COVID-19 is forcing retailers to find new and inventive ways to serve their customers amidst lockdowns and ongoing restrictions. Digital channels have taken on an increased role for retailers, even those that have already embraced the omnichannel model.
One of the many ways that retailers are enhancing their online services is through appointment scheduling. By offering remote and safe in-person appointments, retailers can control customer flow while keeping consistent revenue coming in.
In this article, we’ll look at three major retailers and their strategies for implementing appointment scheduling during COVID-19.
JoJo Maman Bébé
A pandemic is a scary time for anyone, but expectant mothers have an extra burden as they ensure they had everything needed for their maternity and nursing without physically going to stores.
JoJo Maman Bébé, a maternity wear and baby clothing retailer, used appointments to help their customers through these challenging times through its Virtual Maternity VIP Shopping program. This is a personal shopping experience that allows customers to book an appointment with a consultant who can advise and guide the shopper through her options to find the best products for their needs.
The appointments are completely remote, making it safe for pregnant mothers and their families to get what they need. The appointments are useful for shoppers because they aren’t just transactional. The personal shoppers also give helpful personalized advice, tips, and provide insights into complementary products.
Takeaway: Look for a specific niche of your customer base that may be especially well-suited for appointments. In this case, promoting appointment scheduling was a great way to help pregnant mothers who needed to take extra precautions due to COVID-19.
COVID-19 disrupted wedding plans across the world. Engaged couples had to scramble to find alternative plans or otherwise postpone their weddings indefinitely.
BHLDN stepped up to help brides turn a tough situation around by offering remote wedding dress consultations. BHLDN is a women's clothing retailer that specializes in wedding dresses, bridal accessories, and wedding décor. The virtual appointments allow brides-to-be to share links with their wedding-themed Pinterest board and Instagram accounts so their stylist can get a sense of what each customer is looking for.
During the video appointment, shoppers can ask questions, get inspiration, and even get options for different parts of the wedding (ceremony, dinner, rehearsal, etc.). To emulate the tradition of the bride inviting her close friends and family to go dress shopping, BHLDN allows customers to invite whomever they want to the video call.
In advance of the appointment, the sales associate pulls together information on wedding details, the bride's preferences and gets a feel for her taste through looking at Pinterest and other sources. It’s a completely personalized call, just like an in-person appointment, where the stylist gives tips on how to make sure each bride gets the event she imagined.
Takeaway: Appointments should be personalized and guided by true experts. The stylists at BHLDN are passionate about ensuring brides have the best experience possible, even when the in-person experience isn’t possible. Additionally, BHLDN added a nice touch by allowing brides to bring guests to their appointments. Even if you can’t hold in-person appointments, get creative and find ways to replicate that experience. BHLDN has engaged with 25,000 customers since the pandemic hit, and appointments have enabled them to maintain those relationships and take some of the stress out of a stressful time.
Dunelm is a U.K.-based home furnishings retailer with over 160 locations across the country. As COVID-19 forced the retailer to limit in-store service, Dunelm saw remote appointments as an alternative revenue stream while the restrictions were in place.
Being unable to serve customers would have been a missed opportunity for Dunelm, as home improvement retail sales skyrocketed during the early days of COVID-19 and beyond. According to Statista, “between March 9-15, 2020, online sales of home improvement and gardening retail products grew almost by 50 percent compared to the same period the year before.”
With consumers staying home due to the lockdown, they began to tackle home improvement projects large and small with the extra time they had at home. That includes furnishings and decor.
In response, Dunelm rolled out remote appointments for its “Made to Measure” curtains and blinds line of business. The program allowed users to measure their windows, browse the available fabrics online, and book an appointment with a consultant to ensure the order is perfect. Customers could do all of this from the safety of their own homes.
This provided a much-needed revenue stream for the retailer at a time when many areas of its business were non-operational. Thanks to the success of the Made to Measure program, Dunelm has evaluated how it can incorporate appointment scheduling into other lines of business over the long-term.
The result has been their Deliver to Car service. Servicing over 2,500 customers daily, Dunelm has leveraged scheduling to enable shoppers to order online, and pick up at the curb. Customers can join a virtual queue via phone, or using a QR code, and they are notified when their items are ready for collection.
Takeaway: With appointment scheduling, it doesn’t have to be an all-or-nothing implementation. Dunelm rolled out remote appointments for one of its product lines, validated the demand its customers had for appointment scheduling, and then began expanding the appointment model to other offerings.
The retail market is still facing several months of unpredictability regarding COVID-19 and the restrictions that come with state and nationwide attempts to contain it. The retailers best primed to survive and thrive until a new “normal” is reached are the ones who are flexible and can quickly find new ways to serve their customers. Appointment scheduling is a powerful way to do just that.
March 16, 2021
5 minute read