Shuttered brick-and-mortar stores have forced more shoppers online who are looking for both deals and knowledgeable buying advice. Some e-commerce sites are finding leverage with these customers by providing live chat and other features that help guide the sales process. IMshopping, a new buying advice shopping service and site, says it can do a better job than most e-commerce sites at providing the in-store experience online.
Expert guides compete to provide the best answers to customer product questions that are published on IMshopping with links on where to buy. Commission Junction, Shopping.com, LinkShare and ShareASale.com have teamed with the new site, reports Internet Retailer, which gives guides an extensive database of products to recommend. The human-assisted shopping site earns money when customers purchase from recommended sites.
How It Works
Customers are encouraged to tweet questions by messaging @imshopping. An expert sends their answer through a link that takes them back to the appropriate IMshopping page.
Another option is to enter questions directly on the homepage. Below you’ll see an “unresolved” question community members or experts can answer.
Providing Customer Experience
IMshopping improves the online shopping experience by reducing time spent researching products, while also sparking gift ideas. Customers are encouraged to ask questions that help them find the right products and services — just as they would at any retail store. Only in this case, shoppers receive less biased information because guides don’t work for any particular retail chain.
Also, steps are taken to ensure shoppers get advice from the best guides. The site provides the most relevant and detailed answers to questions first, which means less competitive guides have less impact on the shopper’s experience. Shoppers can also rate the advice they receive from guides.
Outside of a few misplaced product questions (one Q & A about Side Kick 2 mobile phone ended up under personal care) the design and functionality makes the site easy to use. I really like that IMshopping links users to the e-commerce product page, rather than just the home page, which is the case with shopping portals like shop.yahoo.com. Overall, the site layout lends itself to usability.
E-commerce sites looking to compete on this shopping portal would benefit by becoming members of IMshopping’s affiliates. However, don’t think IMshopping substitutes for trained customer service representatives that understand your particular company’s policies. Just because IMshopping helped customers find products, doesn’t mean shoppers won’t have any more questions. Features like Live Chat are still useful for helping guide shoppers through virtual checkout lines.
Official Oneupweb Review: Oneup Thumbs-Up!