Retailers that want to up the ante on exceptional customer service and personalization for their shoppers need to get their thumbs ready. "Text to Buy" is the latest shopping model to capture the attention of the retail industry. Leading brands and retailers have already bolstered their mobile shopping experience with this brilliant yet simple solution, allowing shoppers to send a text of what they want and when they want it. An associate confirms the order, and it’s on its way. Voila! A simple, human way to connect.
Text-based interactions bring together convenience and personalization, and at a perfect time, too, as shoppers’ expectations have never been higher. Companies like Amazon.com, Seamless and Netflix have brought new meaning to 'anytime, anywhere" convenience, and customers expect the same, if not more, from the brands and retailers they interact with.
'Text to Buy' in the Real World
Nordstrom recently launched its TextStyle shopping service, cementing the company in the record books as the first major U.S. retailer to allow customers to research, find and buy via text message. "TextStyle is just another step forward to serving customers on their terms," said Jaime Nordstrom, president of stores.
Magic, a SMS-powered concierge shopping service that launched in February, delivers any (legal) product or service when customers text the "Magic Number." Users have sent requests ranging from ordering take-out food to booking flights. In just three days after its launch, Magic accumulated over 1,000 customers and delivered on 1,700-plus requests.
Three Thousand Thieves, a subscription coffee service based in Melbourne, Australia, also recently launched a text-to-buy offer allowing shoppers to send a SMS to have coffee delivered on-demand, or get advice from trained baristas. An example text might look like this: “I'm out of coffee. I need 500 grams of beans sent to Surry Hills, and by God I need them now."
People constantly text their family and friends, why not their favorite brand or sales associate? The pace of change in the retail world is rapid, but retail is essentially about allowing consumers to find what they want as easily as possible. For one customer, this is texting, for another, it’s a desktop search. Text to buy is about making it easy to be where they are.
Make it Personal and Reduce Frustrations
Texting is native behavior for most consumers, and with virtually no learning curve it removes a step in the buying process. The "text to get" model eliminates the need for a traditional mobile checkout, which can be clumsy and time consuming. Once a shopper’s payment details are on file, the store associate does the research and checks out for the shopper – simple and easy.
The very act of sending a text message fosters a more personal shopper connection, and allows brands to interact with their customers in their own language. This one-to-one interaction also addresses common e-commerce frustrations by:
- giving associates the power to quickly clarify an ambiguous order or solve a customer problem;
- eliminating the need for shoppers to enter payment and shipping information each time they purchase;
- removing the bottleneck of temperamental digital shopping carts that randomly decide to empty themselves; and
- improving the speed of checkout.
The text-to-buy model also lets shoppers request very specific information and give context to their purchase. For example, a shopper can text “I need some jeans that I can wear in summer, thinking of spending around $150, any suggestions?” to their favorite retailer. The store associate can then come back to the shopper with curated lists and ideas to complete the outfit, resulting in a sale and a very happy customer.
So what might the future look like? Imagine sending a text message of your latest want, only to have it delivered to your exact location by an Amazon drone. Or a world where you text your grocery list and your items are speeding towards you in minutes, delivered by Uber.
One thing's for sure: The way we buy is constantly evolving, and text-based offerings certainly bring new meaning to anytime, anywhere convenience. Many experts believe this model will become the future of search for shoppers, and will allow them to simplify the way they find and buy products. Only time will tell how the rest of the retail world will react, and if this is on track to become a preferred shopping channel for consumers.
Rachel Brooks is a senior retail consultant at ThoughtWorks Retail, a software company that works with leading retailers to create capabilities around digital transformation. Daniel Pallozzi is a global retail content strategist at ThoughtWorks Retail.