Buyers are increasingly skipping trips to retail stores in favor of online shopping. Ecommerce professionals, however, struggle for ways to differentiate themselves in a very crowded market. How do you drive online sales for ecommerce, yet still give your potential customers a higher level of customer service, guide them through the buying experience, expose them to products they had not considered, build better customer relationships, and increase customer retention?

Yes, many consumers are skipping the retail stores and flocking to online shops. And it’s hard to blame them. Why should they bother driving around aimlessly for a parking spot, navigating crowds and limited product choices, or battling long checkout lines when they can get all the same products online and probably for a better price?

Shoppers flock to online stores as much for the convenience of not having to leave the couch and avoiding the occasional chaos of a brick-and-mortar store as they do for the bigger selection and better prices. But they’re certainly a complicated bunch.

Online shoppers want their experience to be the best of both worlds: free of the hassle from pushy salespeople so they can browse a virtually unlimited selection of products, while still having a knowledgeable expert available instantly to help make purchasing decisions.

Ecommerce professionals are faced with the unique—and undesirable—challenge of figuring out how to marry your customers’ expectations with the ecommerce team’s current capabilities. It’s enough to give you a headache. Before you reach for the aspirin (or hide under your desk hoping the problem will just go away), take comfort in knowing there’s a solution: Needle.

Needle’s online, advocate-powered customer experience platform gives shoppers the online experience they want while empowering advocates (your customer experts) with powerful, innovative tools to create a memorable online shopping experience that builds strong bonds with your buyers and leads to more sales.

What a Real-Time, Authentic Customer Experience Is Like for Your Shoppers

Needle’s platform delivers a highly engaging and immersive customer experience, making your site not just a place to buy things, but rather the site where shoppers want to go to buy. Why? Because Needle gives shoppers something they can’t get anywhere else: live interactions with knowledgeable, passionate advocates, real-time dynamic product views, and guided checkout assistance to make their online shopping trip as enjoyable and simple as possible. They get a high-touch, low-pressure atmosphere for finding just the right product, at just the right price. The entire process is simple, authentic, and really effective.

Now that you know the power of Needle, here are four steps to engaging customers:

1. Match ecommerce customers with advocates in real-time

Needle’s system gives customers the option of connecting with a product expert who’s automatically matched with the shopper based on the advocate’s expertise and the customer’s shopping activities.

For example, a shopper interested in buying a camera for an upcoming vacation has likely browsed the available cameras on your site. Needle’s platform matches the customer with a camera expert who sends a real-time chat invitation, welcomes the customer to the site, and helps the customer begin—or complete—the shopping trip.

2. Engage in a full-display chat conversation

When a customer accepts the invitation and opens the chat window, the advocate’s personal information is on full display. Here, the shopper can see the advocate’s photo, a description of her expertise, and her biography to get a better feel for who the customer is talking to. The customer and advocate are able to create an engaging, personal bond right away.

Not only is it reassuring for the customer to talk to an actual person, but it’s easy to see the shopper is actually talking to a product expert who has been in the shopper’s shoes and has extensive experience with the company and products. As fellow customers, advocates provide better insight and recommendations for the shopper than the typical sales or customer support representative.

3. Use dynamic shopping tools for a better experience

With Needle’s powerful and innovative features, shoppers can concentrate on figuring out the features, functionality, and price they want while the advocates guide them through the product search.

Let’s say a customer expresses an interest in DLSR cameras for her backcountry-hiking trip. She’s an amateur photographer and wants to use her photos to decorate her office. She knows she’s going to need a camera that can automatically adjust shots for her and is capable of capturing super-high-resolution photos and videos.

The advocate searches the product catalog for the best matches and loads the results into the active conversation window. As the advocate navigates, the customer can examine product photos, features, and pricing, and still be able to ask questions in real time within the chat conversation.

4. Empower customers to control on-screen actions

With Needle, customers aren’t just aimlessly pointing and clicking on photos like they’re used to with conventional chat and online shopping. Needle’s on-screen commands let customers zoom or rotate product photos for an up-close look at their potential purchase. They can also toggle between two different products to compare specifications while keeping the conversation going since pop-up notifications alert both parties when a new message has arrived.

Throughout the conversation, the advocate continues to refine product suggestions and identify complementary products based on the customer’s previous purchases, further personalizing the interaction. Once the customer has made a decision about which products she wants to buy, she’s guided through the checkout process and offered the chance to provide feedback about her experience in a post-chat review window.

Find out more on how to use Needle to make third-party experts create real conversations and build customer trust.

About The Author

Jordan K Pusey is a contributing blogger who brings 20 years of high-tech industry experience to the table. During his tenure, he has worked in IT, systems management, security, IT infrastructure, software sales/marketing, website creation, and online digital marketing. Jordan uses his extensive background in high tech marketing to provide advice and best practices, showing online companies how to attract customers for rapid growth. He's also an avid mountain biker, drummer, skier, and father of three amazing kids.