type of virtual concierge system you choose, remember that it should be tailored to your customer's specific needs. This actually brings up a great question, "why should you assist your shoppers and their buying experience?"

The answer is quite simple. In today’s competitive online retail market, customers are looking for more than just a product. They want to feel like they're being given an exclusive experience like they're special and unique, and that your products were made with them in mind.

By implementing a virtual concierge service, you can differentiate your store from the competition while also providing customers with an experience that has value beyond their purchase. In turn, this will create customer loyalty and ultimately help guests more efficiently by anticipating their needs.

When you can anticipate their needs, you can:

  1. Help customers discover the ideal product to meet their needs and preferences.
  2. Provide a human touch to an otherwise automated shopping experience.
  3. Answer questions about products, services, and more quickly and accurately while seeing their purchase history to increase the accuracy of recommendations.
  4. Ensure that your customers have the best possible shopping experience, which lowers return rates and logistics costs.
  5. Build relationships with customers so they become loyal repeat buyers.

This is the primary function of a virtual concierge platform. Once you integrate a virtual concierge app like Humankind into your website, you can begin building dynamic relationships between prospects, customers, and your brand.

What Virtual Concierge Services Can Do

The capabilities of a virtual concierge service are nearly limitless when it comes to delivering customer value. Think of your virtual concierge service as your customer's "phone a friend" option from "Who Wants to be A Millionaire." Your customers click one button on your site to connect them to their product expert of choice who then gives them real-time guidance and recommendations to aid them in their shopping experience.

Furthermore, if the shopper or the product expert needs to disconnect, the virtual concierge app saves their progress, recommendations, and items in the shopping cart for review and purchase at a later time. This drives future sales and increases cart values with little to no effort required on the customer's end.

With everything going digital, people are craving connection. A recent study by PwC showed that 82% of online shoppers wanted more human interaction in their shopping experience.

The sky's the limit regarding what a virtual concierge service can do for your eCommerce business, so start exploring what options are available and think about how you can tailor them to meet your customers' needs. Your shoppers will thank you for adding a personal touch to their shopping experience.

Virtual concierges offer plenty of benefits to customers and eCommerce businesses - many of which we've covered in this article. 

In the case of Humankind’s platform, a product expert can manage more than 20 conversations at once, allowing for personalization at scale. This shared effort can empower your brand to create a more meaningful customer experience, provide excellent customer service, increase customer satisfaction, promote new products and services, and provide an experience that stands out from the crowd and keeps customers coming back for more. 

If you're considering a virtual concierge solution, schedule a demo of Humankind. We offer a variety of features to help you provide a unique and personalized customer experience to your customers. We've helped our customers, eCommerce sites like Taylormade, OLAPLEX, and REN increase CVRs (conversion rates) by more than 27% - chat with someone on our team to see how we can help you do the same!

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