Rebecca Ruddle, head of showrooms at Made.com, detailed at RBTE 2017 how the furniture retailer has been linking the online and offline in order to provide a better customer experience for online shoppers and manage its employees' time more effectively.

The initiative allows customers who are browsing from home to click on an icon on the website to chat with an in-store assistant on the latter’s iPhone or iPad device, and has been delivered alongside technology partner Hero.

Hero’s technology allows the customer and store assistant to communicate via text or a live stream, while images of the product can also be sent via the service.

Ruddle believes the trial, which has taken place in two regional showrooms, allows the retailer to take a more conversational rather than sales-led approach.

“Nobody really likes to be sold to or treated like a number especially when making an emotive purchase such as a sofa,” says Ruddle.

Despite taking a more conversational approach, early indications show sales have improved in the trial stores.

The technology drives much higher conversion rates. Hero co-founder and chief executive Adam Levene claimed the live shop feature increased conversion to 15.9%, compared to an industry average online conversion rate of 0.95%.

An example of how it helped conversion form Made.com included a shopper who used the service at the point of purchase to seek reassurances that the sofa would fit through their door.

The advisor in the showroom was able to take the measurement and ensure the customer had the confidence to proceed with the purchase.

“Customers can get the same immersive experience of the showrooms online,” said Levene.