In 2020, the era of digital transformation is in full swing.
While most brands embrace digital transformation and today's technology through online marketing tactics like blogs, social media marketing, and email newsletters, other companies are taking things a step further by bringing some of their in-person services online.
For example, in the last year, we've seen beauty experts, career coaches, tax representatives, and even educators begin to schedule online classes or consultations that allow their clients to learn from them without ever having to step foot in the same room.
The growth in virtualized services makes a lot of sense. In the past, in-person services relied on strong local marketing and a good geographical business location. But, now, virtual services can open a pool of clients up nationally or internationally. Not to mention, brands that make themselves more accessible to clients might even be perceived as companies that truly care about customer experience.
While it's still not possible to bring all businesses and services online, recently, a number of unexpected companies have gotten creative to virtualize services that originally needed to take place in a physical store or location.
If you think that some of your products or services could go completely digital, but need a bit of inspiration, here are nine innovative examples of brands that made some or all of their once-physical services virtual.
9 Brands That Made Services Virtual
Recently, after temporarily closing all Planet Fitness branches and pausing gym membership fees, Planet Fitness began offering free virtual "work-in" classes and online training. Although they're not making any money off of these classes, they serve as a strong customer retention strategy by encouraging those who aren't regularly going to the gym to use Planet Fitness' expert coaches to stay in shape.
Here's a video of one of the "work-ins" which was first featured on Facebook Live.
When Planet Fitness locations open again, customers might remember the effort Planet Fitness made to keep everyone healthy and active despite gym closures. This could result in members feeling like the gym cares about its clients even when it isn't generating revenue from them.
In 2020, a number of local and name-brand hair salons have been offering virtual consultations, online beauty tutorials, and guided haircuts. One example of a local business that's embracing video call technology to continue servicing customers is Lure Salon.
According to the Dallas-based salon's website, customers can book a time to FaceTime with a stylist. They can use this time to discuss what type of color or style they're thinking of for their hair, create a coloring plan that can be done at home, and learn more about the tools that are necessary for safe hair-styling.
In March, Sweet Farm, an animal sanctuary based in California, launched a campaign where animal-lovers could invite one of the organization's goats, llamas, cows, or other animals to video calls. The campaign is cleverly titled, "Goat-2-Meeting," a play on GoToMeeting -- a popular video meeting software.
"Our board member, Jon Azoff, came up with the idea and said, 'You know, we're having so many company meetings and happy hours but they're all boring. What if we could get a goat or llama on the call?'" Nate Salpeter, Sweet Farm co-founder, told CNN.
According to the Goat-2-Meeting site, people all around the world can schedule an animal meet-and-greets for donations ranging between $65 to $750 depending on how many people plan to attend and whether the video call will be hosted for a small group of friends or a corporate company.
In most of the meeting formats offered, guests will get a quick tour of the farm, some information about the animal on their call, and an opportunity to ask questions about Sweet Farm or the animal.
Not only is this campaign adorable, but it also allows the farm to generate revenue and spread awareness about its organization's mission on a viral global scale. According to Sweet Farm, the campaign has been so successful that there's now a waitlist to book a meeting.
Based in the startup hub of Cambridge, Mass., Venture Cafe is a physical venue that hosts events to promote the local startup and innovation community. Events often include pitching sessions, expert Q&As, fundraisers, networking nights, workshops, and presentations from business experts.
Recently, Venture Cafe, or VenCaf, began offering a number of virtual opportunities for those who couldn't attend physical events. These virtual events include webinars, Q&As, workshops, and virtual networking. VenCaf has also launched podcasts, videos, and other online resources to keep the startup community informed.
Since 2016, Allstate has been virtually inspecting insured property via drone streams. This strategy, which was considered incredibly innovative at the time it began has also been honored with an award from the Novarica Insurance Technology Research Council.
When a customer applies or files a claim online for homeowners, renters, or business property insurance, Allstate can deploy drones to review the insured site or confirm visible damage.
While a rep might still need to visit and inspect certain sites or claims, drone photos or videos can expedite the process of getting insured customers money in a faster amount of time. This could also be safer for reps and insured people when the property is too dangerous to set foot on after a fire, flood, or other types of damage occur.
H&R Block offers an Online Assist add-on for tax filers which allows you to chat with a tax expert in real-time as you prepare your taxes. For more complex questions and troubleshooting, you can also video call and share your screen with an H&R Block representative who can walk you through how to fill out your tax forms.
Although this add-on is not equal to having an accountant file taxes, it might make customers feel more comfortable filing with H&R Block. For example, if someone can't afford an accountant but is worried they'll make a mistake on their taxes, they might file with the help of the Online Assist tool for a tax professional's live reassurance that they are doing everything correctly.