- Specialty lighting retailer Lamps Plus now lets customers seek help from store employees by sending text messages to any of its 37 locations. The manager or assistant manager in each store carries a dedicated company iPhone during business hours to respond to texts, according to a company announcement.
- Customers can ask questions about product availability and additional details specific to their preferred store, and quickly receive answers about lighting and home furnishing directly from an associate. The text service runs through SMS, removing a friction point of requiring users to download a special app.
- Lamps Plus employees will be able to send photos and videos from the store directly to customers who request a more detailed look at products. Customers also can send photos of their home interiors to get advice about which products would complement their furnishings.
Lamps Plus's text-based customer service tool is another indication of how consumers have grown to expect that businesses interact by mobile messaging, including direct interaction with a salesperson who can share pictures and videos of products and check inventory. That's a deeper way to connect with customers than through an automated chatbot or even a live chat session with a customer service representative in a call center.
"We offer online chat with our center. That's a good option to get information but doesn't offer the same experience as connecting with a sales associate in a nearby store," Terre Wellington, SVP of store operations, internet and human resources at Lamps Plus, said in the company announcement. The text communication also helps to develop an initial sales relationship that can carry over to an in-store visit or purchase.
Lamps Plus began piloting the texting service in late December, and now receives thousands of customer texts to stores each week, per the announcement. The frequency and volume of text message conversations is double the number of store calls, which have remained the same, per the announcement, signaling shoppers' desire to directly connect with the store through mobile messaging platforms. Unlike calls, the text service lets customers maintain a conversation on their terms for easier one-to-one interactions.
The retailer highlights the feature on its mobile website with a "Check Store Availability" button on every product page. After customers tap the button, they see a page where a "Text Store for Availability" prompt generates an initial SMS message about that product. Lamps Plus also shares its stores' text numbers online, in customer marketing emails and inside printed catalogs.
Per the announcement, customers most frequently send texts to ask about product availability, sizes, colors and other design features. Lamps Plus also lets shoppers reserve products through text to later pick up in store.
SMS texting has an advantage over other chat platforms in being a pervasive service from cellular carriers, while popular messaging apps like Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp require a separate download and account signup.
While Lamps Plus lets customers text directly to in-store employees, other retailers are using a combination of messaging platforms. For example, Home Depot offers an in-app messaging center that sends coupons, promotions and design ideas without relying on SMS notification. Forrester Research said systems like Home Depot's provide personalized or contextually relevant information to mobile customers based on their interests, purchases and search history.