“This is the next generation of in-home shopping,” says HFIA President Mary Frye. “Retailers will increase in-store sales by letting a new generation of consumers walk through their retail store from the comfort of the consumer’s own living room.”
According to Frye, visitors to participants’ Web sites can browse and ask questions while you walk your camera through the store and focus on product details. If your store doesn’t stock an item, you can share online catalogs. And if customers are trying to match another item, they can use a computer’s camera to show it to you.
The portal combines the accessibility of the Internet with the audio and video capabilities of television to bring a personal connection to online interaction. The face-to-face, interactive time with a sales consultant or designer is one of the most valuable parts of the program for retailers. Sales consultants and consumers can narrow down product selection, work with online room planners, go through online product catalogs, and do much of the legwork before coming into the store.
A single session can be shared with up to eight people for an instant online seminar. This feature can also be used to involve an absent decision-maker such as a spouse who wants to provide input on a purchase, leading to higher closing rate without having to coordinate a time when both parties can be in the store together. The sessions can also be recorded to play back later.
The interactive tool, which Frye describes as “business Skype,” shows customers much more than they can see on a typical Web site, thereby facilitating decision making, she adds. For lighting retailers specifically, it offers a tool to highlight certain nuances about a product that really needs to be seen in person to truly understand what you are getting, she says. By being able to see “the lighting treatment, the functionality of the lighting and new benefits,” all parties involved can make informed buying decisions whether or not they can be present at the showroom.