This has raised consumer expectations when it comes to shopping, including through traditional bricks-and-mortar outlets. People lead busy lives and they don’t always have the time or patience to visit a store, wait, make an inquiry and so on. They want everything to be instant and in the palm of their hand.

Sydney-based Joh Bailey Hair Salons has many high-end clients, including celebrities. They’re one of the traditional retail businesses trying to deliver the seamless experience that consumers get online.

“We find that our customers are increasingly judging the experience on more than just their colour or blow dry,” said owner Joh Bailey. “A particular issue is booking and changing appointments. Clients don’t want to be endlessly on the phone — they might have a more important call coming in.”

Joh Bailey chose to partner with URGE, a WhatsApp-style messaging app specifically for businesses. URGE makes it easy for people to search for their favourite salon, restaurant or retailer, and text them any time of day or night. Research shows that apps are becoming the main way for consumers to find businesses, particularly when searching locally. In one US study, 94 percent of respondents had used their smartphone to look for local information, with 90 percent of those taking action as a result.

URGE was founded by Australian entrepreneurs Daniel Reyes, Dean Steingold and Doron Ostrin in January 2016. Over the past couple of months they’ve signed up more than 50 businesses ranging from salons like Joh Bailey to food outlets and clothing stores, and currently have a waiting list of businesses wanting to join the URGE directory.

“Consumers are used to using apps like WhatsApp and iMessage to contact one another. What we do is create the same easy, responsive communication between consumers and business,” Steingold said.

URGE is also planning to offer payments through the app, as well as a rewards program to ensure that repeat customers are rewarded for their loyalty. According to NoKadi research, 55 percent of consumers would be happy to sign up for new loyalty programs so long as they don’t have to carry more plastic cards.

“As consumers have begun to embrace cashless payments via services like Uber, the expectation is growing for businesses both online and offline to offer a similar, frictionless checkout experience,” Ostrin said.

Online retail expert Paul Greenberg, CEO of NORA and founder of DealsDirect, is on URGE’s advisory board. Greenberg says that he finds it “very frustrating” and often difficult to make quick contact with a retailer in real time.

“Do they have my size, do they have it in stock, can I book an appointment, is there a table free in fifteen minutes, these are questions I want responses from that convert to sales, but I don’t want to phone. In truth, phone calls are often a waste of time for the customer and the retailer,” Greenberg said.

He believes that text messaging is the way forward, and URGE has successfully engaged with a consumer-to-business niche that other B2B or social media services have missed.

“I am an active cheerleader and supporter for any technology that helps grow the retail pie by providing deeply customer-centric solutions. URGE is without doubt one such solution,” Greenberg said.

Joh Bailey — who has styled household names including Elle Macpherson, Jennifer Hawkins, Miranda Kerr, Linda Evangelista, Paris Hilton, Martha Stewart, Hugh Jackman and Kerri-Anne Kennerley — says that client feedback for URGE has so far been amazing.

“People have loved using URGE. It has made their lives easier as well as ours. Customers now have a quick and easy way to communicate with salons, and it’s clear that instant messaging is most convenient for them.”

 

Originally published on Power Retail

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