COVID-19 has completely transformed consumer behavior. 85% of consumers have chosen a new business because of pandemic friendly services and 86% say they expect businesses to be even more convenient after COVID-19 restrictions lift. It’s not surprising that 80% of consumers would like local businesses to continue offering curbside pickup options.

Companies like Amazon, Doordash, and Netflix have also upped customers’ expectations for convenience. And retailers can meet these expectations with a few tips from the experts. In this session of the 2020 Total Retail Innovation Conference, Katie Osberg, Global Retail Partnerships Lead at Google, and Doug Regner, VP of Enterprise Sales at Podium, share four ways to power touchless retail with text messaging.

Read on for the takeaways from this discussion:

1. Grow location reviews with text messaging. 

89% of consumers begin their buying process with a search engine. Searches containing “near me” have grown 9x more popular since 2016. Google Map Pack chooses three businesses to highlight based on star ratings, number of reviews, and frequency of reviews. And 70% of clicks on a local search will happen in that map pack. In order to grow and optimize your online and local presence, you’ll need the help of reviews. 

Follow these steps to get started:

  • Check to see if you’re listed on Google Business Profile. If not, create a Google Business Profile account
  • Verify your business
  • Enter or update business information
  • Periodically add or update information, especially relating to COVID hours, pickup services, etc.
  • Generate reviews

The most effective way to increase reviews is to automate the ask via text message. Customers can complete a post-purchase review from their phone in a matter of minutes. The results? A better ranking in Google searches, higher conversion rates, and ultimately more revenue. 

Example: Podium customers that optimize their Google Business Profile listing see an 85% increase in clicks to calls, 67% increase in website clicks, and 52% increase in listing views. A large national retailer that implemented Podium review requests via text gathered 98,000 additional reviews in a matter of months. 

2. Convert website traffic with chat.

Whether you enable messaging through Google Business Profile, Apple Chat, or SMS, you need a chat solution for your website. 89% of consumers would like the option to message with a business. And businesses using a chat feature see an average inbound lead increase of 11x. 

Chat solutions can direct web traffic to conversations where FAQs are answered, customers are informed of new changes, and appointments and curbside pickups are scheduled. And with Podium Webchat, this conversation takes place over text, where customers have the freedom to ask questions and respond on their own time, rather than being locked into one browser session. While some of your physical locations might be closed, you can still staff those locations to help customers through webchat. 

Example: One Podium client added a “text us” button on their store locator page, where high intent customers could text the location closest to them. In the four to five months after implementing Podium Webchat, they saw a 24% conversion rate and a $10 million incremental increase in revenue. 

3. Nurture customers through omnichannel messaging.

The 1:1 customer experience no longer needs to be in person. Personalized messaging experiences can begin from a Google search, your website, or through native text messaging. But to succeed, conversational messaging on any platform must be three things: asynchronous, automated, and assistive. Customers should be able to pick up or exit the conversation at their convenience and on their terms, receive answers in real-time, and actually get the help they need.

To start, you could take a phased approach to messaging: focus on returning answers to FAQs and “how to shop” content. Explain delivery operations, in-store pickup, or curbside pickup protocol. The next phase could include more advanced components of the user journey including inventory look-up and check-order status. And lastly, you could add in conversational commerce options like appointment booking. Eventually, scheduling and confirming appointments, resolving concerns, continuing conversations on the go, and closing deals through customer-preferred channels will be as natural as any in-person experience.

Example: Gucci is famous for its exceptional in-store experience. During the pandemic, they brought that experience online with personalized video chat shopping. Customers simply message to schedule an appointment or consultation with an onsite Gucci sales representative. Similarly, Lululemon enabled a virtual waitlist to inform shoppers via text when it’s their turn to enter the store. Lululemon also offers (free) digital education and virtual concierge programs for shoppers to connect over video chat. 

4. Transact with contactless, mobile payments.

77% of consumers want businesses to continue offering contactless payments after the pandemic. And for good reason—it’s safe, secure, sanitary, and fast. When the payment link is sent through an existing customer conversation (like text), the transaction becomes even more convenient.

Customers aren’t the only ones happy with mobile payment options. Businesses automating mobile payment requests see a 300% improvement in conversion over traditional collection methods, a 46% reduction in chargeback losses, and a 40% increase in time back to retail associates. Contactless payments are here to stay.

Example: Ryan Levitz, Director of Business Innovation at Ashley Furniture notes that customers who use mobile payments are “significantly happier.” The alternative of making another trip to the store and dealing with another salesperson is far less appealing in a customer’s journey.  

Ready for more? Watch the full webinar to access a helpful Q/A session and additional insider tips on managing customer interactions.

Jason A’alona
Jason A’alona Director of Retail Sales

Jason A’alona is a retail professional at Podium, the leading messaging platform that connects consumer businesses with their customers.

Adapt the way you do business. Press send.