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Videoconferencing counseling, a new weapon in the phygital business?

Published by Vincent Placer (Colorado) on Jul 9, 2020

The Covid-19 pandemic has led to the shutdown of a large number of commercial premises around the world. In order to remain in business, several companies are currently experimenting with remote pre-sales consulting via videoconferencing tools.

Interpersonal video interactions have long been confined to the professional sphere. With this lockdown on a global scale, the use of video apps in the personal sphere is seeing an unprecedented surge in use: virtual aperitifs, house parties, keeping in touch with distant relatives... The use of video-based medical consultations, although covered by health insurance since September 2018, has seen its use expand a hundredfold in a matter of weeks.

This is also the case with the business world. If the lockdown is beneficial to the evolution of online business, several sectors can hardly free themselves from human advice. Some companies offer video or telephone conversation services to accompany the sale of their products or services remotely. Two typical cases can help to illustrate this trend. In order to choose cosmetic products or to renew their clothing style, the customer - rather than carrying out long online searches - can now call upon a personal remote adviser.

Brands such as Tata Harper or Credo offer a video (or telephone) appointment service with a beauty advisor from the comfort of their home. The benefits are manifold: a direct interaction with the advisor reinforces the feeling of proximity with the brand and the use of video allows the customer to better visualize the products. Customers who use this service tend to convert their shopping cart 15 to 20 times more than other visitors. For several years now, the automotive sector has been facing a gradual decline in the number of visits to dealerships. Renault is currently experimenting in the UK with a 100% online sales route: a "Renault guru" presents the vehicles to customers using his smartphone. To enable an end-to-end purchasing experience, Renault also provides an online configurator and a remote financing service. At each stage of their journey, consumers have a human contact point to address any concerns they may have. This sales model, already partially tested by Nissan in the past, could be extended and even developed.

Promoting human contact, even remotely

Among the unprecedented situations we have just gone through, the use of interpersonal video has never concerned so many users. The commercial potential for B2C customers of remote human advice (video or audio) for the sale of goods or services has thus been emphasised. And without even suggesting that the need for social distancing may persist, a purchasing experience that lies somewhere between in-store sales advice and almost autonomous online purchasing has its place in a phygital strategy. It is only an extension of the e-commerce chat offer when a bond of trust with the seller is required. The profiles of sellers exist, the technical solutions are mature and the cost of entry is low. Many industries could find it interesting: automotive, the sale of new real estate programs, intellectual services in the legal or financial sectors...

While fully virtual shop initiatives are developing, a sales model centred on face-to-face human interaction, partially free of physical constraints, seems to us an option to be seriously studied. While combining health, ecological and economic benefits!

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