U.K.-based Made.com is enabling live chatting capabilities between its online customers and staff in its physical showrooms staff using technology from live-chat company Hero, the company announced at the 2017 Retail Business Technology Expo, Computer Weekly reports.
While the retailer only sells online, it has physical showrooms to help guide purchasing decisions. The live-chat feature will put customers mulling a purchase directly in contact with showroom staff who have the knowledge needed to answer any questions customers may have about products.
Made.com on Friday also announced the launch of a new iOS app available on the App Store, enabled by software-as-a-service firm Poq. In a company press release, Made.com said that 60% of its online traffic comes from mobile devices.
More retailers are starting to explore the concept of store-as-showroom as a possible future direction for their brick-and-mortar stores, and Made.com already is there — using showrooms as a compliment to the e-commerce provider's online sales efforts.
A lot of retailers and brands are also starting to explore ways of better exploiting chat functionality, with some of them choosing to develop chatbots to interface with their customers on various messaging platforms. Made.com is trying to go one better by supporting live chats — not with automated bots or call center employees, but with the employees who actually work in the showrooms and have the skill and experience to offer customers valuable insights.
Overall, it seems like a nice marriage of two different modalities — or possibly three, if the customer and/or the showroom employee are both on mobile — enabling an omnichannel experience for customers. Although, in the retailer's case, it isn't using omnichannel strategy to help it make a sale at a brick-and-mortar outlet. It is instead leveraging its brick-and-mortar retail assets to help close online sales. Despite Made.com's online-first approach, there is no reason brick-and-mortar retailers who employ experienced salespeople in-store can't try to leverage those salespeople in this sort of way.
This effort also makes one wonder if the chatbot trend, in which customers interact with artificial intelligence-based bots before likely getting handed off to a live retailer employee, could give way to live chatting, in which potentially more meaningful people-to-people interactions could be established from the start via live chat.
As an aside, the development of Made.com's iOS app also is an interesting development. Given that Made.com now sees over half of its traffic from mobile devices, it's a little bit of a wonder the company didn't get around to rolling out a native app sooner.