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Virtual Appointments

Virtual Appointments: The Future of Retail?

Since 2020, our lives have drastically been digitised, for better and for worse. Whether we are suffering from Zoom fatigue to questionable impulse purchases – day to day activities are now taking place online and that includes retail virtual appointments.

In this article, we’ll talk about the impact of online appointments and whether they’ll redefine the future of retail shopping.  

What to expect

What are virtual appointments?

The benefits of virtual appointments

What do customers think of virtual appointments?

Key points to consider

What are virtual appointments in retail? 

Virtual appointments enable customers and retailers to book online consultations through email or an embedded calendar system. The purposes of online appointments cover a plethora of options including: 

  • Screen customers before they enter in-store.  
  • Control flow of online and offline traffic. 
  • Identify the needs of the customer. 
  • Follow up appointments to support the online shopping experience. 
  • Establish a personal relationship between retailer and customer. 
  • Collect contact information. 

Essentially it gives more power to retailers both online and offline, allowing them to control the flow of traffic for when non-essential stores reopen. Better yet, integrating appointments online enhances the online shopping experience and establishes a personal connection between the retailer and customer; something that is often absent. 

Interested to learn more about virtual appointments? Schedule a free product demo today

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The benefits of virtual appointments in retail 

Eventually, non-essential stores will reopen and after a year of lockdowns, restrictions and social distancing, the return to busy shopping centres will be gradual; with many hesitant shoppers. 

The challenges retailers need to overcome can be eased with technological integration that can keep shoppers safe and manage the rise in online shopping too. Here are some other benefits: 

Improve in-store experience 

In-store experiences encounter several problems such as stock availability, lack of available service and unable to identify suitable products. However, virtual appointments can overcome these obstacles by screening customers online. Meaning prior to entering the store, team members are empowered with knowledge of the customer needs and expectations. 

Manage flow of traffic  

By integrating online and offline appointments retailers can prepare in due course to make the necessary changes to in-store safety procedures. Meanwhile, if customers lack the patience to queue, then virtual appointments offer a logical alternative.

Safety first

According to a survey by Rakuten Ready, 69% of customers are placing safety at the top of their priority list and expecting retailers to follow social distancing rules. This means online appointments can alleviate some of the pressures that retailers will subsequently face once stores reopen. 

Match the digital revolution 

Integrating virtual appointments among your sales channels means customers can confidently rely on you to provide an excellent service both online and offline.

Customers are welcoming online appointments

While the bounce back to the high-street will happen, many will also be accustomed to doing things online. Taking virtual appointments from your own home or in fact anywhere else in the world can break down those geographical and mobility restrictions.

Recent studies found that younger generations are welcoming virtual technologies which means that retailers should do all they can to prepare for the future. 

On that note, let’s see what customers think think of taking appointments online. 

What do customers think of virtual appointments? 

Quidini did an awesome survey asking 2,000 consumers about virtual appointments. Back in October 2020, they asked respondents the question “if a retailer offered virtual services that enabled you to schedule a fixed time to speak with an advisor by phone or video would this make you…” with the following responses:

  • Feel safer and happier (24%) 
  • Think better of the retailer (20%) 
  • More likely to speak with the retailer in the first place (19%) 
  • More likely to choose the retailer over their competitors (17%) 
  • More likely to visit the retailer’s stores (16%) 
  • More likely to tell your friends about the retailer (20%) 
  • More likely to buy something online (16%) 
  • None of the above (28%) 

Interestingly but not surprising, 60% of respondents highlighted they would appreciate the option to schedule a virtual appointments. And GenZ consumers were most likely to make the most of this service (82%), followed by 82% of millennials, 60% of GenX and 44% of Baby Boomers. 

With the younger generations more welcoming to virtual technology, retailers can tap into these markets and ensure they remain at the forefront across segmented audiences. And while later generations are more reluctant to adapt to these changes, over time the convenience of receiving first-class service anywhere without restrictions will trimpuh.

Key points to consider when implementing appointments

For retail leads who are yet to dive into the realm of virtual appointments here are a few key pointers to consider (if you want an in-depth guide to virtual appointments then make sure to read our guide on deploying virtual appointments) 

Factors to keep in mind are: 

  • Who will take the appointments 
  • Converting customers to online shopping 
  • Motivating a remote team 

Who will take the appointments? 

Good question – retail associates or customer advisors are the first port of call. However, some retailers may invest in outsourcing video selling teams, great for those who wish to scale their business with influencers. Meanwhile, as demand grows it is very plausible that jobs will be created specifically to manage online appointments too.

Converting customers to online shopping 

That requires necessary widgets placed on the website, CTAs and targeted marketing. Promoting availability on social media is also a key channel to tap into. For example, beauty LED experts, Light Salon, promoted their virtual appointments on Instagram. 

Motivating a remote retail team 

Ongoing motivation in training retail teams is vital in business success and is vital to coach team members on product knowledge, selling skills and video selling skills. Luckily enough we have it all covered here. 

Will virtual appointments be the future of retail? 

Finally, with non-essential retail reopening, there will be a natural return to shopping in-store. Nevertheless, virtual appointments will encourage retailers to blend digital and physical space to manage the flow of traffic from all directions. 

Those who are reluctant will risk losing customers who are open to the digital transformation in online shopping and reduce opportunities in establishing meaningful customer relationships both online and offline. 

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