The rapid growth of online shopping over the last five years or so has come as no great surprise as technology advances and consumers opt for convenience so as to fit more into their busy lives.

Indeed, the fact Amazon’s Jeff Bezos is set to become the world’s first trillionaire by 2026 is proof alone the internet was already succeeding, even before the global impact of the coronavirus.

COVID-19 forced a multitude of stores to close in high streets and shopping centres around the world for months on end, causing online shopping to grow at an exponential rate.

But, while the method of purchase may have changed, it does not mean the journey has too.

When considering buying higher end, more luxury items (in this case, coffee machines), the desire to learn all there is to know about the product remains very much intact.

Consumers still conduct their research, they still read reviews and they still watch online content.

The ingredients for a successful in-store demo are relatively straightforward: a brand ambassador with expert-level product knowledge, a customer on a purchasing journey and an open dialogue.

Our research and experience shows consumers are 85 per cent more likely to purchase a product after a demo, so how could we transition the in-store customer experience to the virtual world?

How could we be certain a digital recreation of an in-store demo would perform as well as a physical one?

Testing, testing

To test the potential for online demonstrations, we considered two options: offering a web-based masterclass to educate and inform larger groups of product owners, or personalised, one-to-one demos for potential or existing customers.

As there are pros and cons for either version, it quickly became clear there was room for both in order for us to meet the specific needs of each consumer.

Initially, we engaged with an online community, offering free one-to-one masterclasses to existing product users.

In less than an hour, ten people had volunteered as they were keen to improve their experience with the machine they had already purchased.

The feedback on these sessions was extremely positive and, as a result, incremental sales were made thanks to customers enquiring about other products.

Confidence in our online offering grew, so we took the next step and carried out further testing.

In collaboration with our client Sage, we now run regular masterclasses anyone can sign up to for free.

Hosted by a deeply experienced coffee expert, these webinars are attracting large audiences and give viewers helpful hints and tips on making perfect coffee on their own machines at home.

Despite these sessions not being one-to-one, there is still an opportunity to ask questions and have them answered by the expert as the masterclass progresses.

Whichever option a consumer chooses, our online demo initiative allows consumers to learn more about a range of products, see them in action and receive guidance from an experienced brand ambassador on which product would suit them best.

Granted, the shopper is unable to physically touch the machine, or taste the coffee, but those factors aside we have successfully recreated the in-store experience and translated it for online use.








The New Normal and Beyond

As we progressed through the weeks of lockdown, appetite for our initiative grew.

As Stellar’s European account manager, I now spend many hours a week either on live one-to-one demos, training colleagues online in France and Germany or supporting our experts hosting masterclasses attended by hundreds of customers keen to learn more.

The unusual situation we found ourselves in as a business allowed us to take a step back and re-evaluate ways in which we can reach and inform new customers, connect with and educate existing product users and build on the programme of expertise we already offer in-store.

Engaging with up to 500 consumers at once has brought considerable benefits in terms of staff training, as it has enabled us to increase our resources for brand ambassadors.

Thanks to vast numbers of real-life consumer engagements online, we have been able to enhance our knowledge base and pass that to those on the front line, delivering our demos.

We now also have hours of content to share with our team in numerous languages, covering a wider range of topics to further equip them for success.

If nothing else, the sudden change in everyday life and the impact it had on our industry has forced us to work even harder and smarter, but we are getting results.

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