Prior to the second lockdown when stores were still open, our survey of 2,000 UK consumers showed a clear opportunity for every type of retailer to better engage between 11% to 34% of their Millennial and GenZ customer base and 5% to 31% of Baby Boomers through offering virtual services.
Now that stores have been forced to close yet again, we predict that these numbers will be even higher.
What are virtual appointments?
Where do consumers want virtual appointments
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 UK consumers showed that:
- Half (54%) of consumers wanted to receive virtual service from essential retailers: grocery stores, banks and pharmacies. 48% by phone and 15% by video.
- A third (31%) of consumers wanted to receive virtual service from non-essential retailers: grocery stores, banks and pharmacies. 16% by phone and 12% by video.
Our graph to the right shows the different levels of interest in virtual service by type of retailer.
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 twice (113%) 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 personalised interactions happen more frequently online.
Why retailers should look to implement virtual appointments
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:
- 16% would be more likely to buy something online – suggesting that even when stores are open retailers can increase online sales by offering virtual appointments.
- 20% 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.
- 16% would be more likely to visit the retailers’ stores – – demonstrating that offering virtual services can help retailers to even drive more footfall to their stores.
- 20% would think better of the retailer and 17% 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.
- 24% would feel safer and happier and 20% 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 personalised 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.
Higher earning households are also more interested and more positively impact by the concept of brands offering virtual services. They were twice as likely to be converted to an online purchase and three time more likely to tell their friends about brands as a result of a retailer offering the option to schedule a fixed time to connect with an advisor by phone or video.
These insights demonstrate that, even when stores are open retailers could better engage and convert some of their higher value customers through offering virtual appointments online. All this also suggests that virtual appointments provides a powerful option to continue engaging with customers while stores are closed.
How do consumers like to use virtual appointments
In our USA consumer survey we asked which channels customers would be most likely to use to schedule a virtual or in-store appointment through and found that:
For appointment scheduling software:
- Consumers were most likely to schedule an appointment online (58%), followed by through the retailer’s app (56%) and via text message (55%). Other common channels included calling a store (50%), booking via a central app (47%), and through the call center (43%).
- Half of customers (55%) said they were willing to give their mobile number purely to receive updates about their appointment. We found it interesting that this was equal to the 54% that said they would provide their email address for the same reason (our assumption had been that consumers would be more willing to provide email address over phone number).
- GenZ and Millennial consumers are noticeably more likely to schedule an appointment via all different channels than Baby Boomers. This difference is most noticeable when looking at younger consumers’ eagerness to use apps and QR codes compared to Baby Boomers.
- Higher household income groups are noticeably more interested in scheduling appointments across all methods. 66% are also willing to provide their phone number purely to receive text message updates about their appointment, and 67% are willing to provide their mobile number to receive marketing messages.
Promoting your virtual appointment booking offering
In order to drive traffic to your virtual appointment booking offering, it’s vital that you actively promote it across channels. Here are some ways to do so:
- On your website in pop ups
- On your Store Locator page
- On an individual landing page
- Across social media
- On closed store signs
- On posters or window displays