With the growing success of text chat on LampsPlus.com, we recently began to look for ways to build better connections between our online customers and our brick and mortar lighting and decor stores. One option that is common among companies is automated chatbots. While chatbots may seem like a cost effective way to help consumers, our philosophy has always been that customers connect better with a real person.
We realized, however, that connection could be even better if the chat agent was from the same store area as the customer. We have three dozen stores in the western United States, each with a highly trained staff of lighting and décor associates who are familiar with popular products and designs in their regions. To leverage this store expertise, we decided to roll out a beta test program with the aim of connecting customers to their local Lamps Plus store associates via SMS text.
The idea was that a customer could visit our mobile website, browse the site, select a product and then contact their local store to ask questions and reserve the product via text. Each participating store had a store associate assigned to the program. The designated store associates carried iPhones at all times during store hours so they could respond immediately to customer inquiries via text.
During testing, we discovered a number of surprising benefits we hadn’t anticipated. One of the biggest was that because the store associates had products in front of them, they were able to respond to a much larger array of questions and inquiries than we anticipated. For example, style questions such as "What shade of blue is this" could be communicated quickly via a texted photo. Store associates also were able to send customers videos, a particularly helpful tool to show the lighting effect that products such as crystal display.
Because the products were at the store, associates were also able to answer questions like “Can I fit the box in the trunk of my car?” or “Do you have any other lights that you think would match well with this one?” These types of questions were easy to answer with the box and product accessible to the associate.
Another benefit was that associates had a working knowledge of the product from having sold it to customers in the store, which proved to be a major advantage. They could more easily talk about the benefits of the product and provide social confirmation to customers of the popularity of the product in their area. Store associates were seen texting answers such as, “That’s a popular product, I just sold one yesterday!”
Finally, store associates had the ability to confirm physical inventory of the product within their stores. Customers would often request a hold or purchase the product to ensure it would be there when they came to pick it up.
Our customers’ ease in the shopping process means we’re constantly looking for ways technology can help them add designs to their homes simpler and faster. For customers in store areas, leveraging the link between their phones and the expertise in the local store is of great importance to our business.