Virtual appointments allow retailers to offer the same high quality level of service without requiring customers and staff to be at a store, and as a result, the service has become incredibly popular during Covid-19.
During the lockdown period, Qudini helped a number of retailers to deliver virtual services that enabled their customers to pre-book time to connect with an advisor by phone and video or to attend digital events held by brands online, including at electronics manufacturer and retailer Samsung, luxury heated tobacco retailer IQOS, and well-known retail bank NatWest.
In both April 2020 and October 2020 Qudini surveyed 2,000 US consumers to understand their opinions around virtual services before and during the pandemic. This report presents some of our key findings.
April 2020 survey of 2,000 consumers about virtual appointments
When asking consumers about their interest in virtual services from different types of retailers at the start of the April 2020 lockdown our first survey to 2,000 US consumers showed that:
- 61% of consumers wanted to receive virtual service from essential retailers: grocery stores, banks and pharmacies.
- A third (32%) of consumers wanted to receive virtual service from non-essential retailers: grocery stores, banks and pharmacies.
Across all types of retailers younger generations were slightly more likely to want virtual service by phone than Baby Boomers. However, they were more than three times as likely to want video service from brands.
The avid interest in virtual service from these younger demographics also suggests this interest extends beyond the Coronavirus outbreak and that Covid-19 could act as a catalyst for a new omni-channel world where personalized interactions happen more frequently online.
October 2020 survey of 2,000 consumers about virtual appointments
In October 2020, with stores reopened we wanted to understand if consumers were still as interested in being able to access virtual service from retailers as they were during lockdown. We found that:
46% of survey respondents said they would appreciate the option of being able to schedule a virtual appointment with a retail advisor by phone or video, showing a strong demand for remote service.
Millennial and GenX consumers were the most likely to want virtual services from retailers with 50% claiming it would be useful, followed by 44% of GenZ, then 36% of Baby Boomers. There is a clear correlation between younger age groups and much greater interest in accessing virtual service by phone or video. This suggests that the ability to access virtual service from brands could be a general modern requirement that consumers have wanted outside of the pandemic and that Covid-19 will be a catalyst for.
There is also a clear correlation between higher household income groups and greater interest in virtual service from stores, suggesting that retailers who offer virtual service could improve sales amongst their most valuable customer groups.
There is also a strong demand for virtual services by both genders.
Consumer demand across different store types
The greatest interest comes from banks/building societies, pharmacies, phone stores, travel agencies, opticians/eyewear stores, real estate agencies, car dealerships and electronics stores.
This was followed by makeup/skincare stores, grocery stores, jewelry stores, luxury fashion and product stores, pet stores and health food stores.
The benefits of virtual services according to consumers
When asked what the benefit of a retailer offering virtual services would be to them (prior to November lockdown measures) 72% of Millennial and GenZ consumers stated at least one benefit if a retailer offered them this service, including that:
- 44% would be more likely to buy something online and 49% would be more likely to visit the retailer’s website again – suggesting that even when stores are open retailers can increase online sales by offering virtual appointments.
- 46% would be more likely to speak with the retailer in the first place – showing that offering virtual service will help to acquire customers and generate sales with customers who might otherwise might engage.
- 44% would be more likely to visit the retailers’ stores and 40% would be more likely to buy something in store – demonstrating that offering virtual services can help retailers to even drive more footfall to their stores.
- 48% would think better of the retailer and 42% would be more likely to choose the retailer over competitors – demonstrating that offering virtual services as part of their entire omni-channel offering can help brands to improve their customer relationships, brand relevance and competitive edge.
- 46% would be more likely to tell their friends about the retailer – showing that retailers can improve customer advocacy around their brand by offering customers new channels to receive personalized service within.
Virtual services appears to have double the positive impact on younger generations over Baby Boomers. Millennial and GenZ customers are twice as likely to feel safer and happier, to think better of the retailer, to speak with the retailer in the first place and to visit the retailers’ stores. However, they are 3 times more likely to buy something online and to tell their friends about the retailer as a result of the ability to schedule virtual services with brands.
This greater interest in virtual services from younger generations, even at a time when stores were open, suggests again that these types of services will remain after the pandemic and that we are entering a new age of omni-channel retailing that Covid-19 has a been a catalyst for.
Examples of leading retailers that offered virtual services during Covid-19
Samsung enable its customers to connect with in-store Samsung support advisors for mobile device advice and support issues by enabling them to schedule an appointment from the Samsung website.
Another great example was the retail bank, NatWest, that used Qudini’s Appointment Booking Software to enable customers to schedule video banking appointments with personal bankers and mortgage advisors to take place from the comfort of their own homes.
In addition, they use the Qudini Online Event Booking Platform to enable customers to discover and book onto their Digital Lessons to learn how to use NatWest’s online banking and mobile app banking.
Another example was luxury department store retailer, Brown Thomas, which allowed customers to book virtual beauty and personal shopping appointments, by which customers can use Qudini to book a slot and connect with an in-store beauty consultant or personal advisor online.
Creating effective signage for your virtual services
To create a clear and efficient customer journey for virtual services, it’s vital that retailers create effective and easy to understand signage.
To help our clients to create clear signage for their virtual appointment booking offering, we’ve pulled together a guide.