As the retail sector advances through the digital shift, consumers are demanding speed, convenience and value for money as part and parcel of their shopping experiences. As a result, retailers are faced with the ever-growing challenge of delivering on complex customer requirements, while also maintaining the personal connection that has been lost in the sales process with the decreasing popularity of the high street.
According to an Accenture report, three quarters of consumers are more likely to buy from a retailer that recognises them by name or recommends options based on their purchase history. One way retailers can achieve this connection is through conversational chatbot technology that can deliver intelligent, efficient and responsive shopping experiences, whilst also ensuring the specific requirements of customers are heard and acted upon.
The power of chatbot conversation
With more than half of UK consumers now favouring online shopping over visiting stores, chatbots allow retailers to use the art of conversation to regain control over the sales process in the digital age.
Utilising developments in AI to identify patterns triggered by certain words and other stimuli, chatbots can be installed into websites and messenger platforms to guide customers through an automated, customised conversational path to receive all the information they require.
More importantly, chatbot technology allows business to simultaneously provide instant and appropriate responses to each individual interaction with customers, ensuring no queries are left unanswered.
This lets retailers closely monitor the behaviour of shoppers, increasing the quality of data and insight that businesses can gather. This in turn presents brands with an opportunity to learn more about their customers than ever before, allowing the continuous hyper-personalisation of interactions with consumers as the chatbot becomes more informed and understanding of each customer’s requirements.
Showing genuine care and attentiveness, chatbots can help brands gain the trust of consumers through regular, tailored, broadcasts, with all messages remaining visible within the conversation flow, exactly like in a conversation with friends or family.
Consistent customer service around the clock
As consumers continue to embrace the convenience of e-commerce, there is perhaps no industry where quality customer service is more important than that of retail.
The rise of the online customer means shopping habits now stretch far outside of store opening hours, and thus it is vital that retail brands remain constantly engaged with their customers to offer quality, consistent and timely customer service.
Traditionally, shoppers have been forced to navigate through online information, fill in forms or make phone calls, often waiting long periods of time for customer representatives to provide answers for their queries, aggravating what is already a stressful situation with no guarantee of problems being successfully resolved.
While retailers will have staff training and guidelines in place, humans are highly susceptible to environmental influences, meaning there is no way of assuring consistent customer service across all human touchpoints.
Available 24 hours a day, chatbots can process thousands of customer queries at the same time within individual, personalised conversation funnels, without human intervention. Acting as a quick self-service option for customers that can provide quick information and resolve issues through real-time digital conversation experiences, chatbots can work through masses of information in seconds to provide instant gratification for users, as if they’re talking to a helpful retail associate.
This immediately reduces the risk of customers leaving the sites of retailers for a competitor, or opting to make a decision relating to the purchasing of goods at a later date, often referred to as ‘cart abandonment’.
Further to this, the majority of calls and messages retail providers receive are in relation to simple product information and updates. By integrating chatbot solutions to directly respond to such queries, retailers can devote their workforces’ time to accomplishing tasks that require human interaction, maximising staff profitability while promoting increased sales and return on investment.
Today’s social media-dominated consumer landscape presents the opportunity for anyone and everyone to become a critic, meaning when the high demands of customers aren’t quite met, it can sometimes be hard for retail businesses to avoid negative word of mouth across digital platforms in the public domain, such as social accounts and review websites.
Drawing on key words and phrases expressed by the customer, machine learning can prioritise complaints and requests based on their urgency, ensuring that the most pressing issues are dealt with as quickly as possible. By privately responding to customer complaints within the chatbot conversation flow, solutions can be found more easily and efficiently, squashing customer concerns whilst keeping brand reputation intact, thus minimising impact on sales.
The digital retail associate
In addition to this, chatbots provide a consistent, mutually beneficial touchpoint between brands and their customers. This means that both parties can engage in personalised, dynamic and real-time conversation to receive all of the necessary information for achieving frictionless retail experiences.
As such, it comes as no surprise that chatbots have a click-through rate ranging from 15%-60%. To put this into context, email marketing has an average click-through rate of about 4%.
Tracking variables such as price points and styles, chatbots can help retail brands adapt the journey of individual customers based on their preferences, highlighting new offers and products that are relevant, boosting sales and customer loyalty through a sustained offering of quality and helpful advice.
Cart recovery is another area where chatbots can help retailers increase revenues, by reminding users of the items that are still in their shopping carts and present them with a number of options for how they would like to proceed.
Further down the online sales process, once an order has been completed, users can retrieve all the necessary shipping information including the tracking number and delivery date in one bespoke automated message, rather than being made to login to a personal ecommerce account or search through emails to acquire this information.
If, for whatever reason, the customer is not happy with the product of service they have received, they can re-engage with the chatbot within the same conversation funnel to express their concerns, and retailers can act on this accordingly.
Furthermore, shoppers can even reach out to chatbots while in store for quick help with routine tasks such as checking if an item is in stock, freeing up workers’ time to help customers with issues that require the help of a member of staff.
Conversation is the future of retail experiences
Powered by intelligent chatbots, conversational marketing has the potential to engage consumers in the digital age through a maintained and reliable touchpoint, offering assistance and support at every stage of the retail process to enhance brand loyalty.
While there is no doubt chatbots promote quality customer experience, they also play a vital role in helping retailers keep up with the ever-changing demands of their customers, providing new and efficient ways for shoppers to engage with retail brands as they advance though the customer journey.
Although we are currently seeing the retail space rapidly evolving into a digital-dominated sector, there is certainly still a place for the shop floor, and as chatbots continue to develop more knowledge and intelligence through every interaction, they can help bridge the gap between the two platforms, pointing the way to an exciting future for the industry.
Grant Fraser, CEO of Digitonic, the smart mobile marketing company