How can you give consumers a brand experience online in non-essential retail?

17 July 2020
Author: Mark Fraser

Even though non-essential retail is returning to normal, it’s clear that the huge changes to online shopping brought about by covid-19 are here to stay. This global pandemic certainly hasn’t stopped people shopping; soon after lockdown came into place, online shopping surged by 129% in the UK and Europe, with much of that demand being for non-essential goods.

As shoppers began to shift online, what they were looking for started to change. Things such as immediate order fulfilment, distanced delivery either at 2 meters, at roadside or via pick-up, and a desire by the consumer for more retailers to take into account more ethical concerns (such as ethically sourced goods and staff conditions), all played a part in the consumers’ shifting concerns as they switched online.

And recent research suggests that two in five shoppers (42%) will shop online even more frequently now that restrictions are being lifted. The in-store experience has changed as a result of covid-19, but so too has the ecommerce game, and this means that digital channels will continue to be key drivers for a lot of brands in the wake of the pandemic.

People need to engage with some non-essential products to make purchase decisions

Now that all four nations of the UK have opened non-essential retail shops, it’s clear that consumers are craving non-essential goods. Hours long queues in retailers such as Primark, IKEA and Currys PC World were not just brought about because less people are being allowed in store due to social distancing, they clearly indicate that people are craving a retail experience that’s different from the supermarket. Whether that’s because some items were simply inaccessible in online stores, or because people wanted to engage with the products in these stores before making a purchase, remains to be seen, however both of these things (and more) will form part of the answer.

Yet, as we’ve just shown, nearly half of shoppers are unfussed about returning to a physical store. Which leaves retailers and brands with quite the quandary – in non-essential retail, engaging with products can often move a purchase decision from a “maybe” to a “yes” because demonstrating how an item works, or being able to touch it, take it to a fitting room, and briefly use it, often seals the deal for those that are swithering over buying. However, how do you do this if nearly half of shoppers are no longer coming to the store?

The answer is that you bring the in-store experience to them.

Virtual meets physical… at the consumer’s discretion

Digital connectivity can enable this, creating a tailored shopping experience – the exact same kind of experience you get if you are in a store with a sales colleague. One on one video chat can allow customers to see products in real time from the comfort of their own home. They can get immediate advice on how these products work and if they are the right fit for them. It also allows for the store colleague to see the details of the product the consumer is looking at too, so when the call begins, they are already aware of what the user wants to see. From there, if the consumer is satisfied, they can add it to their basket and purchase straight away.

Recently we partnered with Go Instore to bring the physical retail experience into the consumer’s home. In spaces where purchases are considered, such as fashion, tech, home, health and beauty, consumers not only want to get hands on, but they also want advice on and engagement with the product.

In 2018 we launched a pilot with HP and Go Instore as proof of concept to see if we could augment the online shopping experience by allowing people that were shopping for HP products on the Currys PC World website the ability to have a live video chat with a store colleagues. With Go Instore, the video call acted as part product demo, part consultation, and part engagement. Consumers could ask to see certain features, query for recommendations on other products and gain advice on if the product does indeed suit their needs.

If the stats prove to be right and many people have plans to stop shopping in physical locations, Go Instore meets both needs, and does so at the discretion of the user.

The results of our trial were similarly impressive – the conversion rate for Go Instore was 8 times higher than the Currys PC World normal online conversation rate, proving that engaging with a person and a product, even virtually, has a measurable impact on the consumer, consumer experience and the purchase decision.

Right now, the consumer is looking to reacquaint themselves with the kind of non-essential items they couldn’t get before. For those that are deciding to continue to the trend of shopping online, Go Instore offers a wonderful way to have both. We’d love to help bring that to life for you, so get in touch to find out how we can help. Don’t forget to check out our LinkedIn page for more information on the future of retail throughout the month of July.


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