Confer With

1. What’s your name and title, what do you do day-to-day in 20 words or fewer?

I’m Serge Milbank, CEO and Co-Founder of Confer With – a live 1-2-1 video shopping platform.

What do I do day to day? Working out ways to make our approach to make live video the standard for eCommerce. Then motivating everyone about it.

2. At Confer With you are transforming digital dialogue to be closer to connections made in the physical world. Can you give us a success story for a D2C brand you’ve worked with? Eg what was the problem? what did you do? what were the results?

I will use Sofa in a Box Company, Snug, a fantastic account we both work on. Snug sell sofas in a box, delivering them in days instead of months. They revolutionised the way people buy sofas, and more specifically, how sofas are delivered.

Their problem was clear: customers have traditionally bought a sofa in a showroom. Why? A sofa is a high-consideration purchase, which is known for having low conversion rates online. By providing an expert to answer any questions in a showroom, customers can experience the product live, which greatly increases said conversion rates.

However, Snug had limited access to showrooms; despite this, they had big ambitions and were great at digital marketing. So, how did they solve the online conversion problem?

Live 1-2-1 shopping. They went all in and were incredible.

They dedicated an entire team to doing live video calls. We trained them on our live video shopping platform, and they brought in a sales coach who acted as an advocate for live shopping inside the organisation, and it all clicked.

I subsequently heard from a conversation that they chose us because they thought we were hungry. We were, but I like to think they chose us because Confer With connects directly to their eCommerce platform, which is the start of our secret sauce. That’s certainly what made them successful.

Once we connected to the Snug eCommerce platform, their team doing the video calls could share images, videos, and descriptions of the products. They could switch between products (from all those available in the catalogue) – they had the showroom right at their fingertips. By talking to the customers, the salespeople became interior designers, advising customers on colours for their rooms, the appropriate sizing of the furniture for their room, and what fabrics they should use if they had a dog….

The salespeople loved it because it was a focused conversation. They could do it from anywhere, even from the comfort of their own home. Customers loved it because they could finally have their questions answered by someone with expertise in the product. The product selections could be added to the basket and pushed to the Snug store website basket using Confer With’s virtual shared basket – it’s a seamless shopping experience.

Often, people were buying more than one sofa in a single video call and average order values soared. Conversion rates also improved 30 times on average. That’s a big number. But we also know that when more products were shared and the shared virtual basket was used, conversions improved even further.

With such fantastic results, Snug were all in and it worked.

Snug went further and started doing one-to-many live streams. They started, pushing live-stream visitors to one-to-one live video calls. This saw conversion grow even further. So, all of a sudden, we discovered a vertical integration in live shopping.

3. You specialise in 1-2-1 video shopping – what piece of advice would you give to DTC brands who want to improve customer satisfaction?

We know quite a bit about customer satisfaction. At the end of each call, we measure customer and salesperson satisfaction. We also track sales activities within a call, such as which product images and details have been shared, as well as if alternative products have been suggested, so we can correlate the information shared with the customer to the level of satisfaction they have from the experience. Plus, Confer With is a platform that allows you to talk to a customer whilst they are in the middle of the buying process. So, lots of anecdotal titbits at our disposal.

I’ll give you both anecdotal advice and some statistically significant advice.

Anecdotally, we know from tens of thousands of video calls that customers want their needs to be taken into account by a brand. If a customer feels like you have addressed their needs, you are going to have a happy, smiling customer who will tell their friends about you.

So, you have to ask yourself the question: how can you actively listen to your customer’s needs? How can you show your customer that you are listening? If you crack that – you will win.

Statistically, we know that the biggest impact on customer satisfaction is the ability to meet those needs by working with a customer through a range of alternative products. The numbers are unequivocal – customers are happy when they have seen more than one product from you – up to a point. Satisfaction goes down when a customer is shown too many products.

This is why the internet is interesting – there are lots of alternative products just a click away from your site. Every alternative item improves satisfaction, even if it is not on your site, to a peak point, and then it goes down. The key is to be with the customer when their interest and satisfaction ‘potential’ is high, and not on a competitor’s site.

I would, of course, argue that a live video call where multiple products are shared inside the call is a compelling way to do that – but there is also a broader customer experience challenge there to be solved.

4. What are the biggest challenges facing eCommerce/D2C businesses over the next 12-18 months?

I think the biggest challenge will continue to be conversion. Conversion has never been great in online retail, and when there is pressure to improve it, forecasts are frequently missed. The main issues driving conversions down are: economic pressures, stock problems restricting supply, inflation suppressing demand, and every customer having the same buying journey on an eCommerce site.

What is the best buying journey? It’s still actually a physical retail journey. Conversion rates, average order values and customer satisfaction are considerably higher in physical retail. Physical retail has an unfair advantage with it being such a compelling, rich, and immersive experience.

The winners in the next 12-18 months in eCommerce will have to differentiate their customer journey to replicate the experience customers have inside a store (just like Snug did).

5. Complete this sentence – DTC brands that survive and thrive in 2023 will ...

offer 1-2-1 live video shopping to give them an advantage in customer experience.

6. Name three D2C brands that are killing it and whom you recommend others to emulate/learn from.

Snug – I have taken you through how they have been killing it, and I think it’s only part of the story. They are a great brand that has a strategic growth mindset.

Emma Sleep – We have been working with Emma Sleep for just a short while, but the way they have approached live 1-2-1 video shopping has been great. I think it reflects an exemplary DTC mindset – make the selling experience great, be highly commercial, but invest in the little details to get it right.

Samsung – They are naturally a multichannel brand, but the work that has been put into Samsung.com really does show a market leader in DTC. There is now a compelling reason to buy direct from that brand, and the investment they have made there is becoming a benchmark for eCommerce.