While retail stores have largely re-opened in the US, the coronavirus pandemic will continue to influence consumers' decisions on when and why to leave their homes. But one thing hasn't changed: your customers still want your associates' guidance and experience when making a purchase. In fact, this support may just be the best incentive to get them to pay you a visit.
With all of that in mind, it's important to prioritize your customers' safety and health, which is why many retailers have rolled out appointments for customers - both virtual and in-person. Appointments are a great way to help customers feel safe while also delivering personal, 1-1 attention. Appointments are a win for everyone because booking an appointment also serves as a strong indication that a customer is eager to buy.
Benefits of Appointment Booking
Appointment-booking targets one of the biggest areas of e-commerce in need of improvement: traffic conversion. 98% of e-commerce traffic goes un-captured, so it's important to create info-capturing opportunities for new customers to opt-in. By offering an online scheduling tool, for example, you'll be able to turn first-time visitors into repeat traffic and move potential customers further down your marketing funnel toward their first transaction. Appointments are also a great service to win back previous customers. Once a customer has already purchased, you should have the right data (such as shopping history and geography) to segment them based on the kind of appointment they may want. Whether it's to find more products to go with their original purchase, or a new wardrobe for the upcoming season, you can better target your messaging and therefore increase the likelihood that this audience books an appointment.
Virtual Appointments vs. In-store Appointments
Appointments are valuable whether you're hosting them in-person at your store, or over virtual channels like Zoom or Facetime. The benefit of virtual appointments is that you can encourage any type of web visitor, near or far, to schedule some time with your team. If you do have a store, however, you may notice a higher conversion rate and larger AOV among customers who opt in to a face-to-face meeting. Plus, store visits booked ahead of time help you control the flow of traffic at the store, giving visitors an opportunity to communicate their specific needs and interests ahead of time, and offer peace of mind that the store won't be overcrowded.
If you do operate both online and offline, enabling customers to choose between these two options will only increase the number of participants. Either way, a biggest part of seeing success with appointments is how you actually market them. Here are some top examples from across retail of brands offering appointments:
Examples of Retailers Offering Appointments
Hatch (Powered by Leap)
Retail as a service platform, Leap, offered virtual appointments along with Lookbooks through Endear as part of their promotion for Hatch's sample sale in Chicago. A lookbook of everything available at the pop-up was included in the appointment scheduling widget so customers could prepare to discuss the items they were most interested in prior to their virtual meeting. By offering virtual appointments, the brand made sure their target audience of expecting mothers could remain safe and indoors while still participating in their limited-time sale.
When you're a brand focused on size-inclusivity like Universal Standard, it's important that your customers always have a way to tap into your expertise on what and how to wear certain items. That's why Universal Standard has enabled their audience to book appointments both virtually and at their physical retail stores. As indicated on their site, their stores are indeed only available to shoppers who are booking an appointment, not walk-ins. Explaining this rule on their site lets customers know they will have near-complete privacy during their appointment, as well as the full attention of the stylist they are working with.
When COVID forced stores to close, athletic-wear brand, Rhone, found their customers were still eager to connect with a store associate through their virtual concierge program in order to better understand the material and benefits of Rhone's apparel. Rhone chose to include a questionnaire with their booking system so customers could indicate ahead of time what their goals were for the appointment. The more context your team can have prior to the call, and the more you can assure customers their appointment will be a productive one, the more likely you are to see positive results. You can learn more about how Rhone built out their program through our recent case study.
Cuyana has included both virtual and in-store appointments among a whole host of other COVID-friendly shopping services like curbside pickup and same-day delivery. With 8 stores across the country, it's important for Cuyana and other similarly-sized brands to leverage their physical retail footprint to stay connected to their customers.
With over thirty stores in the US, beauty retailer SpaceNK understands that not every customer may want to interact in-person, even if they live nearby. As a result, the company has offered customers the opportunity to book different kinds of virtual appointments based on their needs. Offering this variety gives customers more confidence around the brand's ability to address their needs and also informs how long they will need to dedicate to each appointment: if someone is just trying to make a return, for example, its helpful to know it will only take a 15 minute time slot.
Appointments can be a great fit for any retail category across apparel, accessories, beauty, and homegoods. Your goal should be to ensure that your sales team is well-equipped not only to lead customers through the right appointment for their needs, but also that they have the resources to continue the conversation after the appointment as well.
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How to Use Endear to Enhance the Customer's Booking Experience
As the first and only messaging platform for retail salespeople, Endear is a valuable complement to any brand's online booking experience. Keep in mind that once a customer books an appointment, it's up to you to make the most of this opportunity. That means making sure every step of their appointment experience reinforces your brand value and increases customer loyalty. Here are a few critical moments of the appointment journey where Endear can play a role:
To Confirm The Booking
Across industries, "no show" rates can vary between 10-15% but that number can fall dramatically if you are proactively sending a confirmation text or email. While most booking apps will send an automated message, you can reinforce your customer's commitment to the appointment by sending a personalized confirmation or reminder message through an app like Endear. Reaching out personally will likely increase the customer's accountability and also encourage them to correspond directly if they needs to make changes or updates rather than canceling altogether.
To Educate The Team
When first launching appointments, it is important to dedicate time to improving the process and the experience. With Endear's notes and tasks feature, your team can learn from one another about strategies and tactics they used when working with a specific customer that they found effective (or not). These notes are also a great way to keep track of how specific appointments went, what your team learned about a customer, and what the best next move might be.
To Follow Up
Customers may not always be ready to make a purchase during the appointment, and with the right follow-up practices in place, there is no need to force anything. Instead, you can use Endear to send a follow-up message that includes a recap of the items the customer considered, a reminder of any limited-time promotions, or even simply a thank-you note and information about the brand. While customers who book appointments typically have higher purchase intent, letting the customer feel no pressure to make the final purchase decisions is a great way to make sure they have a positive experience. Either way, with Endear, you'll still find out if the customer purchased as a result of your interaction.
Examples of Appointment Software
Appointment booking software enables customers to easily schedule appointments through your website. Regardless of appointment type, there are numerous benefits to offering customers a way to book an appointment on their own as opposed to calling your store to schedule a time. The key benefit being that customers can book outside of your operating hours. Scheduling apps will also take care of sending confirmation messages, informing your team of when they have new appointments booked, and making sure no one double-books a time.
As you consider which booking system to use, keep in mind you'll want to find an option that works with your current CRM or point-of-sale system, so when a customer enters their information, they are being looped into other marketing channels for re-targeting.
- Calendly: Calendly is a very straightforward booking tool, used by individuals and businesses alike. They offer a free version of the app so it can be a great option if you're just starting out.
- Sesami: Sesami is best known for working particularly well with Shopify sites. If you're built on Shopify, it is likely a good fit.
- Acuity: If you're dealing with multiple store locations, Acuity will provide the flexibility and customization you need to make sure everything stays organized and looks on-brand.
- WaitWhile: WaitWhile is a booking platform as well as a line management tool, so if you are worried about your store overcrowding or are hosting an event of some sort, you may want to consider this solution.
- Appointedd: Appointedd is a more advanced platform that offers tons of integrations and its own API - likely best if you're ready to scale up.
But don't forget: offering appointments is only step one. Once you've set up the method of booking appointments, you'll also need to promote the service to customers across all your marketing channels, including website, social media, and directly through your salespeople. Learn more about how you can more intelligently rely on your sales team to grow your brand's revenue here.