Virtual Shopping For Retail Stores: 5 Benefits & How to Implement It

virtual shopping

This post was written by Brock Cardiner, Content Director for our friends at HERO®.

Kristen LaFrance, Head of Resilient Retail, summed up the retail industry in 2020 during the latest installment of Humans of Commerce: “It’s no longer ecommerce vs retail. Instead, it’s all about building ecommerce within retail within ecommerce to offer a holistic customer experience.”

But how can brands close that gap and ensure online shoppers are receiving an authentic, personalized, experience just like they would in-store? 

Enter virtual shopping, where IRL meets URL.

As the industry faces unprecedented changes, certain technologies have emerged as powerful tools to help brands deliver the in-store experience online. But before we get into the benefits of virtual shopping and how to implement it, let’s get a better understanding of what virtual shopping is, or you can use the table of contents below to jump to a specific section.

What is virtual shopping?

In the simplest terms, virtual shopping bridges the gap between online and in-store, bringing human connection to ecommerce experiences. The result is a true omnichannel experience that seamlessly merges online and brick-and-mortar.

An associate working in-store, home, or head office can instantly connect via text, chat, or video with online customers. Through this real-time connection, shoppers can ask questions, virtually try on products, and get recommendations from a product expert while also browsing the entire online catalogue of products.

retail staff chat with online customers

Virtual shopping is also helping secure the future of physical stores. The impact of lockdown can still be felt and virtual shopping is helping physical stores by converting online customers to in-store foot traffic. 

“The impact of lockdown can still be felt and virtual shopping is helping physical stores by converting online customers to in-store foot traffic.”

Customers are using online sessions with store associates to scope out product choices before leveraging physical stores to complete purchases, helping to ensure brick-and-mortar commerce remains alive and well.

Now let’s take a look at some real-world benefits of virtual shopping.

What are the benefits of virtual shopping?

1. Conversion you can measure

Brands tapping into the power of virtual shopping are seeing remarkable results. Credo Beauty has seen up to a 21x increase in online conversions compared to shopping unassisted in just the last few months.

Additionally, store teams can see what shoppers are browsing in real time as they move around the website, providing a perfect opportunity to share recommendations that can be added to cart. Through this type of personalized virtual consultation, customers routinely spend up to 70% more.

virtual product recommendations

Virtual shopping even has an impact on foot traffic: 1 in 3 customers go in-store after interacting with a sales associate online.

“1 in 3 customers go in-store after interacting with a sales associate online.”

2. Keep business booming—no matter where store teams are

With virtual shopping, retailers are able to keep teams selling whether they are working from store, home, or head office. Many retailers have seen incredible success using virtual shopping platforms from home. They can provide the tools and resources their associates need to give customers the confidence to buy when brick-and-mortar locations are closed.

During the lockdown in the U.S. in early 2020, Dawn Dobras, CEO of Credo Beauty commented: “If you had told me six weeks ago that our business would be doing this well, I’m not sure I would have believed it. Not only are we seeing off-the-chart results with virtual selling through Hero, but we’ve been able to keep all our employees on staff, something that we’re very proud of as a values-driven company.”

“We’ve been able to keep all our employees on staff.”

Best of all, no matter where associates are working from—in-store, HQ, or from home—store teams get the credit for the sale regardless of where the final transaction takes place.

store associate helping with virtual shopping

3. Online customers love a curated shopping experience

With some stores operating at reduced capacity, customers are craving a curated shopping experience. And the results couldn’t be clearer: customers rate their virtual shopping experience with our partners 4.8 out of 5 stars on average.

Gosha Khuchua, CMO, The Detox Market, had this to say about his experience with virtual shopping: “Having our retail associates manage customer interactions both digitally and in-person with tools like Hero is something we’d been dreaming about but hadn’t had the bandwidth to execute on until recently. Everyone—customers and associates—has been saying to me, ‘we hope this stays.’”

4. Shoppers become lifetime customers 

With built-in clienteling, store teams can text and email with shoppers to share new product releases and to notify customers when a product is back in stock—growing loyalty and customer lifetime value long after the first transaction.

Brands across industries are feeling this impact. Shoppers spend up to 23% more and are 85% more likely to make a second transaction, demonstrating the value of 1-on-1 personalized conversations.

5. Associates become brand ambassadors. 

Last but certainly not least is the power of video in virtual shopping.

Tapping into the seismic growth of stories as the world’s favorite way to consume authentic video content on social platforms like Instagram, Facebook, and Snapchat—shoppers can now watch and buy from stories created by associates in-store as they shop online.

It’s no secret video has exploded under a rapidly changing retail landscape. A report by Bloomberg estimates a staggering 20% of all online shopping in China will be done through video by 2022, while WWD cited the success brands like Credo Beauty have seen with two-way video calling.

“20% of all online shopping in China will be done through video by 2022.”

The feature gives a community of thousands of store associates in 30 countries the tools to create shoppable videos that showcase their favorite items while telling product stories in a new and engaging way, transforming them from associates into brand influencers. Think less clerk and more Kardashian.

How to add virtual shopping to your Shopify website

Adding Hero to a Shopify or Shopify Plus online store is plug and play, with no coding required. At setup, brands are able to select their store locations and invite team members to begin using the Hero app for iOS and Android via a unique invite code. Once installed, they’ll be able to access performance metrics in real-time as stores and shoppers begin connecting by text, chat, and video.

Want to add virtual shopping to your store?

Hero makes it easy to bring your in-store experience online.

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