What is Virtual Shopping? The Next Big Thing in eCommerce 

Virtual Shopping

In a post-covid world where consumers now purchase more online than ever before, it has become vital for online retailers to adapt to a new host of customer expectations brings and make the most of their digital presence. Virtual shopping transforms the eCommerce experience to meet the needs of consumers and maximise the success of digital retailers.

What is virtual shopping? 

Virtual shopping introduces a personalised and face to face customer service experience to eCommerce platforms through live video calls with sales representatives, real-time customer support, and detailed, interactable product displays. 

This simplifies the online shopping experience for consumers and improves the success of eCommerce for retailers. It enables customers to receive quick and reliable responses to queries about products, and sales representatives to provide personalised recommendations.

Why optimising eCommerce platforms is now so important for retail? 

Since covid turned the way customers interact with brands on its head, eCommerce is set to overtake traditional retail as the primary way in which consumers shop. 

With 72% of consumers now saying they have adopted new shopping habits since the start of the pandemic, and 50% stating that they now conduct the majority of their shopping online it is clear that the importance of eCommerce is here to stay. Optimising the virtual experience has become a priority for a growing number of retailers. 

Virtual Shopping

What are the advantages of virtual shopping for eCommerce? 

Bringing the social shopping experience to digital retail 

Whilst the rise of online shopping has opened up exciting new opportunities for companies and customers alike, it has also revealed the disadvantages faced by eCommerce versus the traditional retail experience.  

Almost half of the consumers say they miss the social experience of in-store shopping and only 10% feel that digital retailers provide a highly effective online shopping experience.  

Virtual shopping addresses this by introducing live customer interactions into digital platforms, through real-time messaging systems, interactable product displays and live video calls to customer service representatives.  

With 75% of consumers saying they want a more empathetic and personalised online shopping experience; this gives the retailer the chance to bring the benefits of in-person customer interactions over onto their eCommerce sites. 

Personalising the customer experience 

Sales representatives will be able to utilise these platforms to guide consumers through their digital retail experience, providing detailed information on products, answering queries as they arise and offering tailored suggestions and alternatives to customers.  

Now with 57% of consumers stating that the level of detail and personalisation provided by online retailers is important to their decision when making purchases, live video shopping is now an invaluable resource to companies seeking to optimise their eCommerce platforms.  

Virtual shopping enables sales representatives to provide product suggestions in line with the exact requirements of individual customers, meaning companies are able to move in line with consumer expectations where 64% now desire a higher level of personalisation from retailers. 

Retaining the skillset of the retail workforce 

It also offers the chance for brands to transfer customer service standards over to an eCommerce setting. With 56% of consumers saying that their digital impressions of brands are more important than in-store experiences, the use of virtual shopping platforms is now integral to brands aiming their maintain a strong reputation for customer relations in an increasingly online-focused market.  

It is also estimated there has been a loss of 200,000 jobs in retail since the start of the pandemic. Retaining the skillset of sales representatives is vital to maintaining the high levels of customer service that companies have worked so hard to develop.  

By utilising virtual shopping platforms, companies are able to transfer the skills of their retail staff over into a digital space and ensure consistency in the service they deliver. 

Upholding the values and imagery of brands 

Consumers are now more conscious than ever of the values of the brands they engage with. 87% state that the values espoused by companies they purchase from are of greater importance now than previously, with 58% saying that they would switch brands if they felt it did not align with their values. With 38% of consumers stating that a commitment to employee welfare is a key-value they look for in brands, the ability of companies to retain their workforce through the introduction of virtual shopping has a significant role in maintaining the image of brands. 

How will virtual shopping make eCommerce platforms more successful? 

Online shopping has transformed the way in which customers research and purchase items. 93% of consumers now research products online before deciding to make a purchase, and 65% will visit a retailer’s website multiple times before placing an order. 

Furthermore, eCommerce has failed to deliver anything close to the same conversion rates as traditional retail, currently averaging at only 3% when compared to 1/3 for in-store retail. 

 This presents a challenge to firms seeking to ensure that customers remain engaged with their brand when the focus of consumers is spread among a vastly wider and indifferentiable selection of offerings.  

Ensuring customers remain focused on your website 

Through the use of live video shopping, eCommerce platforms are able to initiate face to face interactions with customers and are able to promptly receive the information they require before making online purchases. This enables eCommerce to move towards the higher conversion rates seen in traditional retail, and build personal relationships with customers that deliver customer loyalty. 

Enhancing sales by meeting customer needs 

By enhancing the customer experience through virtual shopping, consumers are not only more likely to make a purchase but also value this enough that they would be they would be willing to pay more for products based on their eCommerce interactions. 80% of consumers say that they would be more likely to purchase an item if their experience is more highly personalised, and 77% state they would be willing to pay more for a product when offered a more personal service.  

Maintaining customers in a covid-cautious world 

With almost half of consumers saying there are now more worried about going into brick-and-mortar establishments since the pandemic, live video shopping offers vital opportunities for retailers that have previously depended on in-person retail for the bulk of their sales.  

Customers report being warier of using online shopping when making high-value purchases or purchases for items that require a higher level of personalisation, such as clothes, shoes, and glasses. 

For companies that offer these types of products, the decline of high street shopping has undoubtedly presented challenges in maintaining sales in an eCommerce setting.  

Virtual shopping platforms enable firms to address these concerns and bridge the gap that has formed in the current market.  

Live video shopping gives customers the opportunity to engage directly with sales representatives and receive the level of information and detail to ensure confidence in the product they are purchasing. 

 It also gives the sales representatives the ability to demonstrate the product more extensively, and tailor the offering directly to the requirements of the customer in real-time, assuring that the specific requirements of customers are easily met. 

Examples of virtual shopping 

Confer With offers a virtual shopping platform that enables the customer to be guided through their digital retail experience from the moment they enter your website. 

Consumers arriving on a website using the Confer With platform are given the option to go into a live video call with a sales representative who is then able to provide a one-to-one customer experience using a virtual shopping interface. Sales representatives are able to showcase different products and talk through the details of the product directly to the customer. 

It gives the sales rep the ability to instantly suggest and demonstrate alternative products, personalise the shopping experience directly to the needs of the customer and provide an immediate response to any queries customers may have throughout. 

The customer will be able to work with the sales representative to decide on their purchase and enable retailers to maintain a high and empathetic standard of service. 

With eCommerce now set to take over from traditional retail, virtual shopping has an integral role to play in building a new online shopping experience. These tools will ensure that firms are able to meet the changing expectations of customers and enable companies to fully capitalise on a changing market and maintain their success in a digital world. 

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