Double-digit inflation is already eroding consumer purchasing power while fear of a recession is making people think twice about spending on higher ticket items. Even when those products are must-haves and not nice-to-haves, the economic environment is making these necessary purchases feel like higher-stakes decisions.
Consumers are less likely to buy items sight unseen and more likely to do extensive research before making a significant purchase. However, that doesn’t mean that consumers are more likely to head into stores to see products and have their questions answered. The Covid-19 pandemic changed consumer shopping habits forever and most retailers are closing stores, not opening them, due to high costs and staffing shortages.
So… what’s a brand to do in this tricky environment? Here are four practical and easy tips to consider right now.
Create more opportunities for customers to see products without expanding your retail footprint. Chasing foot traffic through retail locations in popular malls or highly-transited streets is an expensive proposition and a losing one – especially now. Instead, consider opening a so-called dark store for online customers only. Because customer visits are virtual instead of in-person, you can open this dark store in a relatively inexpensive location and then use live, HD video to create a shopping experience that is optimized for online customers who need to learn more about a product before making a purchase. (HP has a dark store near Barcelona that serves customers worldwide!)
Leverage and amplify the impact (and sales!) of your top sales people and product experts. Do you ever wish you could clone some of your top sales people and product experts? While this is not yet a possibility outside of science fiction movies, there is a lot you can do to expand their reach and drive sales. Start by having them serve as product experts in your dark store, via live video, instead of limiting their scope to a particular retail location. That way they can drive sales across geographies and time zones instead of being limited to serving customers in one specific store. (Some companies are even letting these product experts work and broadcast from the comfort of their own homes. That’s one way to retain top talent!)
Support customers’ need for more product insights and information before making considered purchases. You probably already have lots of information online for customers eager to research your product and compare it to others. However, nothing beats the guidance of a trusted product expert who can demonstrate how a product is used, answer questions, and recommend alternatives. You probably already have product-experts and sales people in-house who are skilled at doing just that. Now it’s time to have them do what they do best via live video. Use them both to broadcast product demos and information sessions online and to provide one-on-one product guidance via video to online shoppers.
Get more out of your in-store staff. Some retailers are turning their existing stores into part-time studios and letting their staff serve both retail customers and customers online. That means that their in-house experts can serve online shoppers when the store is near-empty or even after the store is closed. There are more opportunities for selling when you aren’t just relying on foot traffic.
In short, you can use live commerce to recession-proof (and future-proof) your business by turning your stores into studios, turning your staff into stars. And investing in live video doesn’t mean investing in studios and fancy production companies. All you need is a smartphone, an app and a headset and you’re good to go.