Remodel your Brick-and-Mortar Retail for the Post-COVID World

Nyha Shree shares tips for turning your in-store associates into online brand experts and a global crisis into a personalized customer engagement opportunity.

Photo by Georgia de Lotz on Unsplash

Your sales have taken a hit.

Not because demand has dipped. But because your customers have no way to reach you!

You may counter, ‘Oh! But we have our website all neat and tidy. And our listings on Amazon ready to sell as soon as the lockdown lifts.’ But all the apps and a mobile responsive website still don’t solve for uncertainty, inconvenience, and a huge communication gap.

Even if customers do hit your URL and add your mobile app straight to their home screens, they could end up leaving, confused by a multitude of product options and a zillion bits of information. (Statistics say, 40% of visitors leave the website overwhelmed by choices.) You and I, we have all done that. Gotten confused while shopping and hoping an expert would give us their piece of mind.

Fortunately, there’s a simple and powerful way to meet this need. (Quick Hint: Your star team of brand associates who are itching to get back to work, only they don’t know how.)

Connect the dots, and enter the world of ‘Conversational Commerce’! You can have your brand experts assist your customers through their consideration and purchase journeys right inside their favorite messaging apps (WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, iMessage and more!), social platforms (such as Instagram and Twitter), through display ads (Google AdLingo Ads) and common conversational interfaces (think Google Rich Communication Services (RCS), Web chat, SMS).

Here’re the top three reasons to consider these:

Reason #1: Customer experience is about WARMTH. You know it all too well. A genuine and knowledgeable salesperson who cares about your customers’ needs is way more impactful than all the merchandising display strategies and product photography. When personalized purchase advice comes from another human being, customers are more likely to act on it. More importantly, be it delivery issues, payment options, or missed discounts, your customers should have someone on standby from whom to seek help!

Reason #2: REMOTE sales associates are as effective. If given the right tools and software, your in-store employees can work remotely, from the comfort of their homes or your store, assisting your online customers, offering product advice, pre-sales consultation, and of course, growing your online revenue! Chat-based conversational commerce solutions help you facilitate that, only within the all-familiar environment of your brand website (via web chat), everyday SMS-ing, and messaging apps such as iMessage, WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, and the like. It takes very little time for your brand associates to adopt it and for your customers to get addicted to the personalized attention they receive.

Reason #3: ONLINE will fuel your post-COVID growth. While brick-and-mortar retail will continue to survive, the COVID crisis has indeed forced us to take certain technology leaps we had all been putting off for far too long. And clearly, retail has not been left untouched. To survive the storm, brands will have to create hybrid sales models — where offline merges with online, and technology brings human relations to the forefront. This will apply to all four pillars of online commerce for brands, namely: (1) Market Places, (2) Retailer Websites, (3) expanding Direct-to-Consumer beyond your website, i.e. through Google shopping, Alexa Voice, and messaging apps, and (4) Social Commerce (such as through Instagram checkout, Facebook Live). Can you offer your customers THE SAME experience everywhere? You will have to!

Humanization of eCommerce is a real need. Retail verticals such as beauty, personal care, and luxury involve high engagement purchases. They are looking for an experience, a persona. And they want to be sure they have zeroed in on the right thing — something they will see themselves in, every time they use it. Similarly, automotive and finance purchases require making sense of lots of technical information, because once bought, the product stays with your customer for years. One cannot merely drop items to the cart and checkout. Customers want to know all about the product specifications and available options before making a decision.

That requires consultative retailing.

Only, COVID asks us to bring it online.

Nyha Shree has spent her career helping brands and businesses of all sizes, keep track of the shift in consumer trends, create strategies for omnichannel sales, and capture market share that is silently taking place on messaging apps. She is the Co-founder and CMO of jumper.ai, a conversational commerce platform that combines together human conversations, guided chats and Natural Language Processing, to enable a business drive engagement, offer sales consultation, enable commerce with payments, send updates, and gather consumer insights, on popular consumer channels — brand website, messaging apps (iMessage, WhatsApp, Messenger, LINE), social media platforms (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter), and 3rd party websites (Influencer blogs, Google AdLingo Ads). She has been featured by Forbes 30Under30, UN Women GICC She Innovates, and Facebook For Developers as a leading tech innovator.

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