30th Sep, 2020
Marcom, , Designation
Suddenly, the whole world is finding comfort in living in an online world. Be it participating in online meetings, attending or conducting webinar sessions, participating in virtual training programs etc. On the personal front too, there are family gatherings and celebrations happening over video calls and children are pursuing education through online classes. With all this, it will be right to say that the pandemic has made all of us social media savvy.
Even for retail businesses, customer outreach through online medium has become one of the most critical tactic for survival in today’s time. The need of the hour is to promote virtual shopping and use virtual marketing tools to make it an enjoyable journey rather than an impersonal & isolated affair for the shopper.
As per recent research reports, there has been a 1000% increase in virtual connects from March 2020 onwards, connecting every facet of our life. This huge chunk of audience which still prefers traditional mode of shopping but considering the current situation, is hesitant in stepping out of the home, formulates a big target market for retailers. And, hence, the biggest question comes – how do we plug that gap?
Is Virtual retail the answer?
Retailers are getting ‘socially distanced’ from earnings
As mentioned in ET Retail article, Trust for Retailers and Retail Association of India says that there has been 25-30% impact on businesses with multiple effects on subsidiary industries and lasting job losses. As per RAI, there has been 80% drop in sales for non-essential items. Additionally, RAI conducted consumer sentiment survey, it also shows around 67% of the consumers showed little to no excitement in shopping, due to growing risk of pandemic.
But there is a way out to beat the losses and get the footfalls back in the store. What cannot happen in real world, can now happen in a virtual one and therefore, virtual shopping becomes a non-negotiable alternate retail model for retailers to be able to survive & thrive in the present and the future respectively. Leveraging the video call connect with their customers who are already used to this method of communication by now, is the new path retailers are seen treading.
Opportunity amidst uncertainty
It is true that, every uncertainty brings new opportunities with it. Let us see the top challenges in a brand’s mind and what can be their possible solutions through the lens of Virtual retail:
1) Challenge: Low footfalls in retail anticipated due to restrictions
How to cater per social distancing guidelines and engage with audience that is used to getting personalised guidance before purchase?
Solution: Virtually engage with the customer in the safety & comfort of their homes
An alternate channel to engage with customers (like a video call) with the key focus on customer convenience for sales conversion.
2) Challenge: How to convert customers who wants to shop in a store instead of online but are hesitant to walk into store?
As per IBEF report, till Mar 2020, approximately 7% retail customers prefer ecommerce for shopping the rest still prefer offline or traditional method of shopping. The number might have increased during the pandemic, however, there still remains a large section of audience who likes to shop offline.
Solution: Address those customers without the necessity to walk in stores
Driving customer connect while mimicking the traditional retail engagement though a virtual bridge of a 1-1 video call; personalized interaction to probe, guide and recommend products.
3) Challenge: Safeguard ROI & Drive Operational Efficiencies in turbulent times
How to optimize Retail investment, promoter productivity, and stock turnover amid limited footfall?
Solution: ‘Virtual Retail Sales’ model fills the walk-in gap with call-ins, thus safeguarding ROI
Aids deeper market penetration irrespective of brick and motor store presence provides flexibility for in-store operations, and achieve promoter utilization even amidst limited walk-ins.
4) Challenge: Casual Browsing (Store hopping) across multiple brands will limit
Brands’ ability to capture & capitalize on “browsing purchase ready” customers by engaging with them one-on-one at the store, has become limited.
Solution: Providing a browsing experience irrespective of the digital bounds, thus facilitating an informed decision making while customer compares brand vis-à-vis competition
Engage and convert purchase ready customers while fulfilling their need for comparison reviews and best offer.
The Rise of Virtual Brand Consultant
Virtual Brand Consultant is now gradually becoming an established norm in retail. Further, it helps to build brand reputation and enhance customer experience by sharing knowledge about the products and inventory. While mimicking the traditional method of shopping, Virtual Brand Consultant plays a significant role which ranges from engaging with the customers, showing them what they exactly need, answering all their queries and lastly, closing the deal.
Retailers need not have a brick and mortar store present in every location to cater to their target audience. Through Virtual Brand Consultant, you can expand into remote areas. The other aspect, which can be beneficial for retailers as the promoters need not demonstrate an extended product list to retract customer interest, instead to know your customer’s interest, form can be filled for pre-engagement to have informed conversations.
Key Success Drivers
The model is just not relevant for Covid situation but much beyond. Here are few benefits:
- Virtual in-person interaction for personalised connect
- Seamless integration through robust tech platforms
- Enabling in bound traffics for brand
- Data analytics driven insights empower retail strategy and operations
- Building the workforce
Consumers have become more mindful than ever before on what they are buying and it’s a mind-set that is likely to continue. Lockdown or not, the technology adoption of retail is here to stay with more people becoming used to the digital experience. For Retailers, now is the time to reset and restart with this alternate retail model built upon virtual connect, to match up the expectations of the new normal.