Virtual Retail - Brands Going Beyond Bots

Technology | 2 minutes to read

10th Sep, 2020

The current uncertainty has led to dramatic shifts in consumer behavior, and the retail industry is feeling its on-the-spot impact. The future of shopping is plausibly more exciting and uncertain as we see stores turning more into websites and websites behaving like stores. The change in the current retail environment raises questions about the long term viability of the physical retail model for sure, but is it really the end game for physical retail? Critical pressures that retailers are experiencing in the current marketplace include:

  • Weak Consumer Spending Levels
  • Business Costs Escalating
  • Evolving Technology
  • Competition getting Tougher
  • Retailers’ Sustainability Agenda

To storm the barricades for a better world, retailers need to truly understand changing customer requirements and assess how they can be best addressed within the four walls of the store.

COVID Breathe New Life into Brick-and-Mortar Stores. Is it Virtual Retail?

While in the Pre-COVID world there were rumbles of real digital transformation, the paradigm shift to digital is now a must-have for retailers to stay on top of the charts. Economic burnout and technological advances together are reshaping the retail landscape faster than the change itself. Although the role of brick-and-mortar stores is under question, the industry experts do not seem to be predicting the demise of physical stores, in fact it certainly feels apocalyptic. Virtual Retail is finally seeing its day in the sun and will light the way forward for brick-and-mortar stores.

Technology takes the Front Seat in the Retail Industry

While many chatbots didn’t lift the gloom hanging over traditional stores, the retail industry is quietly trumpeting and latching on to the technology to offer guided, personalized purchase guidance to its consumers. Chatbots gained momentum in 2016 as a promising technology, but the repetitiveness of chatbots didn’t go well with the retail industry.

Therefore, to manage the inherent consumer demand of personal assistance in the era of social distancing along with changes in buying behavior, technology leaps forward to enable a ‘Virtual Connect’ or a ‘No-touch’ shopping model even in a traditional store setup. Leveraging this new retail model, brands are now augmenting their ‘walk-ins’ with ‘call-ins’ and driving operational efficiencies while maximizing their ROI.

What’s in store for In-Store?

The digital revolution that once leaned on physical stores has backtracked a bit. Shopping in-store holds the clout but now in an entirely different way that digital websites can only dream about.

Leverage the Video Powered Communication for an Immersive Retail Experience

National Retail Federation defines a paradigm shift in customer behavior due to the Black Swan of 2020 that says:

  • 90% customers have changed their traditional shopping habits
  • 60% customers say they fear stepping out and going to the store

In today’s new normal of social distancing, face-to-face online communication through video calls will enable customers with a store consultant virtually in real time. Apart from the next level personalization to your customer interactions and experiences, the concept of video ‘call-ins’ replacing ‘walk-ins’ will also give customers a perfect idea of the product size, fit and quality they are looking for.

Not only will it help retailers tackle the low in-store footfall, but it will also help brands:

  • Mimic the in-store shopping experience online
  • Store agents will turn to Virtual Shopping Assistants
  • Personalized experience with Video powered communication anytime, anywhere

Meeting Customers where they’re at- Double down on Virtual Retail

Customers today expect top-notch service, whether that be online, in-person or even combination of the two. In order to be heads and shoulders above others, retailers have to expedite their ‘Virtual Retail’ efforts to stay relevant and maintain the customer base.

While customers are hesitant to go out to places, real-time product demos and creating 360-degree view of the product can help retailers mimic a personalized shopping experience. Why gear up for the ‘Virtual Retail’?

  • Connect the Geographic Dots through Online Presence
  • Slash Operating Costs with lesser Stores
  • Zero-in on Gen Z by leveraging Messaging Apps for Video Communication
  • Virtual Demos and Appointments to keep Customers Engaged

Virtual Retail opens new avenues for brands that don’t currently have a firm presence in retail industry. However, it would be engrossing to see whether such companies beat the isolation blues and dare to disrupt the status quo of retail giants?

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