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This is an English translation of an original article in French. Link to the original article: Relation Client Mag - relationclientmag.fr : Le conseil en vidéoconférence, nouvelle arme du commerce phygital ? here.

The Covid-19 crisis has caused the closure of many businesses all over the world. To maintain their operations, many brands are now trying out remote pre-sales activities via videoconferencing, investing in better online experiences.

For a long time, interpersonal video interactions have been confined to professional interactions. But during this worldwide lockdown, the use of video apps and tools has skyrocketed: virtual drinks, house parties, keeping in touch with distant relatives, etc.

And although medical video consultations were already being covered by France’s national health service (Sécurité Sociale) since September 2018, these have seen their numbers multiplied by 100 in  just a few weeks.

The same thing has happened in the field of commerce. Although the lockdown has favoured the growth of online commerce, there are many brands that cannot easily do without human advice. Some companies are therefore offering video or telephone conversation services to remotely support the sales of their products or services. This trend can be illustrated by two scenarios: a client who wants to choose cosmetics or update their wardrobe without spending ages searching online can now call upon a remote personal adviser. 

Since the lockdown, brands such as Tata Harper and Credo have been offering online video (or telephone) appointments with a beauty consultant. This has many advantages: direct interaction with the consultant strengthens the feeling of being close to the brand, and the use of video helps the client to better visualise the products. Clients who use this service convert their shopping basket 15 to 20 times more often than other visitors.

For the last few years, the automotive sector has been facing a gradual decline in the number of visits to dealerships. In the UK, Renault is currently experimenting with a 100% online sales journey: a “Renault guru” shows cars to customers using a smartphone. For an end-to-end purchasing experience, Renault also provides an online configurator and a remote financing service. At each stage of their experience, the consumer has a human contact who can answer their questions. This sales model, which has already been partially tried by Nissan in the past, could continue and even expand. 

PROMOTING HUMAN CONTACT, EVEN REMOTELY

With the unprecedented situations that we have just been through, the use of interpersonal video is now more widespread than ever before. This has highlighted the commercial opportunities brought by remote human consultancy (video or audio) for a B2C customer base. And, without even suggesting that the social distancing requirements might continue in the long term, a purchasing experience somewhere between in-store sales/advisory services and nearly-autonomous online purchasing has its part to play in a phygital strategy. It is just an extension of the e-commerce chat offering where a bond of trust with the salesperson is required. Sales people exist, the technical solutions have been tried and tested, and the entry cost is low. This approach could be of interest to several sectors: car sales, new real estate developments, intellectual services in the legal or financial sectors, etc. 

Whilst initiatives for fully virtual shops are being developed, a sales model focused on face-to-face human interaction, but partially liberated from physical constraints seems like an option that should be examined seriously. It combines health benefits with environmental and economic advantages!

About the author : Vincent Placer is a partner at Comdata Consulting Practice.

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