Retailers are turning to digital channels to recapture an element of the personalized, in-store experience
Global e-commerce sales were 81% higher in May 2020 than in the previous year, according to ACI Worldwide Research. With lockdown only just beginning to ease in much of the world, e-commerce is maintaining its hold on wallets. Without the ability to deliver a superior in-store experience, many retailers are looking to the virtual world to give their customers that personalized touch.
Last week, Suntec City, a shopping center in downtown Singapore, hosted Shopfest, their first ever live streamed event. With the COVID-19-driven cancellation of the Great Singapore Sale, an annual in-person sales event featuring concerts, food stalls, and of course deals galore, Singaporeans were missing out on a key retail extravaganza in their calendars. Suntec City decided to fill the void by offering a live event in which, every night from June 23rd to 26th, shoppers could log on to the Suntec+ app, see new products presented by hosts and purchase them through the app.
In a modernization of old-school infomercials, users could comment and ‘like’ products along with the show as well as win prizes during interactive sessions. The shopping festival showcased products from 16 participating Suntec City stores. According to the shopping center, the idea for a live-streamed event was taken from Chinese retailers who had been using live-streaming to stay afloat during lockdown for the past several months. Brands like Shanghai-based cosmetics brand Forest Cabin even retrained their staff to feature in their videos.
In the UK, retailers are looking to recreate the personalized experience of a live shop assistant online. In April, Curry’s PC World, an electronics retailer, launched their new ShopLive service with a TV campaign being released in June. ShopLive allows customers to chat with experts via video about purchases from the comfort and safety of their homes. Given that buying electronics can be confusing as well as expensive, the ability to speak to a human expert is key to the purchase decision. Even once stores begin to reopen, ShopLive will remain a part of the retailer’s offering proving its usefulness beyond the current situation.
Department stores are also turning to virtual video conversations with their normally in-store experts to help customers make informed purchases. John Lewis customers can book one-hour appointments for baby nursery, personal styling, and home design help. Selfridges, meanwhile, is giving customers personalized access to their beauty, style and gifting specialists through their new virtual appointments, launched on June 15th.
The last few months have been difficult for traditional brick-and-mortar retailers as forced shop closures have meant a disconnect from their consumers. Taking cues from retail-tainment and personal shopping, while catering to the uptick in e-commerce, brands are exploring new ways to form and keep relationships with their customers. Although stores are beginning to reopen, these digital services may stick as people continue to opt for the safety and convenience of online shopping.