Even before the pandemic hit, businesses all over the world were revolutionizing the way we shop. Online shopping was step one. Next up? An increase in no-contact shopping experiences.The rapid development of artificial intelligence, virtual reality, and the introduction of social distancing accelerated the expansion and adoption of technologies like Amazon’s, where consumers can buy products without physically interacting with employees. Contactless shopping wasn't invented to replace people with robots. When done right, it allows employees to focus on more valuable interactions — like creating employee-generated content or offering additional product information.
Technology to Bridge the Gap
It goes way beyond the supermarket. These technologies are now being adopted across all kinds of markets. In fact, any brand can use technology to enhance its customers’ no-contact shopping experience and make contactless shopping easier altogether. You can use contactless shopping techniques whether you’re selling carrots or a new car. Because even car dealerships are offering customers contactless buying experiences — or have at least changed parts of the buying process to minimize the need for contact. These six techniques can help any brand improve the contactless shopping experience, regardless of budget or size.
1. User-Generated Content
If only you could see what a product actually looks like or how it’s used, right?Sure, shopping from the comfort of your own couch is nice, but it’s also risky. Sometimes it’s hard to imagine what a product will look like in real life, or we have doubts that those creative product descriptions and FAQs can't take away.
That’s where user-generated content (UGC) comes in. 84% of millennials report that UGC on company websites influences what they buy. That authentic content brings a product to life - and customers can rely on feedback from other customers to influence their purchasing decisions. The best part? It’s free content for brands. By using UGC, brands can not only revolutionize the no-contact shopping experience but increase their reach and sales, too. Kira Grace Yoga uses UGC and customer feedback to inform customers about the quality of the product and how it looks and feels:
2. Live video shopping
Some products do require personalized selling. And that’s okay. But in lieu of face-to-face shopping, many of these products took a hit as customers felt less compelled to purchase big-ticket items that require some personalized input. One compelling option to smooth this out could be Live Video Shopping.Live Shopping, live video commerce, or live stream shopping — you pick whichever name you like best — combines the best of both worlds. Customers can browse online and check out products. Then, a sales rep — often in-store — jumps on a live stream or live chat to answer questions and advise the customer in real-time. You can do this one-to-one or one-to-many, but what matters is that there is an interaction with the audience and that whoever is watching is guiding what the sales rep will talk about. No, it’s not a live-streamed commercial — it’s all about interaction and taking away doubts. It’s a more engaging experience than chatbots, for instance — and it’s paying off. Results are dripping in, but businesses are already seeing a fivefold increase in sales. Makeup brands like Morphe have implemented these techniques to improve a customer’s online shopping experience. Before purchasing makeup products, consumers can watch a UGC makeup tutorial video to learn how to use products and see how they look on another consumer.
3. Virtual Fitting Rooms
Thanks to the rise of augmented reality, we can now see what that dress will look like on us before we buy it. It’s not just the big names like Adidas, Macy’s and the likes allowing for virtual try-ons. Augmented reality is becoming more and more accessible for all brands — and since everyone has a smartphone, virtually anyone can use it. Even smaller brands are rapidly jumping on the bandwagon. Maui Jim allows people to try on their glasses in a virtual-try on — because ordering them from a picture of someone else is just a bit risky for most people.
Technologies like these are not just fun to play around with for consumers — they drive real results for businesses: in 2020, the customer conversion rate for AR engaged users increased by 90%.
4. Robots and Autonomous Vehicles
Contactless delivery also grew in popularity over the past year as social distancing mandates encouraged a six-foot gap, making delivery challenging. This is exactly one of the scenarios in which contactless shopping technologies are proving to be useful. Case in point: Domino’s. They already started developing the technology in 2019, but in 2021, it’s finally time to shine. The chain has introduced robots into their delivery service, starting with a pilot in Houston. Self-driving vehicles pull up to the customer’s driveway and give them their pizza. Customers can keep track of the whereabouts of the robot via GPS, and once they arrive, they enter a PIN to get their pizza. Another plus: the robot helps keep the pizza warm. If you’re walking through LA, you shouldn’t be surprised when you bump into a robot either. Kiwibot is expecting to have 400 of its robots roaming the streets of the city of angels by the end of 2021. Kiwibot isn’t quite new to the no-contact shopping game either — they have made over 150,000 deliveries via robot since 2017, but are really stepping things up now people are getting used to social distancing and contactless experiences.
5. Buy-Online, Pick Up In-Store
No more accidentally saying ‘no thank you’ when a cashier wishes you a nice day instead of asking if you want a receipt.
Many brands like Old Navy have implemented a Buy-Online, Pick Up In-Store model in addition to their traditional in-store operations. Rather than aimlessly browse aisles in-store, brands can allow customers to make an informed buying decision online and pick it up in-store with minimal wait time and contact. Customers can read reviews and have their questions answered by other customers as well as see how other real-life consumers have experienced a product, and then conveniently pick up their product the same day. The key to supporting customers in these informed decisions, though, is incorporating the best Q&A and customer review capability and concentrated UGC generation into your ecommerce site. Less waiting time, less cross-contact, less need for touch: the concept comes with a lot of benefits.
Less contact, more focus?
In the years ahead, there will undoubtedly be more creative solutions that take away the need for micro-interactions with employees. In the best-case scenario, this will mean that employees can add strategic value beyond their traditional functions and create more meaningful relationships with customers through varying interactions. In turn, brands can enhance their customers’ shopping experience and satisfaction by providing more useful and relatable information regarding their products. Are you ready for non-contact shopping experiences?
Vicky Frissen is a freelance copywriter based in Barcelona. She helps brands and businesses like Skale stand out from the crowd by putting some personality in each piece of copy she writes—whether it’s a 1,000-word blog post or a short and snappy Instagram caption.
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