Open after hours—could video-powered retail result in 24/7 stores?

Whether it was your PC, your shopfloor lights, or even your brain, ‘switching off’ after a busy shift used to be a workday highlight

However, with the ongoing shift towards ‘always-on’ retail, many business leaders no longer have this option.

The ease of ecommerce has caused consumers to grow accustomed to buying goods from anywhere, at any time, on any device. In fact, 41% of the public now orders a product on their mobile every week. Meanwhile, sleep studies show that during 2021, 60% of us made an online purchase between 12am and 4am—a tucked-up-in-bed shopping experience not even a 24-hour off-licence can provide.

Previously, we might’ve put this behaviour down to the temporary effects of lockdown. But as almost three-quarters of Britons say ecommerce has now become their favourite way of shopping, it’s safe to say we’ll see a permanent shift in habits long after the pandemic ends. So, is there anything retail businesses can do to respond? Or instead, how can they adapt?

Merging online and in-person retail

We all know the benefits of online shopping over in-store: a bigger variety of products, no crowds or queues and convenient home delivery. But it still isn’t perfect. We can’t properly see or test the products for ourselves, and there are no friendly sales assistants on hand to offer us personalised advice. As for business leaders, while internet retail yields far more footfall, brick-and-mortar still generates stronger sales conversions. So, is there a way to combine the two approaches for a faultless, ‘phygital’ shopping experience?

Video-powered retail involves a customer using their home PC or smartphone to video-call an in-store expert, who can virtually walk them through the range of products on offer. Then, if the consumer likes what they see and hear, they can make the purchase right there on the call. Plus, video software often includes supporting features that can transform conversions, such as using data to match callers with the adviser best suited to their request or displaying information on past purchases to improve recommendations. It can even boost late-night sales, too.

Introducing 24/7 capabilities

Video retail, coupled with accurate data analytics, can help retailers to optimise and combine both their online and offline offerings, while offering greater flexibility for shoppers. For example, data analysis can inform a physical store’s optimal opening times – identifying an evening spike in footfall to recommend which days of the week shops should stay open late. Additionally, the same process to monitor web traffic can recommend which days and times during the week a store should dedicate itself to video retail.

For larger retailers, data analysis may further highlight the need to introduce 24/7 video support to serve surging numbers of small-hour shoppers, specifically through 24-hour sales operations aptly-named ‘dark stores’. A dark store is usually an out-of-town distribution centre or outlet dedicated to online shopping, filled with aisles of products and crews of shop assistants either picking and packing online orders, or chatting to video callers about the products they’re interested in.

Ribble Cycles, for example, has optimised their dark stores for v-commerce, fitting showrooms with bike plinths, lighting, sightlines, and spaces specially designed to look great on video and best show off their products to virtual consumers. Ribble’s approach has been more than justified by its results – with over a quarter of video callers making a purchase, customers spending 8x more than on a normal website, and an average call satisfaction rating of 4.7/5.

Reaching new markets

24/7 video retail doesn’t just cater for the growing market of late-night online shoppers, it also helps retail businesses to serve customer bases that were previously unreachable. International time differences have long hampered the process of selling to overseas customers. But an added benefit of staying open late in your home country is that you might stumble across peak shopping periods in other time zones, too.

Let’s say you’re selling a unique product not widely available in other countries. While international shoppers might’ve been interested in buying it, they might’ve also been put off by the fact they can’t see or try it out. However, with in-store experts still available for calls overnight, a retail assistant in 5am Hounslow can chat to a customer in 7pm Hawaii, demonstrate the product, answer any questions, and secure their order, all within a handful of minutes. In addition to increased revenue, 24/7 video-powered retail can open up your retail businesses to global shoppers, changing the perception of your brand from a local, independent retailer to a truly international powerhouse.

The impact of video retail can be seen all around us, with huge brands like HP, Sofology, The White Company, Pandora and more now using video technology to transform their everyday customer experience. A stellar example of this is the ‘M&S Live Expert’ service, a video retail experience that gives their customers an opportunity to explore products and ask questions as if they were in store, from the comfort of their own home. Providing great CX virtually has tangible benefits too – with a 35% conversion rate.

Whether video-powered retail will result in widespread 24/7 stores remain to be seen. But as we’ve already experienced, it serves the needs of modern customers perhaps better than anything before—and the business leaders that implement it soonest will be the first to benefit.

About the Author

Andre Hordagoda is Co-CEO & Co-Founder of Go Instore. Go Instore, an Emplifi company, connects online customers to product-specialised, in-store experts. We use HD live video for an immersive, data-driven experience that transforms cultural chaos and uncertainty into safe working environments for staff. Go Instore strengthens Emplifi’s omnichannel approach through our leading-edge video technology, giving brands the chance to meet customers wherever they are.

Featured image: ©Zapp2Photo