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The Future Of Virtual Shop Assistant Requires The Human Touch

The Future Of Virtual Shop Assistant Requires The Human Touch

Drapers - The future of virtual shop assistance requires the human touch


Following a series of lockdowns during the COVID-19 pandemic, fashion retailers and brands have been forced to invest online and accelerate their virtual shopping capabilities, from chatbots and WhatsApp to livestreaming and augmented reality (AR) Are included. Even after the lockdown was lifted and customers were allowed back into the store, they continued to reap the benefits of virtual shopping.


However, for many customers, a human element is still an important part of the shopping experience. As a result, brands, retailers and landlords are all looking for new ways to combine the expertise and warmth of their employees with the convenience and speed of data-driven virtual tools.


When the pandemic forced many "non-essential" retailers to close in many countries in 2020, Value Retail, which owns 11 designer outlets in Europe, China and The Bicester Village Collection in Oxfordshire's Bicester Village, shut down over 4,000 hours Virtual shopping of more provided. Training for your employees.


Importantly, the service does not rely on chatbots, augmented reality or artificial intelligence (AI). Instead clientele is used: a face-to-face appointment with a sales assistant via video, phone or WhatsApp. Customers can schedule an appointment with a village or brand by visiting The Bicester Shopping Collection website and selecting WhatsApp, phone or email for an initial conversation. A virtual personal shopping team member will contact the customer to schedule an appointment in the village or at home, with the option of having products delivered to the customer's home.


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Even though brick-and-mortar stores have temporarily reopened, all eight villages across Europe, including the original in the United Kingdom, showcase at least half of their partner brands through the service. . In addition, Value Retail decided to replace The Creative Spot, a physical pop-up that started in Fidenza Village, Italy, in 2016 with The Virtual Creative Spot: Patrick McDowell, Erdem, Teatum Jones and Udon Contemporary labels like Choi had an edit. Which is now available only through virtual shopping.

The human touch

More specialized retailers are also going virtual. Bija London, a premium lingerie brand, began offering a virtual fitting service during the coronavirus pandemic – and that service will continue.


“Due to the intimate nature of our product, the main factors are the bra fitter’s personality and the energy it creates and puts up with the customer,” explains co-founder Abby Miranda. "The digital aspect is easy to learn, but the skills required to become a professional bra fitter are unique and distinct." We are very good at this in person, and by offering fit appointments online – via a secure video link – we can recreate that touchpoint, intimacy and trust, which leads to customer loyalty and as a result Buying bigger, more frequent."


Thread Styling, a personal shopping platform based in London, offers a completely virtual experience. It was founded in 2009 and combines technology and human support to serve its clients: the platform connects buyers with personal stylists who source designer items for them and provide styling advice. Rather than a transactional website or app, it employs conversational commerce through social media platforms Instagram, Snapchat and TikTok.


Video and live shopping through social channels are key to engaging your community, according to founder and CEO Sophie Hill: "[Our social channels] allow us to connect with our community in a more personal way, while our Chat channels enable us to grow and maintain meaningful relationships with our customers in a less formal setting."


“We can continue to interact with our customers after the virtual session to support them with organization tips, new brands, and pieces we know they will love.” We are constantly refining our content strategy and will continue to invest in virtual channels as the world of digital commerce grows."

When a buyer interacts with content – ​​for example, by swiping up from an Instagram store – they will be directed to a WhatsApp chat where they will be able to connect with a human individual buyer.


"Threads' business model combines human connections and technology to provide a seamless service," continues Hill. “When we started the company one of our first priorities was to create an order and transaction system that could be used across any social channel and chat platform, so that shoppers could interact with brands from anywhere.”

Telling A Story

According to Jameela Zamani, CEO and founder of client clients platform provider Modist, whose clients include London-based accessories retailer Troubadour and New York lifestyle brand HNDSM, integration of content and storytelling across sales channels rather than just marketing channels will determine success. About the virtual shopping strategy of a brand or retailer.


She cites a retail customer who, during the pandemic, makes customer calls on Microsoft Teams and then follows up on WhatsApp by sharing screen grabs or photos of product suggestions: "Simple tools like WhatsApp and Zoom for sales or CRM were not designed for [customer relationship management]." Modist helps its customers bring disparate channels together by integrating checkout, video and audio calls, real-time data, and most importantly, digital storytelling content into a single web-based sales platform.


Mark Bege, managing director of fashion content agency Knott Studio, whose clients include Mango, Marks & Spencer and Topshop, agrees that it's important to incorporate storytelling into virtual shopping, and believes brands And retailers must embrace technological innovation to do so. Knott Studio recently introduced video shopping for Sneak in Piece, an online trainer retailer that will launch in the spring of 2021.


“The future of online sneaker retail is tied to virtual reality, gaming and 3D avatars for the metaverse,” he says, adding that one goal of Sneak in Peace is to harness physical spaces for virtual reality showcasing the latest brands. .


When the pandemic prevented Swedish womenswear brand House of Dagmar from showing its AW21 catwalk collection in person as part of Copenhagen Fashion Week, it used augmented reality to bridge the gap. Instead, the brand used technology to create a virtual catwalk: an incarnation of model Maggie Maurer was virtually placed in the landscape of the city where the House of Dagmar would usually show its collections. The brand has now launched a fully shoppable experience wherein customers can download the avatar from their living room, office or wherever they want using a QR code and then shop the collection from their phones.


“Basically, we didn’t think about prioritizing [virtual buying] within our strategy,” says co-founder Karin Söderlind. "However, when the pandemic struck, we realized how important it was to create a dynamic, user-friendly virtual space." It is now an important part of our brand development, ensuring that the consumer receives the same care and attention that they would receive from the physical shopping experience."


In fact, Söderlind believes that virtual shopping is the future of fashion, specifically the use of augmented reality (AR) to create digital versions of real clothing: "If we look at social media, influencers can make a difference." Digital versions of physical clothing are being worn, and AR filters are being used virtually to promote new collections." Influencers can now style a piece of clothing in a [more] sustainable way, demonstrating to their followers how something can be worn without a carbon footprint [of material goods].


"This technology is improving all the time, showing us pieces in greater detail, including texture and weight." It has now moved on to consumers, who can [virtually] try it in pieces without leaving their homes."


The extent to which brands and retailers adopt various virtual shopping technologies, as well as the time frame to do so, will be determined by the demands of their customers, as with any decision. Even the most technologically advanced people recognize the importance of human connection. The future of virtual shopping currently lies at the three-way intersection of technology, experiential physical spaces and the human touch.



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