August 14, 2014, 9:38 AM

In-store shoppers can use QR codes and texts to initiate mobile live chats

Mobile technology provider TouchCommerce unveils TouchStore, which connects store shoppers carrying smartphones to live chat agents prepared to educate shoppers on products and promotions.

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Many top retailer executives in mobile commerce and other mobile shopping experts believe retailers overall have yet to fully exploit location as a factor in marketing and selling to shoppers using smartphones. M-commerce technology provider TouchCommerce has just debuted a new tool designed to help retail chains exploit location and enhance shopping for consumers with smartphones in stores.

Dubbed TouchStore, the new mobile tool enables retailers and consumer brand manufacturers running promotions in retail stores to strategically place signs with QR codes and/or text message short codes and quick explanations of the live chat functionality and how it relates to a current product or promotion. A customer can use a bar code scanner app, or a bar code scanner built into a retailer's app, to scan a QR code, which then links the customer to a live chat agent on that retailer's or brand's mobile web site or responsive design site. A customer also can send a text message to a retailer's short code to be linked to live chat.

Agents, either provided by TouchCommerce or those working for a retailer or brand and trained by TouchCommerce, answer customer questions about a product or promotion. The goal is that adding expert help will increase in-store conversion and sales, says George Skaff, chief marketing officer at TouchCommerce. He adds that weekly chat analytics reports can help retailers and brands identify issues and consumer sentiment, and make changes when necessary.

TouchStore can enable self-service for store shoppers during busy periods, provide instant gratification that is key for mobile shoppers, help reduce showrooming by keeping customers focused on that retailer's products, and better understand rapidly growing cross-channel shopping, Skaff says.

Costs for the in-store live chat system vary depending on how many TouchCommerce modules a retailer or brand implements, and on whether a client needs chat agents from the vendor. Modules focus on live chat, content, product guides, customer surveys and other functions. Traffic volume also affects costs. Skaff says a typical multi-module implementation starts around $50,000.

"Mobile engagements are driving omnichannel growth across online and offline shopping environments," says Clare Price, vice president of research at online and mobile marketing research firm Demand Metric. "Solution providers that are enabling brands to embrace the mobile platform and modernize interactions with in-store shoppers will be at the forefront of the omnichannel retail customer experience."

Follow Bill Siwicki, editor of the 2015 Internet Retailer Mobile 500 and managing editor, mobile commerce, of Internet Retailer, at @IRmcommerce.

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