Speaking with a friend recently, we shared how being on lockdown from COVID-19 has been good in many ways. It has slowed each of us down from traveling, allowing us to spend more quality time with our families and allowing us to help our client’s businesses even more.

One of the details we focused on was all of the changes to when or how consumers could interact with businesses (in our case auto dealerships). It forces the owners and leaders to rethink customer communication. Gone is the ability to just have the customer drop by. Gone is the ability to hold off on certain conversations until the customer was in front of the salesperson.

The biggest realization to come from this is the way consumers need to communicate is being hindered by previous processes and website structures. The previous engagement process was chasing consumers after the fact once they completed a form on the website versus being available to answer the question while the consumer was on the website.

For years, dealers have referred to their websites as “Virtual Showrooms,” but their efforts to make it one stopped short at the name. Just like a movie set where the front of the building looked real but behind it was just scaffolding to hold it up, so are the websites. It housed the inventory and answered questions but when you entered, “chasing” began with a series of emails and calls, but the consumer has moved on to think about something else.

The new face of retail must be reflective of conversational commerce. If the consumer is on a website and has a question, they must have the ability to connect with staff in real time. Yes, there are some chat functionalities on most websites, but they are not part of the true user flow. They either are hidden at the edge of the website page or they continue to pop up until they annoy the consumer who leaves because of a pushy form.

Can we move to formless websites? I believe we can. We have seen it with some of our clients, where it has proven to be addition by subtraction. Less forms and more conversations equal more sales opportunities.

Since customer engagement in person may be limited, it behooves businesses to redesign and rethink their online engagement with consumers. Be present when and where the customer is and be available to help. Consumers have had to adapt to the new reality and are looking to do more online. Be the business who is there to serve online, with the same passion and engagement as if they were standing right in front of you.

This is the new business model. I hope everyone begins to embrace conversational commerce.

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Glenn Pasch

Glenn Pasch is a Partner and CEO of PCG Digital. Glenn continues to author articles for multiple industry publications, blogs and forums as well as continuing his writing online at www.glennpasch.com.

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