With eCommerce skyrocketing over the last year, chatbots and transactional commerce arguably could have taken over the store associate’s traditional role. But instead, something transformational happened. Associates were unleashed to assist online shoppers, with customers being up to 21x more likely to make a purchase after interacting.
Store associates, or product experts, are even more critical now than they were ten years ago. Through virtual shopping, product experts are becoming essential content creators for brands. And the opportunity is vast. Directly “shoppable media” — social commerce, virtual consultations, live-streams and shoppable ad formats — will be the fastest-growing ways retailers and brands engage online shoppers this year. Product experts are finding creative ways to try out (or on) products for online shoppers, capture them, and share them directly with shoppers as they decide whether or not to make a purchase.
Here are three key ways product experts are becoming content creators and bringing the IRL shopping experience online.
One-to-many shoppable stories
One-to-many video shopping is an emerging opportunity for brands to put associate content front and center and capture shoppers’ attention. Innovative brands are starting to tap into the popularity of “stories” as the world’s favorite way to consume authentic video content. The medium gives associates a platform to build their personal brands and let their personalities shine through pre-curated shoppable content.
With video shopping, associates also have the opportunity to use store displays or virtual showrooms as a canvas to bring authenticity to both their brand and the retailer brand. Brands like Faherty, size? and more are already experimenting with giving associates this platform for content creation. It has emerged as the most effective and personal way for retail brands to connect and convert shoppers, fundamentally shifting the ecommerce experience to one that is more human.
1-to-1 video consultations
There’s a reason that 46% of shoppers would still prefer to shop in-person. They miss human connection. Associates know products and brands better than anyone and can share anecdotes and advice based on personal experience with shoppers. Real-time text, chat, and 1-to-1 video consultations are mediums through which associates can share their product experiences with online shoppers.
1-to-1 video consultations can be particularly powerful content to inspire, convert, and retain online shoppers by establishing a human connection. Shoppers can directly video call associates at their favorite stores to talk to them live, just like Facetiming a friend. These video conversations create a highly-personalised experience.
Video snapshots from in-store
Picking out a shade of lipstick or a new couch is always risky when you’re just looking at a product shot online. When a customer is pushed for time and doesn’t necessarily need a video call, they can message back and forth with associates who can share short video snapshots directly into the chat.
Taking a close up product shot or snapping a video of two options side by side for comparison are just some of the many ways that associates can leverage video content in real-time to convert shoppers. For example, experts at UNTUCKit sent a video on how to fold a dress shirt like a pro to an online shopper; Jennifer at Arhaus NYC went all in to stage a food spill on couch fabric for a shopper who was unsure how family-friendly a couch would be. Anne at HypeDC even pulled out all the stops for a shopper by throwing on some Dr. Martens and capturing how they sparkled in the daylight. And the results speak for themselves: at iconic London department store Liberty, video content shared from in-store has shoppers spending 78% more online on average.
Associates humanise the shopping experience in ways that chatbots never could. In 2021, they have an opportunity to guide customers along their personalised virtual shopping journey through multimedia content, greatly expanding their sphere of influence beyond the four walls of the physical store. It won’t end with a single purchase, either. The authentic content they create and share with shoppers through virtual shopping will keep customers coming back. Virtual brand ambassadors are here to stay; less clerk, more Kardashian.