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Made.com trialling real-time chat for customer advice

Online retailer Made.com has partnered with Hero so showroom staff can chat live with online shoppers to help with queries and shopping decisions

Made.com has partnered with real-time live-chat firm Hero to implement live-chat for its showroom staff so they can assist online customers.

The retailer, which has showrooms to help purchasing decisions but operates only online, has introduced real-time opportunities for its consumers to chat with staff in showrooms who have the knowledge needed to answer any questions customers may have about products.

This is especially useful for consumers who are unable to make it to a showroom but who want information regarding a product that will influence their purchase, Rebecca Ruddle, head of showrooms at Made.com, told the 2017 Retail Business Technology Expo.

“My teams in the showrooms are currently the only people in the company who have that knowledge. That’s why they’re the best people to go for it,” she said. “All of the questions people are asking in the showrooms are the same as we’re getting online.”

As consumers are moving more towards online purchases through mobile and web, physical retail locations are increasingly becoming “showrooms” where consumers try products before buying them online.

As Made.com only sells products online, its showrooms are “destination stores” that people visit specifically to try out products as part of an “experience”.

Made.com has introduced “conversational shopping” to assist online shopping and help drive sales conversions, especially as the products Made.com sells are the sort of products consumers want to be sure about before buying.

Many of the questions asked through the live-chat feature surround a product’s size, colour or material texture, and allowing showroom staff to answer these questions stretches beyond the traditional text and photo information consumers are fed through a webpage.

Store associates can act as “personal shoppers” for online customers, and many of the Q&A sessions only last up to five minutes since the consumers usually have very specific queries.

“The feedback they’re getting in real time from the customers has been really positive,” said Ruddle.

Heroic results

Since the implementation of the Hero application, Made.com’s average order value has increase by 20% and the showroom assistants are more productive.

When they have free time in a store, which can happen at various points during weekdays, showroom assistants mark themselves as available for chatting so customers looking at products on the website can contact them directly through chat or video.

If staff are chatting with customers through WhatsApp or video-chat on the Hero app, they can also tie-in discounts by giving the customers a special deal during the conversation – staff will be using the native Hero application and customers will be conversing using the application they began the interaction with.

Consumers become more empathetic once they realise they are chatting to a real person, often using emojis or letting typos slide.

The aim is to make the online shopping experience more conversational and immersive. “Nobody really likes to be sold to or treated like a number, especially when they’re making an emotional purchase,” said Ruddle.

There has been a 15.9% increase in conversation for consumers that are live-chatting while shopping.

When store staff are given shop floor technology to use, they can often become begrudging of helping consumers as they are then not given credit for the sales they generate.

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However, as showroom staff at Made.com have never been responsible for transactions, this is not necessarily the case, and interactions between the store staff and consumers can be tracked right up until purchase.

There has been an increase in sales in the two regions of the showrooms where the trial is taking place. “The whole idea of the trial and what we’re doing with Hero is to improve the business case so we can increase the amount of associates on the app,” said Ruddle.

Not allowing purchases through traditional point-of-sales systems in showrooms cuts out the “expensive warehouses, agents and retail shops” for Made.com, allowing them to ensure they are quick to market and can release two new collections on their brand every week.

“We do this by having the best in-class brand proposition, keeping overheads low and focused on quality,” said Ruddle.

With 2,000 products live on the site across eight countries and 2.5 million unique monthly visitors, Made.com is using its showrooms along with the live-chat trial to link the online and offline journey for the consumers. It is also trying to focus on offering a more personalised customer experience so customers feel like “they are having a conversation rather than having a transaction”.

“We create an experience where customers can come in, create their own wishlist and go home to purchase online in their own leisure – there’s never a hard sell,” said Ruddle.

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