Credo Beauty offers a high-touch experience in a no-touch world

Live chat technology helps maintain in-store workforce in the midst of COVID-19 shutdown

Retailers across the country have trimmed their workforces in response to the coronavirus. Between social distancing measures, health concerns and stay-at-home orders, the need for in-store staff has experienced a breathtaking drop. But one health and wellness brand forged its own path through the crisis, closing stores early in the pandemic while retaining every one of its sales associates.

Credo Beauty made the decision to close all its stores on March 16. Rather than reduce staff, “We leaned heavily on our values and we chose not to furlough any of our team,” says CEO Dawn Dobras. Instead, the San Francisco-based brand redeployed sales associates using a technology implemented across its store portfolio 18 months earlier. “We moved 100 percent of our sales associates into virtual selling,” Dobras says.

That technology, a live chat application, is designed to bring together personnel in physical stores with customers in online and other digital channels using chat, text and video calling. “It has been a replacement for a store experience on our site in a way we never thought we could tap into,” Dobras says. Referred to as CredoLive on the beauty brand’s website, the technology from Hero was a useful engagement tool prior to the rise of COVID-19. Now it’s become a primary lifeline to customers.

Enabling inspiration

Unlike head office colleagues, few retail associates had the opportunity to work from home when bricks-and-mortar locations closed. The Hero platform allows those in-store employees to maintain continuity, not just with their customers but with their jobs. “Beauty has been a standout category of the last few weeks,” says Adam Levene, the technology firm’s co-founder.

People spending time at home have shown a strong desire to make themselves feel good, and health and beauty products help them achieve some much-needed self-care. “Credo Beauty has given shoppers that continuity, allowing those who are stuck at home to connect with associates for that same advice, that same expertise and inspiration they get in-store,” he says.

We're seeing those chats increase and they're taking on more of the tone and character of an in-store sale.

Dawn Dobras, Credo Beauty

The platform is having a positive impact on Credo’s business at a time when many other brands are struggling.

“If you had told me six weeks ago how positive our business would be, I’d never have believed it,” Dobras says. CredoLive allowed the brand to immediately migrate customer interactions from stores into virtual channels. The shift offers valuable insight into the way beauty — where customers typically want to see, and often try, products before buying — can make inroads even when conventional sales engagements aren’t available.

Dobras says between 10 and 15 percent of Credo’s ecommerce sales are happening through CredoLive. “We're seeing those chats increase and they're taking on more of the tone and character of an in-store sale than we saw in the past,” she says.

Leveraging CredoLive early in the process also created a positive environment for Credo’s sales associates. “The fact we were able to protect their jobs was incredibly important in terms of employee engagement, passion, authenticity and transparency in the selling process,” Dobras says. Access to Credo’s beauty experts through the application is also translating into fantastic engagement from the shoppers’ perspective, since the brand’s team is “all in and that’s really helping customers have great experiences,” Dobras says.

Maintaining connections

As attention turns to the recovery, many are trying to envision what working and shopping in retail might look like. “We believe the new normal will mostly include customers needing to make appointments to go into a store, or choosing to only make a trip knowing the item they want will be there and that it will be in stock,” Levene says. Because store capacity limits and reduced hours for customer access could also be part of the return to retail, he says, “Connectivity for customers — especially a local customer to their nearest store — will be more important than ever.”

Dobras agrees the first several months of the recovery will be suppressed, but says that assisted selling technology will not only enable associates to capitalize on as many payroll hours as are available, but can also offer customers options as they move into a different era of shopping.

“It allows us a middle zone,” she says. “As people are getting their sea legs back and determining what’s comfortable for them, we have a way for them to have a human experience. I don’t see that going away at all.”

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