Virtual Sales is for sure not a new term in the book. It has been in the game since the beginning of the latter half of the 20th century when companies began to explore new and creative ways for their product to reach out to customers. Since its invocation into the then highly competitive markets, Age of Virtual Sales has evolved into a highly sophisticated and much more relied and simpler form of marketing and sales. It is slowly turning out to be a fundamental part of the ever-changing and innovating world around us.
Although virtual sales have always been high on the growth graph, there has been a profound and appreciative rise in its relevance in the last decade. It has been marking its dominance like never before in the field of e-commerce and also various b2b, b2c sales, and services.
A recent survey by salesforce which consisted of more than 2900 sales professionals worldwide has evidently portrayed that more than 60% of sales representatives have increased their time virtually spent with the customer rather than in person. It has also stated that on average, virtual sales have increased by around 7% and sales development roles by around 6% since 2015.
There have been a lot of reasons for this shift in the sales from physical to virtual during the last decade like a shift in the shopping and purchasing pattern of the customer, advancements in technology, improvement in access to cloud computing, a digital and network revolution brought about by the internet.
People or companies now have access to extensive and abundant information to verify before making any decision regarding the purchase of any product or service. The key decision-makers of the company would therefore prefer to have the sale conducted virtually rather than a cumbersome in-person process.
With the advancement of technology, the effectiveness and the productivity of virtual sales representatives have also increased at an exponential rate. One major contributing factor to this is the advent of artificial intelligence in the field of sales and marketing
Going by a report published by Statista, 87% of current AI adopters mentioned their inclination towards using AI in order to improve their sales through sales forecasting. 61% of all respondents said that they currently used or were planning to use AI for sales forecasting. 83% of current AI adopters and 59% of all respondents have mentioned their intent of using AI for chatbots for customer service and product selection.
One major aspect of intelligence is the ability of AI to close more leads by predictive ranking and analyzing the potential chance of a client closing the lead. It automates and augments various tasks in all the stages of the sales funnel thereby reducing the workload of the employees so that they can be more productive.
A prime example of AI in sales would be that of the chatbots used by more and more businesses today. Businesses that have a constraint on the employees are actively engaging chatbots in their business in order to bridge the gap between a potential customer and the business. Loren Foye has predicted that by 2022, automation of up to 90 % of the customer interaction would be taken up by chatbots. A statement passed by Global Marketing Insights has also rightly predicted that the overall market size for chatbots worldwide would be over $1.3 billion by 2024. These predictions further stress the increasing utility and application of chatbots in the sales industry.
Other major footprints of AI can be witnessed in the presence of digital kiosks in retail sales. Kiosks have appreciably affected the way customers slide through various product information. Easy browsing through the products all from one place with a kiosk has significantly reduced the efforts required to overview a product. This in turn has improved the convenience of shopping for the customers thereby directly affecting the magnitude of sales. The kiosks are often incorporated with a segregation ability to suggest to the user the products based on his/her last purchases. Facial detection has been one of the driving forces to turn this into reality.
Apart from sales, kiosks also contribute majorly to other aspects of sales such as checkout, inventory management, product promotion, etc.
Coupled with AI, another major technological innovation has also revolutionized the process of sales and marketing- Virtual Reality. The advent of virtual reality has increased the ease of product demonstration to an astronomical level. With the immersion technology offered by VR, companies handling bulky products difficult to be exhibited for the demo are experiencing a nerve-like before comfort and acceleration in their sales.
According to research by International Data Corporation (IDC) research, the AR and VR industry is forecasted to multiply by a whopping 21-fold over 2019-2023
The reduction of costs incurred in sales and marketing has to be acknowledged while conversing about VR. With no requirement of physical transport and demonstration of the product to potential customers and stakeholders, VR has significantly minimized the costs incurred in sales.
The length of the sale cycle has also drastically been reduced by the use of VR owing to the easy accessibility to the virtual product with exact characteristics and improved customer overviewing of the product.
A virtual sales assistant virtually in a similar way promises smart sale interaction and product demonstration to the customer. The virtual assistant takes on the support activities required for a sale thereby providing the employees the option to work on the core process of sales. The sales assistant smartly narrows down the target customers based on their preferences and carries out various pre and post-sale operations which are essential for the generation of new leads and the retention of the customers.
A Virtual Sales Avatar on the other hand incorporates all these astonishing aspects of both AI and VR in order to provide a virtually realistic and immersive purchase experience to the client. A virtual avatar is a photographic image or animation which would assist businesses in providing a better virtual shopping experience to e-commerce and online shoppers. The avatar is an interactively personified image of the sales algorithm which assists in directing the potential client to their purchase. These digital humans communicate with the customer through voice as well as inputs from the customer and sort out the products and services as per the preferences of the customer without the necessity of any cumbersome search process. This has been the main reason for the astronomical rise in the use of virtual assistants in businesses in various industries and markets.
With the onset of a pandemic in recent times which has led to the closure of businesses worth billions of dollars, the only potential and prospective way of enhancing sales is through remote selling. Virtual and remote sales offer growth-oriented companies the assistance required to drive up their sales and increase the revenue generated. Virtual sales automation and algorithm-driven selling are at present the only go-to options for companies striving to improve their sales.
With a promising contribution of these innovations to the sales industry and times when physical normal functioning and selling of products is not possible, it is no surprise that businesses are on the verge to incorporate these into their sales funnel as quickly as possible!