With the rise of online shopping and the continued closures across Canada, this past year has been detrimental for small businesses and retailers who rely on face-to-face interactions to sell their products or services.
With no clear solution or timeline for reopening, Optimy stepped into help these businesses make it through COVID-19.
Optimy is a website plugin that takes the text-based chat button to the next level. Instead of texting a robot and waiting hours for a response, Optimy connects shoppers to real sales reps who can answer their questions and guide them through their products in real-time.
When businesses install Optimy, they give shoppers the opportunity the engage in a variety of different ways. It’s the digital equivalent to walking into a store and being greeted by a salesperson. When a shopper enters the site, they can start a live video chat within their web browser without having to download anything.
We talked to Josh Singer, CEO of Optimy about how this product is changing the future of retail and helping small businesses and companies that sell complex goods survive the pandemic.
How did Optimy start?
Five years ago when we built Optimy, it was originally built as a workforce management system to help automate the whole workflow of managing an employee. Recruiting, onboarding, contracts, training, background checks, scheduling, coaching, motivating and communication with employees—there’s a lot of manual stuff that gets done, which is a real pain point. So we started building this technology in-house with the idea that once it was robust enough, we would start selling it to third parties.
How did COVID-19 impact this technology?
In 2020, we started selling that technology and we were getting great traction. And then boom, COVID-19 hit.
A couple of big things happened:
- A massive shift from physical retail to e-commerce.
- The wide adoption of video.
With Optimy, it didn’t take that long to build because we had already built the whole back-end. The front end is the video; that’s what the customers see. The back end is connecting the video to the employees and how you manage the employees. We already had that done. In March or April, we had the idea of building video. And then from that point onwards we built it, launched it, made adjustments and got all of that done by the end of the year. Now we’re scaling it out.
How can Optimy help retailers, especially during COVID-19?
With everything going on in the world right now and seeing how many businesses are struggling, we’re seeing companies really benefit from offering online. For complex goods like jewellery, cars, clothing, sporting goods or appliances, you usually have a salesperson in store.
Those companies can’t really sell online because you need to be able to ask those questions and regular online chats don’t really help.
How are you helping struggling businesses through this time?
For three months, we’re giving this tool to businesses that are struggling for free as a way to help them get through it and make it to the other side of COVID-19. We know what it’s like, we were in that boat a year ago where we had three and a half months of zero revenue for our staffing business when COVID-19 first hit. It’s scary and we know how scary it can be, especially for these retailers who don’t have the ability to sell online without a salesperson assisting customers. That’s where our tool fits in. If after those three months are over, if you don’t want to continue, there’s no obligation.
How does Optimy work for different types of companies?
There are two types of companies that we’ve been working with. One is a company that doesn’t even have an e-commerce website and they just want to get online. So, in that case, they’ll just build a basic landing page and then on that landing page, they’ll add our chat button. So, in that environment, they’re able to process an order with their in-store POS, walk people through the store and just talk to customers.
How do you think online sales will change after COVID-19?
What we see is that our clients start online as a way to survive. But then once they see it’s working, then they start increasing advertising or presence online and then they start getting more traffic. Obviously, during COVID-19 there’s going to be more digital sales than when people can also go into stores. But, online is going to increase more and more over time. For these retailers, we’re seeing them build digital-only teams where they used to have store teams, almost like digital is its own store. And I think stores that aren’t online already are going to be able to get a lift of around 30 per cent on top of where they are now.
What analytics can businesses utilize through Optimy?
Our baseline reporting will track the sales funnel, how many people visit your site, how many of those actually click on the tool, how many get the live chat and how long those chats are. We break it all the way down to the rep or the region but you can also view numbers company-wide or by store. If they want us to integrate it into their e-commerce or POS systems we could track it down to the sale. That’s not our baseline but that is something that some of our clients want so they can manage the reps and see how well they’re actually doing. Every interaction is also rated by the customer so that allows you to track and manage performance.