While retail stores have largely re-opened in the US, the Coronavirus pandemic will continue to influence consumers' decisions on when to leave their homes and for what reason. However, your customers are still likely in need of your support and guidance when making purchase decisions - in fact, it may be just the best incentive to get them to come 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 help customers feel safe while still receiving 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 opportunities for new customers to share their info. By offering an online scheduling tool, 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 your customers based on specific kinds of services that they may want to make an appointment for. Whether it's to find more products to go with their original purchase or a new wardrobe for an upcoming season, you can be more targeted with 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 to schedule a time with your team. However, if you do have a store, you may notice a higher conversion rate and larger AOV among customers who opt into a face-to-face meeting. Store visits that are booked ahead of time help you control the flow of traffic at the store, give visitors an opportunity to communicate their specific needs and interests ahead of time, and likely also give them peace of mind that the store won't be overcrowded.
If you do operate both online and offine, enabling customers to choose between these two options will only help to increase the number of participants. Either way, a big part of seeing success is how you actually market your appointment services. With that in mind, here are some top examples from across retail of brands offering appointments:
Examples of Retailers Offering Appointments
Leap (for Hatch)
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 was included in the appointment scheduling widget so that customers could prepare for the call with the items they were most interested in reviewing over their virtual meeting. By offering virtual appointments, Leap made sure that their target audience of expecting mothers could remain safe and indoors while still participating in their short-term 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 informs customers that 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, athleticwear brand Rhone also found that their customers were still eager to connect with a store associate through their virtual concierge program to better understand the make and benefits of Rhone's apparel. Rhone chose to include a questionnaire with their booking system so that customers could indicate ahead of time what their goals were for the call. The more context your team can have and the more you can assure customers that 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 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 their advantage and stay connected to their customers.
With over thirty stores in the US, beauty retailer SpaceNK also appreciates 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 what their needs are. Showing this variety gives customers more confidence around your ability to solve their needs and also informs them of how long they will need to dedicate - if someone is just trying to replace one product for example, its good they know it will only take up to 15 minutes to do so.
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 journey during the appointment, but also that they have the resources to continue the conversation after the appointment as well.
How to Use Endear to Enhance the Customer's Booking Experience
As a messaging platform for retail salespeople, Endear can be a valuable complement to your online booking experience. Keep in mind that once a customer books an appointment, it's up to you to use this opportunity to your advantage. That means making sure that every step of her 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 message to them through an app like Endear. Reaching out directly about the appointment will likely increase the customer's sense of accountability and also encourage her to correspond directly if she needs to make changes or updates rather than canceling altogether.
To educate the team
When you are first launching appointments, it is important to dedicate time to improving the process and the experience. With Endear's notes & tasks, 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 reason 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 a limited-time promotion, or even simply a thank-you note and information about the brand. While customers who book appointments typically have high purchase intent, leaving the final purchase of where and what to buy up to the customer is also a great way to make sure they have a positive experience. With Endear, you'll also 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 - whether those appointments will eventually be face-to-face or over video, there are many advantages to offering customers a way to book an appointment on their own as opposed to contacting your business to schedule a time. The key benefit to the customer is he or she can book her appointment at any time, instead of having to rely on getting in touch during business hours or waiting on a reply. Scheduling apps will also take care of sending confirmation messages and will inform your team of when they have meetings booked, ensuring no one double-books a time.
As you consider which booking system to use, keep in mind that you'll want to find an option that works with your current CRM or point-of-sale system, so that when a customer enters her information, she is being looped into other marketing channels that will take into account how and when she entered into your funnel.
- 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 you with the flexiblity 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, 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 that offering appointments is only step 1. Once you've set up the method of booking appointments, you also need to promote this service to customers across all your marketing channels, including your salespeople. Learn more about how you can rely on your sales team to grow your revenue here.