As we see stores like Borders going bankrupt, and chains like CompUSA and Circuit City going all online, it’s pretty evident that the need for online solutions to real-life interactions in commerce is needed. Having worked for BackCountry.com in a past life, where we were giving chains like REI a run for their money with an online-only option, I’m all too familiar with this. The fact is, when you get rid of the store, margins are simply much higher than having a bunch of stores to manage.
The problem is there are still major benefits to having physical stores your customers can go to. You get to meet your customers personally. They have someone they can go to when they have a problem, and there’s nothing like a good ‘ol, in-person upsell. I think even that’s about to change though – in fact, if a new online Chat service for E-commerce has its way, turning your customer interactions into personal interactions will be much, much easier. That service gave me a demo a couple weeks ago – it’s called Needle, and I love it!
No ordinary Customer Service Chat
When I was at BackCountry.com we would use 3rd party chat services on our sites to engage customers and allow our customer service representatives to offer help on our websites where needed. It was a nice feature, and ahead of its time in that it detected when customers were on the site after a given amount of time.
Needle goes above and beyond just the traditional, detect-if-the-user-is-idle chat approach and instead uses social media to improve the experience. Each customer has the ability to associate a social networking account, and in doing so they get special benefits. Even more important, you, the business get to know your customers, know who they are, and know exactly who it is you are chatting with. This reduces spammers, and allows you to integrate with the viral nature of social networking sites like Facebook.
Needle takes full advantage of these social networking features, too. For instance, customer service reps can offer a special code, in real time, to the customer allowing them to share the code with their friends on sites like Facebook and Twitter. Their friends can also take advantage of the code. This social feature gives each chat session an average reach of 80 people for each person that chats in the system, expanding the potential of who can see what your customers are purchasing, and encouraging them to share those purchases with their friends.
Focus on true conversions
When Needle demoed me their product, they showed off, in real time, a session of a real customer service experience. In the experience, the customer was looking for a product, and the customer service agent was able to see this, in real time. The customer service agent could see what pages they were surfing, and where they were stalling. The software even goes to the extent of allowing the customer service agent to see each letter the customer is typing, as they are typing it! This enables the agent to see more of what the customer is thinking, and if the agent needs to change their sales pitch.
Even more importantly, each agent can pass on links to the customer. The agent will get notified the minute the customer clicks on the link, so the agent can know if the customer is actually following their advice or not. The system then tracks the purchase and links the purchase of each item back to the agent.
Crowdsourced Sales using Pincushion
We’ve all got products we’re passionate about – Apple, Microsoft, Google, Twitter, Facebook, you name it. Companies can set up their own “Pincushion” channels through Needle. By doing so their customers can sign up to help sell their products using the Needle chat platform.
Here’s a theoretical example. I am a passionate Apple fanatic and I know a lot about Apple products. I could probably attribute thousands of dollars of Apple product sales due to recommendations I’ve made to friends. Using Needle and Pincushion I could theoretically guide my friends through the sales process, and get a commission (or points in pincushion’s case) from the sale along the way.
Another example is when I took my brother-in-law and sister to Best Buy to get a new TV. They wanted my help in the purchase process because I knew a lot about big screen TVs and had purchased one recently. We spent a lot of time at the store, when, in theory, I could have been doing it all remotely online and taking a commission (or points) from the sale in the process. I ended up being the reason for the sale – not a Best Buy employee.
Here’s a more realistic example: employee rewards. Using pincushion as a community just for your employees you can encourage all your employees, or just your sales people to focus on conversions, and reward them for their success based on factors your brand has set. If the reward is based on sales, then the rewards come from sales. If the reward is based on click throughs, then the rewards come from click throughs. Then, you can offer rewards, such as free products and other merchandise as your employees show success selling your product. Employees then earn points based on incentives such as sales, satisfaction score, or other factors.
I’ve only mentioned the tip of the iceberg of Needle’s capabilities. If you’re an e-commerce or sales-focused website considering chat solutions you should really look at Needle. They are the first of their type in social, personalized, chat experiences for the customer.
Check out Needle at http://needle.com and register to get a demo.