Many have wondered whether or not brick and mortar stores will be able to keep up the competition with e-commerce websites, and in the near future, their concerns may be answered in a way that many may not have expected. Certain technological developments are expected to help retailers make more lucrative use out of their physical facilities and human staff. If these developments pan out in the retailers’ favor, then it just might help them level the playing field with e-commerce websites like Ebay and Amazon.
The key advantage that brick and mortar establishments have always been able to leverage over the e-commerce giants is the interactivity between customers, salespeople and merchandise. Despite the convenience of being able to buy with a click, there are still many who appreciate the human element of in-store help; conversational commerce has been brought into play in the hopes of eliminating the need to choose.
Conversational commerce is an endeavor to give online customers the same privilege of a salesperson’s direct assistance that they would have when physically in the store, and it’s already made a strong impact in China.
In some Chinese retailers, the customer can use an application called WeChat to directly speak to the staff. While digitally browsing the store, the sales associate asks if the customer would like to know about any special promotions or new merchandise. Customers who are interested in getting more information may then simply trade contacts with the salesperson and continue getting personalized help.
Dozens of U.S. retailers have begun tasking their staff with running chat messages applications to provide assistance and brand-relevant advice to customers who patronize the store virtually. Time will tell just to what degree this trend could possibly reshape the public perception of brick-and-mortar shopping versus online catalog browsing.