During the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, eCommerce surged to historic levels as consumers worldwide had no other option but to shop online, some for the very first time. The latest numbers show that the eCommerce industry in the U.S. expanded at a whopping 44 percent in 2020, coinciding with a sudden surge in online shopping when businesses across the country halted in-person sales.
While that burst in sales likely won't last beyond 2021, the overarching trend is clear: more online consumers than ever before equals more opportunities to deliver entirely new shopping experiences via live video streaming.
Nowadays, capturing a consumer's attention takes more than a clever banner ad and a standard email drip campaign; it takes providing them with a modern retail experience that bridges the gap between online shopping and in-person shopping.
Without a doubt, virtual shopping apps and live streaming combine to fulfill that need perfectly, and best of all, it's still relatively new to the eCommerce industry at large. But in China, the value of live streaming for retail has been recognized for some time; the West is effectively catching up to the trend in the post-COVID era.
Moving forward, no one should ignore virtual shopping, so here are the top 10 reasons why it could be the next evolution in online retail.
1 – Offers the best shopping experience, combining in-store browsing with online convenience
Virtual shopping comes in a handful of varieties at the time of this writing: live streaming, real-time messaging, or live in-store video calls. It's a way to create an omnichannel shopping experience while staying on-brand at every step in the buyer's journey.
Most virtual shopping platforms include personal interactions via smartphone to substitute for in-person browsing. It's like a helpful friend accompanying the consumer while they shop online, which can only increase conversions, but by how much?
2 – Converts more online shoppers without increasing ad spend
Today, the average cost to acquire a new customer is about $30 per person at current ad spending levels. For any marketing pro, the idea is always to keep customer acquisition costs reasonably low, especially in the midst of an economic hiccup. According to the newest figures, digital ad spending in 2020 grew by as much as 12 percent during the pandemic.
The challenge for digital marketers is how to control that digital ad spending and increase conversions at the same time. A recent survey by Wyzowl showed that 84 percent of consumers said they were convinced to buy only after watching a video. Wyzowl's research also revealed that consumers view 16 hours of video per week, a significant amount by any measure.
Virtual shopping fits snugly as the ideal solution to maximizing video conversions as consumers now can see products in real life and in real-time. They can ask questions with a product expert and continue engaging with the brand for far longer than a standard video display ad.
3 – Gets customers to spend as much as they would in-store
Acquiring new customers and enticing them to come back is expensive because so many other brands compete for their attention.
Live video chat with a product expert means that brands can offer assistance to shoppers struggling with a purchasing decision, making it harder for them to walk away without a purchase.
The idea is to find ways to allow the consumers to spend as much money online as they would in store.
4 – Humanizes the brand at scale
Virtual shopping can also humanize a brand at scale. What that means is, there will be face-to-face conversations, honest one-on-one discussions with an in-store sales representative.
If brands can implement virtual shopping, they'll be able to overcome the biggest downside to online shopping: impersonal, distant, and automated interactions with a business.
5 – Differentiate from the competition
Differentiation from the competition is another reason why companies may want to consider virtual shopping. It's still a bleeding-edge technology as no single platform has "won" the space and turned into the only resource consumers feel comfortable using.
In a survey by threekit, 71 percent of online consumers said that they would buy from brands that use augmented reality for new shopping experiences and to buy confidently. This fact suggests that virtual shopping may include a better return than marketers realize.
6 – Increases staff and store utilization
Brands can get more out of their investments in physical stores by implementing virtual shopping platforms.
The benefits lie in the increased utilization of sales staff, which gives them more incentive to work when there are no customers in the physical store. But there will always be digital shoppers who need a helping hand and haven't had a personalized experience yet.
With live video chat and virtual shopping, leading brands convert online visitors to in-store foot traffic and give their associates an additional way to earn a commission if they choose such a model.
7 – Helps learn more about consumers
The challenge all marketers faced is learning as much about consumers as humanly possible. Indeed, some key metrics and data could suggest what consumers are thinking, but there's no substitute for actually hearing what consumers have to say about a brand – and display it in real-time!
Social media analytics only go so far as identifying what makes consumers buy one product over another. But virtual shopping is a direct line of communication with consumers as they decide. That’s a capability no one can ignore.
8 – Improves sales team skills
Along those lines, virtual shopping may also improve a business's sales skills. When speaking with someone online through video chat in real-time, virtual shopping opens up a prime opportunity to analyze sales techniques. The technology allows businesses to record customer interactions, their questions, and how salespersons respond to those inquiries.
Ideally, companies can then use that information to train other salespersons to best sell a product or service through trial and error. When consumers get direct answers to specific questions, they'll likely begin to trust the brand more and become repeat customers.
9 – Keeps your sales team motivated
Another benefit of virtual shopping is that it gives brands an avenue to keep their sales teams motivated. A clever way to leverage virtual shopping is to add a competition element among in-store and online salespersons.
Even as COVID-19 winds down, many retailers still haven’t returned to regular staffing levels, so virtual shopping provides a means for employees to continue making commissions online.
10 – Touches consumers at the right points in the buyer's journey
The last reason to try virtual shopping in 2021 is that it's a platform that could touch consumers at precisely the right point in the buyer's journey.
Currently, if a consumer is waffling and indecisive but probably wants to purchase the product, there's no way to push them beyond the finish line and into the digital checkout line. Virtual shopping can capture that opportunity perfectly as consumers will always respond to smiling, friendly faces more than automated chatbots and poorly written product descriptions online.
The final takeaway for the eCommerce industry is that virtual shopping is more than the wave of the future. It's a prime opportunity to connect with online consumers in ways that weren't feasible not so long ago before the COVID-19 pandemic changed everything.
Humanize Your Online Shopping Experience With SupersalesTo remain relevant in the competitive online retail market, you need an edge. Businesses willing to create a unique shopping experience will be at an advantage.
Whether you decide to do that through customer service, personalization strategies, or sales is up to you.
Looking to humanize your customer’s online shopping experience? Consider Supersales. We offer a unique one-to-one live video experience.