In-Store Shoppers & the Real-Time, Mobile Video Assist

One of the big challenges along the mobile path to purchase has been for in-store customers to gain quick access to pertinent information around their shopping trip.

Various studies have shown that many mobile shoppers prefer to tap their mobile device as a source of information and help rather than dealing with salespeople.

Part of this could be the perception that a salesperson will be trying to sell something rather than help the customer decide what to buy.

A tap-to-call feature where a consumer in a large retail store could quickly scan a QR code or tap an NFC-enabled phone to be connected to the right salesperson for assistance has long seemed to me to be a logical start of an in-store conversation.

But it has to be in real time, since the mobile consumer is not static.

The general concept is to enable a mobile shopper to quickly gain access to a person knowledgeable enough relating to what the shopper is looking for.

Sears some time ago introduced a rudimentary version of this in its app, providing a list of who is working in each department at the time. The shopper selects a salesperson, taps a quick message and then awaits a call back from the listed person, which may come relatively soon or somewhat belatedly if that salesperson is otherwise occupied.

I just saw a much more sophisticated version of how a mobile shopper can be connected in real time with a video interactive experience that could be the answer to mobile shoppers receiving that on-the-spot help they may need.

Here’s the scenario.

A shopper walks into a store and is checking out a particular product and turns to her phone for additional information. At each product page in the retailer app or mobile website, there’s an icon to tap for immediate help.

The shopper taps the icon and the person responsible (and knowledgeable) about products in that vicinity is instantly patched in via video (the expert can be in any location, not necessarily in that store).

The ‘expert’ sees the location of the person in the store and sees on his screen what the shopper sees on hers. He shows her a quick video of the product and then shows an additional product she may want to consider.

The shopper wants a friend’s advice, so taps the ‘friend’ button on the app, sees a list of her pre-designated shopping pals, and clicks one. The store product expert, shopper and friend now all are in the same video chat.

The shopper decides that is the correct product, the shopper expert already sees that product is in that store’s inventory and can either make the sale during the interaction or message the checkout or pickup counter to have the product ready.

I saw a demonstration of a version of that this week by Toy Genius, a specialty toy store with two locations in New Jersey, which is launching the-real time video assist program this summer.

The app was created by Impiger Mobile, a Dallas-based app developer that has created more than 200 apps for numerous companies, including both large and small retailers.

The real-time video interaction is powered by technology from Genband, which it introduced at the Perspectives14 conference in Orlando this week.

Ritwik Bose, director of marketing of Impiger Mobile, who demonstrated for me how the platform can be used for real-time interaction, said it could be used for both in-store and remote video communications.

The video customer assist platform leverages the WebRTC (real time communication) standards introduced by Google last year.

This strikes me as the beginning of the new generation of how mobile can be used to enhance the in-store shopping experience.

Many online retailers already are quite good at using data to interact with their customers in a more informed way.

The potential for brick and mortar retailers is to enter into a real-time conversation with a shopper, while they are in the store with a high potential to make the sale.

Or not.

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