Urban Outfitters Inc. is trying virtual appointments on for size for its Anthropologie apparel and BHLDN wedding brands.
Urban Outfitters, No. 33 in the Digital Commerce 360 Top 1000, added virtual appointments for the two brands in April 2020 after COVID-19 became widespread in the U.S. to complement its existing email and in-store appointments, which it launched for the brands in 2011, said Maddie Bender, brand styling manager for both Anthropologie and BHLDN in an email interview with Digital Commerce 360.
Email consultations can be booked on the brands’ sites. For those, customers can select the date that works best for a stylist to reach out, and then the shopper fills out a pre-consultation survey so the stylist can learn more about the customer’s wedding vision and styling needs. The BHLDN stylist then reaches out via email on the selected date to initiate the consultation. The stylist then works with the customer over email to assist with her styling needs. The brands have conducted all three types of appointments with 25,000 customers since April 2020, she said.
Getting personal with brides
Bender described how the appointments work specifically for its BHLDN brand, where brides-to-be often want a customized shopping appointment with personalized help. First, on BHLDN.com customers select their appointment type (bride, bridesmaid, mother of the bride and accessories are a few examples) and choose a time. Customers then take a survey about their wedding, such as if it takes place on a beach or vineyard, and the ceremony style, such as a destination wedding or elopement, so the BHLDN stylist can get a feel for the event. Consumers and associates then meet over video using Zoom screen share. The BHLDN stylist emails the Zoom link 24 hours before the scheduled appointment and shoppers can share it with anyone who they would have invited to their in-person appointment.
During the appointment, customers shop the BHLDN website with the stylist to find their look and get advice on styling and fit. Stylists guide customers through shopping on the BHLDN website while sharing real wedding photos and videos when appropriate. After the appointment, the BHLDN stylist follows up with a Style Recap from the appointment with more details about all of the looks the customers liked, Bender said.
Urban Outfitters is using Jrni scheduling software (pronounced Journey) for its in-store and virtual appointments and email consultations described above.
Jrni’s platform facilitates both video and in-person appointments, and it integrates with customer relationship management systems such as Salesforce.com Inc., calendar systems such as Microsoft Corp. and online payment systems including PayPal Holdings Inc. It also provides analytics such as conversions and sales from appointments. The software enables businesses to cancel, reschedule or view appointments. Associates also get an at-a-glance view of their virtual and store appointment calendars, as well as insight into the customers they’re scheduled to see, such as their order history and past communications with the retailer. Jrni also handles automated appointment confirmation emails, email reminders and follow-up communications.
Appointments boost transaction volume and gain popularity with more retailers
The retailer says the Jrni appointments have helped boost customer transaction volume by 25% for BHLDN and Anthropologie since April 2020 and customers who booked appointments for the two brands since April 2020 purchased 40% of the time in stores, and 65% of the time online.
“As the business owner of our styling programs, it has been incredibly helpful to have the flexibility to make adjustments to the appointments and services we offer—to be able to go in and change booking questions, add new services, customize triggered emails—those types of features and functionality are so easy that we no longer have to involve our technology or web development partners to get them implemented,” Bender said. “I can literally go in and change them based on the needs of our business. When we were able to open our doors using in-store appointments, it’s really great to see that everything can be managed in one space, even though the appointment channel is different.”
Several retailers have beefed up their virtual appointment capabilities as stores and live events shut down. Jeweler Blue Nile Inc. (No. 108), for example, launched an updated version of its virtual appointment services over the 2020 Black Friday weekend. “Traditionally, between a third to half of our business takes place over the phone,” Charlie Severn, chief marketing officer, said in an email interview late last year. To make the journey more personalized, Blue Nile designed studios and converted some of its existing headquarters in Seattle into virtual showroom spaces.
Blue Nile’s diamond jewelry consultants are equipped to connect with customers virtually, share screens, co-browse the site and provide ring-building and buying guidance, Severn said
To use the service, a shopper books a virtual showroom appointment via BlueNile.com. During his appointment, the shopper connects with a diamond expert located in a showroom designed specifically for virtual appointments. The diamond expert learns a little more about what the shopper is looking for and then shares on camera real pieces of jewelry, including diamonds, located in the virtual showroom.
When the shopper expresses interest in a piece, the diamond expert picks up the item and moves it to a display table to provide the customer with a close-up, high-definition view of the jewelry under professional lighting. If the shopper wants to move forward with his purchase, the diamond expert will build the ring or other jewelry item with him via a shared screen over Zoom, Severn said.
Blue Nile has been “pretty much booked solid” with the appointments since the service launched, a spokeswoman said. The retailer had conducted approximately 500 appointments as of February since the feature launched. And Blue Nile experts conduct eight to 10 appointments per day on average, the retailer said.
Other retailers including electronics retailer Best Buy Co. Inc. (No. 10) and outdoor equipment and apparel retailer REI (No. 71) have also launched virtual appointments since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic.