By: Ranganath Jagannath
A recent PwC research highlighted that 59% of global customers surveyed felt companies had lost touch with the human element of customer experience while 75% of customers were interested in interacting with a human versus an automated machine.
A brand and a customer share a deep emotional bond. The current pandemic has forced marketeers to adopt newer ways of reaching out to customers. Brands are more and more shifting towards real time engagement to re-ignite their customer experience tactics in a virtual environment. Customers now more than ever need the right guidance and hand holding in their online shopping experience, enabling them with the right set experience.
More and more consumers will integrate live video shopping experience in their daily routines, as we become accustomed to the new normal. E-commerce companies and retailers should look at how they can use real time engagement platforms to interact and engage with customers.Real time engagement can be infused with retail gamification to open new channels of revenue.
Gamification of online shopping experience
Understanding the gaming concept in retail becomes easy with an example. In 2015, Kohl’s was one of the first retail chains in the United States to take a chance on live video. During the New York Fashion Week, the retailer live streamed a fashion show featuring apparel from one of its in-house brands Lauren Conrad on a mobile-optimized site. Shoppers could watch the fashion show live in real time and shop for the clothing they saw on the runway simultaneously.
With the festive season soon approaching in India in a few months’ time, shopperswould most likely rely on online shopping now, more than ever, owing to the fear of COVID across the country. This is a golden opportunity for retailers to invest in real time engagement platforms as an investment towards customer engagement. Marketing tactics such as reward points, loyalty programs, free merchandise offers, online quiz sessions, and spin the wheel contests are not new for brands to increase sales during the peak seasons. The trick now is to execute such campaigns in real time where customers can enjoy real time human connection through live video and chat while simultaneously embarking on their gamified shopping journey.
Investing in the right technology
LiSA, a software startup brings human interaction, authenticity, and fun to online shopping experience by live streaming shopping among retailers and brands. Recently the startup was selected as one of the top 50 tech startups powering the new retail world through their integrated browser-based livestream shopping software.
By taking advantage of a voice and video solutions provider, retailers can personalize the experience for their audience by offering direct channels of purchase, enabling comments, using one-on-one video chat and more. Application of artificial intelligence for data anonymization will be the next step towards the future of online shopping. Analyzing real-time human engagement to decode human emotions and engagement patterns will increase personalization of products and services.
Along with its customization capabilities, a real time engagement provider should also have access to a network of distributed data centers around the world, as well as the ability to work across multiple mobile devices and operating systems.
Creating a valuable experience
Retailers can offer their customers experience that is happening in real time. By utilizing interactive video and chat platforms, brands can add value to their customers. One of the ways to gamifythe retail experience is through product demonstrations by influencers. When shoppers see how a piece of apparel is worn or how a device is used, they can imagine themselves wearing or using the product.
Another way is to engage with prospective buyers is via interactive brand-based or brand-led quiz shows that leads to buying behaviors and outcomes. Live question-and-answer sessions or polls,personalized customer service through voice and video chats and entertaining interviews are a few other examples of the kind of live content which retailers can use for engaging with their customers. Yet another innovation that retailers can consider is co-shopping experiences where family or friends can go through the shopping experience together while still being physically apart.
Imagine watching and browsing through the catalog together and commenting and suggesting on what might work best or look the sharpest on each other. Bring in an element of augmented “live” reality and engagement and that takes shoppertainment to a whole different level. Apart from gamification of retail, “live” voice and video-based retail also solves for another practical problem that is typical of emerging markets where literacy levels may not be the highest. Bulbul is an example of an app that makes online shopping real via streaming in a language that the audience is most comfortable with.
With the right content and live video solution, online retailers can create inspiring experiential retail-inspired experiences that increase engagement, brand awareness, customer loyalty, and sales.
For marketeers, the key thing now is to replicate the seamless in-store experience into an online channel to avoid customer loss and brand loyalty. Both brands and customers will be leveraging real time engagement platforms for both interactions and transactions. This is indeed retail 4.0!
(The author is Director, Growth at Agora and the views expressed in this article are his own)