REDWOOD CITY, Calif. — About two weeks ago, Bobby Watson, co-owner of Hoot Judkins furniture store here took a call from a consumer interested in a bookcase she had seen on the retailer’s website.
Watson looked right into her eyes and made the sale.
“The top right of Hoot Judkins’ homepage and product pages feature a “Live video chat with us” button Web visitors can push to start a video call with a salesperson in the showroom.”
“Then she proceeded to buy one (online),” he said, a $450 ticket, plus a hefty delivery charge. “But she was as happy as a clam because she didn’t have to drive down and make the choice herself.”Now to fill in the blanks: The call was actually via a new online video chat feature that connected Watson with his customer face-to-face. She lived nearly two hours away from the San Francisco Bay-area store, but through the power of video chat and his smartphone, Watson was able to see her, walk her through the store and show her the features of the very bookcase she had been evaluating online. He talked to her about the quality score, and compared it to other styles she was considering.
Watson and Hoot Judkins have been testing the video chat technology from San Francisco-based VideoEngager, a roughly two-year-old company that’s already made inroads into other industries, including auto dealerships and jewelry stores, but is brand new to furniture.
Bobby Watson, co-owner of Hoot Judkins in Redwood City, Calif., video chats with a Furniture/Today reporter to demonstrate the new technology from VideoEngager.
“The VideoEngager technology feeds the retailer details about the product the consumer is focusing on when she initiates the video call so the retailers is prepared to answer questions and offer demonstrations.”
VideoEngager “allows consumers browsing a merchant’s website to instantly launch a live video call to sale representative on the floor,” said Mike Robinson, chief commercial officer for the company.
The salesperson, in turn, can start building that face-to-face relationship and use the camera on a smartphone or tablet to show merchandise. The technology also enables the retailer to flip calls to a computer screen, where it can continue the call while screen sharing, should the salesperson need to go through custom or finance options, for instance
“That consumer is at home in her slippers. (She) was not planning to visit your store today,” Robinson said. “She was going to cruise your website and five competitors.
“But when she got to your website, you reached out through the Internet and pulled her into your store for a video visit. It’s exactly like somebody just walked into the store, except you’re doing it over video call with someone browsing your site.”
The video chat is a simple-to-install widget on a retailer’s website, Robinson said. Stores can deploy it as a button that shows up somewhere in the retailer’s banner at the top of the homepage with “Video chat now,” or any other message the company wants to convey. The button also can show up on every product page, perhaps with a “See this live now” message.
And just like with other Web chat technology, VideoEngager enables the retailer to indicate whether or not the store is open for chat. When it’s not, it can gather customer information, if the visitor is willing, as well as schedule a chat for another time.
After the call, VideoEngager can push information into customer relations management systems if the retailer is using one. Otherwise, it can send an email to the sales manager or salespeople with key information about what the customer was looking at, for how long and who took the call.
The company first introduced the tool to the furniture industry with a visit to the Las Vegas Market in January and found customers immediately “because everybody gets it,” Robinson said.
“If my sales reps can spend less time sitting around waiting for somebody to come in and more time face to face with the consumer, hallelujah,” he said.
“And if I can claw some market share back from pure online retailers because people are on my websites and I give them something better, that’s great too.”
The cost to a retailer for an initial package is $100 per month. That includes unlimited video calls and what Robinson called “one seat,” or one sales representative set up to take the calls. Additional reps can be added for $50 a head, and the company will offer discounts for stores looking to set up more than just a handful of salespeople, Robinson said.
At Hoot Judkins, known for its offering of “real wood” and eco-friendly furnishings, Watson thought the new video chat would lead to a lot of calls from young consumers, and he was a little concerned, “because young people don’t always spend a lot on furniture,” he said.
Instead, most of the calls have been from consumers in their 30s to 50s, he said. The store is averaging about 3-4 video calls a day without advertising beyond the website banner button.
“It’s not a whole lot different than a telephone call. However, it’s our ability to show them something from the website (in the store) that’s so much better,” Watson said, adding that even consumers on the calls are commenting about how cool the technology is.
Owned by Watson and his sister Victoria Marchant, Hoot Judkins is e-commerce enabled, but Watson said his focus has always been on driving traffic to the store, and “without a doubt,” the video chat is driving sales and traffic, he said.
“A couple of customers did call and then proceed to buy online, but more people come into the stores after having had a call,” he said.
Robinson said four retailers have deployed VideoEngager since January and about eight more are in the pipeline and will launch soon.
Hoot Judkins has been using VideoEngager on a free trial basis, but Watson said it wouldn’t be a high cost investment for the store, anyway, noting “it’s all cloud-based, and I didn’t have to go out and buy a lot of equipment.”
“It’s beneficial to any retailer,” he said. “The ability to add a new form of engagement that is much more personal than a telephone call is really what it boils down to.”
Source: Furniture Today