I have been seeing a lot of announcements about virtual showrooms, events, seminars and educational opportunities since the start of the pandemic. And the tech companies have been getting into the game, too, especially since the Home Furnishings Assn.’s Retailer Resource Center at the upcoming Las Vegas Market has gone virtual.
As these companies have been finding innovative ways to continue to communicate successfully with customers and to drive revenue during this challenging period, I’m finding some of the tips and tricks that could be helpful to others as well.
Companies such as ProfitSystems and others are offering virtual booth tours to those planning to attend the Las Vegas Market and others. Interested companies can sign up for demos to walk through how the technology works and how it can help them to improve their bottom line. Companies that participate can even receive a free gift similar to what occurs during an in-person market.
With more people shopping online, financing options have become more important. Many of the companies normally at the Retailer Resource Center offer easy options for customers to apply for credit either online or via text. Another area that is gaining traction is the ability to extend online customers the option to set up a payment plan similar to those offered in store.
Also, many brick-and-mortar companies have seen their e-commerce earnings double during the pandemic, creating a need for a much more robust virtual presence.
Experts recommend that a company’s website easily answer any questions such as pricing, dimensions, lead times and inventory availability. No question: If consumers can’t find the information they are looking for, they will quickly move on.
Online chat also has gained popularity during the pandemic, but it’s important to adequately staff the chat function during peak hours, say between 6 p.m. and midnight. Even though many people are working from home, they still tend to save their online shopping time for later in the evening, especially if they are making a larger purchase such as furniture.
For retailers, one of the ways to add value to the chat function or an online meeting is to offer personalized shopping and design assistance. This makes it easier for customers to connect with a knowledgeable salesperson who can help them in their consideration and decision-making process.
Setting appointments is another concept that has increased in popularity and usefulness during the pandemic. Ethan Allen, for example, says its make-an-appointment feature, which includes both virtual and in-person appointments, has increased significantly and continues to be strong even after stores re-opened.
Companies — manufacturers, retailers, suppliers and technology providers all — have learned to adapt really quickly during the pandemic. Going forward, they should take that newfound flexibility and be just as creative in serving consumers’ ever-changing shopping needs.