One of the biggest hurdles online retailers face is building a connection between their customers and their store. In traditional shopping cases at brick and mortar shops customers can normally find a staff member only too happy (depending where you shop 😉) to help them locate products, sizes, styles and colours they are looking for and answer questions they may have along the way. This connection not only enhances the shopping experience for the customer by providing great customer service, but also normally results in purchases being made. Replicating these conditions in the world of eCommerce had proven challenging until the rise of Chatbots.
What are Chatbots?
The simplest way to define a Chatbot is a piece of software designed to have conversations with humans. How they do this and the level of sophistication they are able to operate at differs greatly. The artificial intelligence behind more highly-developed Chatbots uses natural language processing (NLP) and machine learning to interpret customers’ questions and then relay answers and relevant information.
Chatbots in eCommerce
Chatbots are a valuable tool for online retailers and stores are already using them to better-interact with their customers to great affect. Some of their most common uses and the reasons why they are such a coveted feature in eCommerce are listed below:
- By providing answers to customers’ questions in real-time, Chatbots drastically improve the traditional method of finding information when shopping online such as navigating through a shop’s FAQ page or waiting for an response email response from a customer service representative.
- In fact Chatbots will actually save a business money as they no-longer need to pay a team of customer service reps to work around the clock, Chatbots are there to help 24/7. Research by Juniper forecasts that the use of Chatbots in Retail, eCommerce, Banking & Healthcare sectors will be responsible for cost savings of over $8 billion per annum by 2022.
- They use artificial intelligence to learn about a shoppers’ tastes and buying habits to better serve them in the future. This is extremely valuable as it allows a business to market their products to the right customers.
- By promoting products that a customer is interested in, and informing them of new fashions and styles and sales and deals in a personable way, can actually help build a relationship and a rapport between a customer and the shop itself. Some stores have even taken this to another level by setting up advanced Chatbots to behave like personal stylists.
Chatbots > Apps
Don’t worry your eCommerce store doesn’t need to have an app itself to support Chatbots! In fact there are several reasons why Chatbots make more sense then developing an app for your digital store but here’s just three:
- Apps can be hugely expensive
- The best looking ones can take a significant amount of time to design and create
- They take up space on a customer’s device and it’s hard to convince users to download them, especially when there’s over two million more out there in competition with you
The majority of digitally native retailers create their Chatbots using Chatbot solutions which their customers are most likely already familiar with such as Facebook Messenger, Skype, Slack, Kik, WeChat among others. These solutions can create a Chatbot which has it’s own unique personality or character helping to really connect to a store’s core customer demographic.
It’s no surprise that Chatbots have evolved so quickly especially when you factor in the dramatic growth of messenger apps compared to ‘more-traditional’ social networking apps:
It’s simple really, retailers need to be present and active where their customers can be found and reached, which is on chat platforms.
Chatbots also prove to have a greater engagement rate and a higher longevity than even the most popular apps around, proving that they’re the right way to go and if done correctly retailers can secure repeat business:
3 Examples of Chatbots Used in eCommerce
Perhaps the best way to demonstrate some of the Chatbots being used in digital retail today is to let the following videos below speak for themselves.
eBay’s ShopBot uses Facebook Messenger and markets itself as: ‘A friend who works for you, who knows your sizes, who saves you money, gets your taste and finds you the best deals.’
Cosmetic powerhouse Sephora have a long history of combining new technologies in the world of retail as touched upon in our recent post An Introduction to AR & VR in eCommerce. They developed an intuitive Chatbot to serve their customers on Kik Messenger which provides makeup tips and helps customers find the right product to suit their complexion and style.
Floral and gourmet food gift retailer 1-800-Flowers worked with ChatBottle to create one of the first Chatbots on Facebook Messenger. It allows you to browse and order flowers, among other products and also provides shipping updates right there in the messenger app.
The Next Step for Your Store…
Investing in a Chatbot is essential for the longevity of your store. They provide a cost effective and easy to set up solution for digital native retailers to engage with their customers and grow their business exponentially. With the shift in user habits from social media apps to messaging apps the time is now to get started with Chatbots. At the end of the day what business doesn’t want to improve their connection with their customers, learn from their habits, enhance their brand’s reputation, but perhaps most importantly, improve sales and secure future business?