The online shopping surge is here to stay – now we have the proof!
Headlines for the UK’s in-store retailers have been pretty shocking in recent weeks:
- After 242 years, Debenhams’ 118 high street stores have shut for good.
- Over 300 Topshop, Topman, and Miss Selfridge stores will soon disappear.
- 214 Dorothy Perkins, Wallis and Burton shops owned by the Arcadia group are closing
These brands will not be disappearing, though – just the stores. Online-only retailers have purchased their websites, which will soon relaunch. Shoppers will be able to buy from Debenhams again, but will never be able to shop in any of their iconic stores ever again.
This news confirm something which has been long suspected, but not yet proven: the shift towards online shopping driven by the COVID-19 pandemic will be permanent.
Even if shoppers do want to return to a pre-pandemic retail experience in future, they won’t be able to. The stores which provided that experience simply no longer exist.
Why the online customer experience is so crucial
These rapid industry changes make this a critical time for online retailers.
Customers who would never previously shop online, or who would only make certain types of purchases online, are now buying everything online. For more and more people, there is no longer any other option.
Before COVID, online retailers could compete on price or selection, and let in-store retailers handle the complex sales which required a lot of information flow. Those information-hungry customers, who want to browse for inspiration or who don’t really know what they want, now have no stores to go to.
This has created a major opportunity for retailers who want to build customer loyalty and stand out against the competition. The industry’s new titans could soon be the online retailers who offer the best online customer experience. Meeting the needs of shoppers who previously preferred the in-store experience must be everyone’s new priority.
One important way to do that is to recreate one of the most important in-store experiences: browsing through a curated selection of recommended options.
And it just so happens that our Virtual Shopping Assistant, which is appearing on more and more websites, does exactly that.
Bring back browsing
When we designed our Virtual Shopping Assistant in Q4 of 2019, we had no idea that a global pandemic was around the corner, or that the retail landscape was about to utterly change forever.
But we did know that online shoppers often have questions which customer service agents are not always in the best position to answer, and that websites regularly miss out on sales opportunities as a result.
Now we find ourselves providing a service which is sorely needed by nearly every retailer worldwide: a A.I.-powered system which can recommend products, and enable meaningful product browsing. We think it gives customers the closest thing to an in-store experience as can be produced online.
If you are ready to take your online customer experience to the next level, and want to position your brand to become the retailer of choice for the new online customers flooding into the market, just get in touch. Our Virtual Shopping Assistant has no setup fees, no subscription costs, and comes with no obligations.
To arrange a demonstration, just contact firstname.lastname@example.org and we will be in touch!