Virtual Shopping: Blend the best of eCommerce and Retail
Date: September 22, 2021
While virtual shopping has been around for a few years, the arrival of the pandemic accelerated the adoption of livestream ecommerce around the world. With Swirl’s seamless integration, easy to use features, and superior tech abilities, your brand can reach out to customers wherever they are.
In the last decade or so, the retail industry has witnessed a faster rate of evolution than it has in previous years. While virtual shopping – a personalized and customized version of ecommerce that leverages technology, video, and interactivity to replicate human interaction – is the latest in retail, it has only recently been visible in mainstream retail.
According to this Shopify article, 2021 has been a watershed year for ecommerce, with the global market expected to hit $4.89 trillion this year. Between 2019-21, the ecommerce market share has risen by 45.8% and is slated to continue soaring. This is largely thanks to the faster adoption of powerful tech on both the customer and the seller side, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Before we dive into a discussion about how Swirl’s virtual shopping platform can benefit your brand, let’s unpack the phenomenon that is revolutionizing the retail world.
What is virtual shopping and clienteling?
In essence, virtual shopping allows brands to combine the best of online and in-store retail for customers.
Many customers shop online because of the convenience but miss the personal touch and custom service of offline stores. With virtual shopping, brands can offer video streams as well as real-time, genuine interactions in place of the cold anonymity of online shopping.
Virtual clienteling is an offshoot of virtual shopping, and it allows your sales team to provide one-to-one service to the client through interactive features or video. In an in-store retail setting, your sales staff can only cater to customers who visit the store and ask for help. However, with an online virtual clienteling platform, your staff can proactively reach out to anyone who is browsing.
With Swirl’s virtual shopping platform with built-in clienteling features, retailers can empower their in-store associates to provide an immersive video shopping experience for a global audience. Here, your sales staff can answer questions, build confidence, present the full range of stock, and guide customers towards suitable options. In addition, Swirl has added a proprietary layer on top of the video streaming facility, allowing brands to use text, chat, Whatsapp, SMS and voice messaging to provide interactive service, thereby converting one-time visitors into lifelong customers.
How COVID-19 pushed virtual shopping into the limelight
Most countries have shown significant online shopping over the last few years, but as of 2019, over 90% of retail sales still came from physical stores. However, as COVID-19 arrived in early 2020, shuttering stores across the world, and bringing ecommerce to the forefront.
As stores were shuttered in major cities around the world, people were forced to turn to online shopping for even basic groceries. Smaller brands found it easier to pivot to online models for live ecommerce, but by late 2020, even behemoth luxury brands were going online to reach customers in their homes.
At present, China leads the list of countries for largest ecommerce market share, with $2.78 trillion of sales being done online. The USA comes in with $843 billion, but developing countries are seeing an astronomical rise. According to the IBM 2020 Retail Index, the pandemic accelerated the shift to online shopping by as much as five years.
How virtual shopping can benefit your brand
Virtual shopping is being adapted by all sizes of brands, but it has significant benefits for independently owned brands or SMEs. Some of these are as follows:
- Build a stronger rapport with customers: Swirl enables brands to provide convenient, safe transactions and quick access to all inventory, just like retail giants or marketplaces, but with the added benefit of live, personalized interaction. This builds deeper relationships with customers, improves brand recall, and makes them more likely to return for their next purchase.
- Offer a convenient, omnichannel experience: Swirl offers you the ability to reach out to shoppers and guide them to complete the purchase. The sales team can offer one-on-one consultations, virtual shopping sessions at the client’s convenience, and even book appointments for in-store visits. This omnichannel experience is convenient, but more importantly, feels like VIP treatment for the customer.
- Reduce overheads like storage, rent, and logistics: With virtual shopping, your brand does not need to have multiple physical retail outlets or different shipping arrangements. Brands with a powerful online shopping model may prefer to run a dark store – a space that is closed to customers but serves the main functions: a warehouse for inventory, an office for staff, and a central location for shipping and logistics.
- Turn staff into brand ambassadors: Virtual shopping doesn’t just benefit your customers. When your sales associates can easily cater to multiple customers, close sales with a few clicks, and earn more commissions, they develop a more proactive approach.
- Create an agile, secure stream of revenue: The pandemic has proven that brands need to diversify their sources of income. With virtual shopping, your business can operate through disruptions (such as bad weather, multiple waves of a pandemic, political unrest, or any other factors) that prevent customers and sales staff from visiting the store.
- Leverage data for better impact: Using a virtual shopping tool gives you everything you need to interact with shoppers, track sales and queries, view sales trends, and build a database of interested customers. Data like this offers immense potential in terms of more targeted outreach, smarter inventory management, and better query-to-sale conversion.
If you are an independent, early-stage entrepreneur with a DTC brand – especially in the field of fashion, beauty, retail, lifestyle, health and wellness, or F&B, take advantage of the Swirl Startup Program to get cloud credits and build a video-first shopping experience for your customers.
How brands are using virtual shopping
No matter the modus operandi of your brand, being live commerce-enabled can help you reach more customers and generate more sales. In uncertain times, with the constantly looming threat of the next wave of the pandemic, your business can rely on live shopping to keep customers engaged.
There are two ways in which your brand can use virtual shopping:
- One-to-one virtual shopping
- One-to-many virtual shopping
One-to-one virtual shopping with Swirl
For many lifestyle brands, the personal attention and customized service are contributing factors in the customer’s decision to purchase. At the higher price points of luxury brands, shoppers are used to exclusive services, but virtual shopping offers a way for smaller businesses to add that valuable personal touch to online shopping.
With Swirl, you can use the following features to expand your offering and provide custom services through virtual shopping:
- Match high-value customers with product experts for private consultations
- Assist customers on their browsing journey and guide them towards the appropriate products
- Create personalized recommendations and lists of products using data to offer a tailored solution to customers
- Access data to find the most popular products, track your staff’s performance for better business decision-making, and easily schedule and manage customer interactions
- Swirl does not require customers to download apps or be extraordinarily tech-savvy. A simple link to the Live Video call can be shared via social media, push notification, or Whatsapp, and your customer can make a purchase in a few easy clicks.
One-to-many virtual shopping with Swirl
Consider the incredible efficiency of having to explain your product/product features once and make sales to multiple groups of customers at the same time. Your sales team does not have to demonstrate samples, offer the same explanation to each new customer, or pitch the product over and over again.
With virtual shopping, you can cast a wide net and reel in customers from anywhere, and also offer these contemporary features:
- Convert more shoppers by inspiring confidence and offering detailed answers to specific questions
- Identify customers with high purchase intent when they interact with your brand during live shopping
- Create and distribute video content to engage with customers in longer and more meaningful ways
- Utilize real-time data and analytics to predict trends and revenue and make better decisions
- Build better brand recall by giving customers exactly what they are looking for.
See how Swirl can help your brand
Swirl offers a contemporary, easy way to engage in conversations with customers, answer questions and guide customers on their buying journey, and to maintain a steady flow of leads even in pandemic situations.
With Swirl, your brand gains access to these convenient features:
- Buy in-video: Viewers can add-to-cart and purchase from within the Livestream itself, allowing you to create an immersive experience. This in-video purchase feature increases the time your brand spends in front of the customer, building a better rapport and brand recall.
- Easy to integrate: Swirl provides seamless integration with all the tech you require to create an effective virtual shopping experience. Get zero-code integration with Shopify and other eCommerce tech stacks, as well as easily embed and live stream to customers.
- Mobile-first abilities: Your live stream will be smooth and easy for all customers, regardless of the mobile device they are using. Take advantage of Swirl’s multi-tech compatibility to create slick livestream shopping experiences for customers.
Customers enjoy discovering and interacting with the brands they love, and with virtual shopping, this experience is personalized with real-time conversations and interactions. For brand owners, it offers a valuable proposition – being empowered with pure data and the tech solutions they need to build a contemporary offering. Apart from being the catalyst of evolution in the retail landscape, it is clear that virtual shopping is also a win-win solution for customers and brands.