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8 Ways Virtual Shopping Supports Back-to-School Ecommerce Sales

The back-to-school season is looking to be busier than ever - but only for brands that are able to offer a differentiated experience when it comes to product availability, price, and customer service. Discover 8 unique scenarios where offering virtual shopping video chats can boost back-to-school sales this summer and beyond.
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No more teachers, no more books - at least for 8 glorious weeks of summer for most students. But back to school is top of mind for many ecommerce leaders and marketing managers from the moment the final bell rings, and for good reason.

The majority of families spend up to $500 come back-to-school season, with 1 in 5 spending upwards of $1,000. Everything from school supplies and new apparel and accessories to furniture, electronics, and other dorm room essentials are on the table during this lucrative sales period - one often considered a leading indicator for the upcoming holiday season.

One back to school shopping trend for 2022 that shouldn’t be a surprise is customers are heading to the tills earlier than ever, in large part because of concerns around supply chain shortages that have dogged the retail industry for most of the year. 

Here’s another consideration: While summer vacations are now in full swing, gas prices and airport challenges have throttled a full return to normal tourism. In past years, many consumers might do some back to school shopping - particularly for apparel - while on holidays, but more purchases may be made locally this year. 

So where does virtual shopping fit into all of this? Virtual video commerce lets customers connect one-on-one with a live associate who can help them track down exactly what they need to ace their shopping list. 

To be clear, virtual shopping doesn't involve any complex virtual reality experience or require some sort of metaverse platform. Instead, virtual shopping is about enhancing the online shopping experience by providing a human element a standard online store doesn't typically offer.

For back to school season 2022, offering live virtual shopping offers plenty of perks for retailers and ecommerce brands, as well as their customers. Keep reading to discover some of the top use cases for providing virtual retailing services to back-to-school shoppers.

Virtual Shopping Use Cases for Back-to-School Shopping

There are three general categories of back-to-school shopping that happen every year.

The first are functional purchases, like school supplies - the types of things that generally need to get replaced annually through sheer use or wear and tear. These are typically lower-cost items, but the sheer volume of them can add up to a lot of time clicking, searching, and comparing products; whereas a live shopper can simply search for and add items to a customer’s cart. 

The second category of back to school shopping involves lifestyle purchases, or items that can be used beyond school. These might include apparel purchases, backpacks, or running shoes. Considering these items aren’t just for back-to-school, shoppers will definitely spend more time considering how much use they’ll get out of them and may have a budget they’re trying to work within. 

Finally, there’s high ticket items that are meant to last a longer period of time than just a school year. Laptops, virtual reality headsets, tablets, headphones, and other consumer electronics tend to surge in popularity, particularly for college students branching out for the first time. On a similar note, housewares, bedding, small appliances, and other dorm-friendly items top a lot of back-to-school shoppers’ lists, all of which can go well beyond a four-year degree’s worth of use. 

So where can virtual shopping apps support customers trying to get their back-to-school shopping done? Keep reading.

Assist parents shopping for their children

Let’s be real: Back-to-school may be a kids’ milestone, but the parents are the ones actually pulling out their bank cards. But shopping for kids can sometimes be a daunting task as they try to discern what’s ‘cool’ versus what’s practical - and in budget. To avoid unnecessary returns when a kid refuses to tote a particular lunchbox to school, hopping on a call with a live shopping associate can be a boon. Position your shopping associates as being in tune with what’s trending with kids, and track down recommendations for products that are sure to be given a passing grade by any discerning student. 

Allow shoppers to virtually ‘visit’ a store they might not have locally or can’t travel to

With gas prices and flight shortages making it a bit harder to travel this year, many shoppers are turning to online shopping to get their wish list items. If a shopper usually makes a sojourn to your store for say, back-to-school clothing, they can still get a taste of the in-store experience by joining a live shopping call. The associate can walk them through the store, show off displays or styled mannequins, and recommend new items that are sure to make them shine come fall. 

Provide buying support for technical purchases like laptops or cameras

Whether it’s a tween, teen, college student, or adult shopping, purchasing big ticket items  like laptops, tablets, or other electronics can be a challenge. It’s hard to tell if a particular device is going to work for a student’s specific needs, and the last thing you want to do is realize you’ve missed out on a key feature that would’ve been super helpful, or alternatively, have overpaid for a device that does way more than you need it to. Gadget and gear whizzes can provide seamless live shopping support, helping students get the exact right piece of equipment for their needs.

Compare products at different price points

Budget is always a concern for back-to-school shopping, especially for families with multiple children hitting the books come fall. To help stay in budget, many shoppers will turn to budget-friendly items. And while it makes sense to scrimp in some areas, in others it can cause headaches as parents have to replace high use items. A live shopping associate can show budget and higher-priced items side-by-side, talk through whether it’s worth it to save or splurge, and help families cut costs where they can. 

Complete back-to-school shopping lists - hands-free!

Kids’ eyes may light up on the long list of back-to-school supplies their teacher provides, but parents just see a lot of items that’ll add up quick, especially in terms of the time it’ll take to track everything down. Enter live video shopping. A virtual sales associate can eyeball a list and add items to a shopper’s cart on demand, in real time. If they need an alternate item they can easily swap it out. The shopper simply has to say what they’re looking for and the virtual shopper can literally do the rest within a live chat session! Talk about multi-tasking magic. 

Track down in-store inventory with zero stress

The back-to-school aisles can be majorly cram-jammed with parents, especially in the last couple of weeks before school. A live video shopping call can save the stress of trying to navigate the brick and mortar crowds, by teaming up with a virtual shopping associate to stroll the aisles of a retail store for a customer, picking up items in real time and checking out with them within the call. All the customer has to do is head to the store or arrange for delivery for a totally stress-free shopping experience.

Promote special seasonal incentives and discounts

Bargain hunting is going to be more of a thing than ever this back-to-school season, but let’s face it: Flyers and emails just don’t have the same reach that they used to. Live virtual store associates can fill this gap by serving as promotional ambassadors on virtual shopping calls. If a shopper is on the hunt for a type of item but has no preference for brand, the shopping associate can spotlight special deals or offers that’ll almost definitely put a smile on the customer’s face. Not only that, the associate could also offer an incentive to help a hesitant shopper go from consideration to checkout - such as free shipping or a discount. Here’s to lowered cart abandonment rates!

Get the jump on online researchers

A lot of shoppers will go online to shop before they hit a physical store - meaning you could lose a sale before a customer ever has a chance to browse the shelves if the right information isn’t present. Instead of relying on static PDPs and buying guides, a video chat can provide the expertise and guidance a shopper needs, whether they choose to checkout online or visit a store, answering questions, suggesting products, and even cross-selling items to boost order values

Style a back-to-school look

Back-to-school is one of the key shopping periods for apparel and accessories; everyone wants to dress to impress on their first day back after all. Instead of relying on online photos, videos, or augmented reality, a video chat can give shoppers a chance to see the products they're interested in from any angle. Not only that, but a virtual store associate can also help cross-sell and upsell items to a customer to style an entire head-to-toe look, saving them time by avoiding browsing other sites, and boosting order values for the company.

Live shopping: The ultimate in personalized ecommerce

Given that 80% of online shoppers want personalization, there’s a real reason why marketers and ecommerce leads have become more focused than ever in finding ways to tailor the ecommerce experience. But the gap between what brands consider personalized and online customers are expecting is still pretty big. AI-driven chatbots and product recommendations just can't match what a human can do for a customer.

Live video shopping or virtual shopping is an essential part of any customer care and ecommerce personalization strategy. This immersive experience combines the convenience of shopping for back-to-school online on your own schedule with the bespoke in-store service shoppers are used to getting when working with a live sales associate. While not every shopper needs a virtual shopping experience, many sales can be lost without it - which is why more and more online retailers are adopting live virtual reality shopping. 

Want to learn more about starting a live shopping program? We’ve crafted a handy playbook that outlines six key decisions you’ll need to make before getting started. Download our playbook here: How to Build a Live Shopping Experience.

GhostRetail is a virtual shopping technology platform that powers live shopping experiences for some of the world’s top brands, including back-to-school destinations like American Eagle. If you’re looking to make the grade with live shopping, we can help. Book a demo with us today to learn how live shopping can benefit your business well beyond the first bell of the school year. 

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