Use Personalization to Convert Online Sales

Once reserved for the rich and famous, personal shoppers are popping up everywhere—and for everyone—thanks to the ubiquitous nature of the Internet. Retailers with a Web presence understand the need to enrich the online experience to better emulate the experience found in stores, where sales conversion and customer satisfaction are much higher, thanks to in-store associates. They also know that consumer expectations are on the rise and shoppers not only want, but expect, personalized experiences when shopping with their favorite retailers and brands.

Online: Where More Is More

Let's face it, when it comes to shopping online, more is more. Shoppers want every bit of information they can get their hands on when purchasing an item they are unable to see in person or try themselves: product size/fit, dimensions, reviews, user photos, ratings...the list goes on. There are several successful e-commerce operations that differentiate themselves through their personal shopping services—namely Stitch Fix, specializing in women's clothing, which describes itself as "the first fashion retailer to blend expert styling, proprietary technology, and unique product to deliver a shopping experience that is truly personalized for you," and Trunk Club, a similar service aimed at male shoppers (purchased by Nordstrom this summer for $350 million). These retailers understand the critical nature of personalized e-commerce, and have created new tactics to interact with shoppers and get to know them in ways other apparel retailers haven't. By using interactive style quizzes and one-on-one phone consultations, personal stylists make product recommendations they think the shopper will love. Now, shoppers—no matter their budget—can have access to style advice and suggested apparel based on their own tastes and interest, the same way they would with an in-store sales associate.

A newer way that retailers are emulating the in-store experience is by offering live video assistance within their e-commerce stores and mobile apps. With just the click of a mouse or the tap of a finger, shoppers can now interact with customer service agents who can help assist them through the completion of the sale. From "greeting them" at the beginning of their shopping experience to walking them to the virtual cash register and everything in between, there's no shortage of ways that live video assistance can be used within the e-retail environment.

Take BaubleBar. The jewelry company's SWAT ("Service With Accessorizing Talent") program offers live video assistance for shoppers, enabling customers to interact face-to-face with a stylist online. This new offering lets consumers see products in real time. Stylists also engage with shoppers through features such as screen sharing and can complete a checkout form with the shopper to reduce the chance of cart abandonment. Whatever a customer is shopping for, BaubleBar's SWAT team works with each one who requests assistance to show them a variety of products that might interest them. Customers love this new feature. Just a few months after launching the service, BaubleBar experienced a 300 percent surge in average order value and customers' return-to-shop frequency increased by 250 percent, proving the value within the new assisted shopping offering.

The fashion industry isn't the only one benefiting from this new form of customer service. Furniture is a high-consideration item that shoppers tend to prefer purchasing in the store, where they can discuss with a sales associate all of their color and texture options, best ways to clean the fabric, and what coordinating pieces might look best. DFS, one of the largest sofa retailers in the United Kingdom, has successfully replicated its personalized in-store customer experience across all channels, including mobile, to facilitate online purchases. Customers can use their mobile devices to communicate live with DFS sales associates via video, voice, and text, and are shown a variety of sofa options and receive answers and advice, ensuring the best possible experience while shopping online.

Every online retailer—regardless of their vertical market—knows their competition is just a click away. They need to differentiate to convert shoppers to buyers, and an effective way to do that is by providing personal, time-saving features such as live video assistance to enrich the digital experience for each consumer. Features that personalize the shopping experience, whether they are style surveys to help pick out the best apparel items or live video assistance to escort shoppers through their online purchase, will help retailers convert shoppers all year long.

James Keller is CEO of Vee24, provider of an interactive selling platform incorporating voice, video, text, and cobrowsing.

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