eCommerce and retail have become inseparable now. You might have seen enough eCommerce growth statistics and projections. What does all this mean? eCommerce is growing and evolving at a breakneck speed.
Though advancements in technologies and platforms have made it easy for brands to catch up with the speed at which eCommerce is evolving, a majority of them are still trying to overcome one strong challenge – ‘Conversions.’ The average conversion rate in the US is 2.8% (Q2, 2021). Capitalizing on customers’ intent to buy is the tough nut brands have been trying to crack over the years.
In this pursuit, brands have become increasingly aware of delivering on key consumer expectations once they reach their site, like – personalized recommendations, faster checkout, contactless buying, simplified search experience, multiple payment options (digital wallets and BNPL), etc.
While focusing on providing these features seems to have satisfied consumer expectation to the fullest, there’s one customer intent that often misses the radar – Immediacy and Self Service. The missing link that can help eCommerce complete the big picture is ‘Conversational AI’. How? Read on.
What is Conversational AI?
Conversational AI is the technology that combines virtual assistants like chatbots and voice assistants with NLP (Natural Language Processing) to help end consumers interact with a brand through voice or text inputs.
With their cognitive skills powered by NLP and machine learning, conversational AI can establish human-like relationships with customers to convert or create memorable experiences. They are more advanced than conventional chatbots that respond based on questions/scripts fed to them.
The Need for Conversational AI
Consumers today are all tech-savvy and well-informed. 72% of users prefer to seek answers online. They want quick and easy options to complete purchases and prompt responses to their sales, marketing, or support queries. They expect brands like you to provide them with the right information across all stages of their buying journey and all channels.
How can you gear up to deliver this? The answer is ‘Conversational AI’. Conversational AI is the go-to tech for eCommerce brands to enable DIY services and deliver answers immediately.
Gartner reports that by 2022, 70 percent of white-collar employees will use conversational platforms every day. Well, the consumers are also welcoming the tech. 47% of customers are already open to making purchases from chatbots, says HubSpot.
What Could Be the Reason Behind the Growing Popularity of Conversational AI? Read on..
Fast and easy use – Users can shop or clarify doubts by simply keying in inputs or providing voice commands and get immediate results.
24/7 availability – Conversational AI responds anytime to consumers, unlike human customer support, limited by time.
No waiting time – Consumers are growing impatient every day, and if you keep them waiting, they won’t hesitate to leave your store. Conversational AI can establish concurrent conversations with thousands of users.
Single AI chatbot on multiple channels – Conversational AI bots enables merchants to manage their interactions with shoppers across multiple channels from a single backend interface. Conversational AI bots can be deployed in your eCommerce store, mobile app, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram etc.
Customer journey insight – An AI chatbot accumulates customer journey insights on various sales channels and social platforms. Over time, the valuable intelligence helps you understand your customers better and shorten your lead-to-purchase cycle.
How can Conversational UI Improve your Customer Experience Quotient?
Easy store navigation
83% of shoppers need support during their online journey. So, it’s needless to say customers expect help, personalization, and advice throughout their buying journey. Though you have an on-site search in place, Conversational AI can simplify and speed up the process of finding a product in your eCommerce store.
Customers can simply ask for what they want in your website or mobile app in a way they are comfortable with, just like asking a sales assistant. Powered by Machine Learning and NLP, the Conversational AI chatbot will be able to comprehend user inputs and return relevant results in a flash.
With simple text inputs, users will be able to find the products they want, and thus Conversational AI shortens the time taken by your customers from the start to completing any intended action. Also, Conversational AI-powered chatbots can increase average order value by suggesting attractive up-sell, and cross-sell options.
Improve Customer Journey at Each Stage
Conversational AI can play an active role in addressing customer interests at every stage of their buying journey, from product discovery to support.
Product Discovery – “Find me the brown winter jacket for women from the ‘XYZ’ brand.”
Example 1: Tommy Hilfiger provides its users a Facebook Messenger bot (created by Netomi) to help them find the clothing they are looking for. The bot starts by asking for the style preferences to gather information and provide relevant suggestions.
Example 2: Sephora’s Kik Bot is meant to provide assistance for shoppers right from the discovery phase. The bot asks questions to get an idea of what users are looking for and suggests products based on the learning.
Order – “I want to buy a brown winter jacket for women from the ‘XYZ’ brand.”
Example 1 – Target, the online and in-store retail chain enables users to place orders via Google Express using Voice (Google Home) or from the Google Assistant on smartphones.
Example 2 : Sephora, the world renowned cosmetics brand has an AI chatbot (Sephora Reservation Assistant) in place which understands natural language to help users book appointments for a makeover at Sephora stores. The Sephora bot has seen an 11% higher conversion rate than other channels that facilitate in-store appointments.
Order Tracking – “When will I get my order for the brown winter jacket for women from the ‘XYZ’ brand delivered.”
Example – Best Buy’s Facebook messenger bot enabled with natural language processing capabilities helps users in finding order information and also tracking orders.
Support – “I want to exchange my ‘S’ size brown winter jacket for women from the ‘XYZ’ brand for the next bigger size.”
Example: Abercrombie and Fitch, the retail fashion brand, uses Twitter bot to address its customer support queries like locating stores nearby, finding the right products and even job applications.
Re-engage – “Labor day offer. We have your favorite M size brown winter jacket for women from the ‘XYZ’ brand at a 15% discount.”
Example – Burberry, the luxury fashion brand, has a Facebook Messenger bot that assists users to shop from its wide range of collections. The bot also provides push notifications (product suggestions, offers) to every user who has interacted with it.
After Sales Support
As per Hubspot’s research, 90% of consumers expect immediate responses from a brand when they have a customer service question. When it comes to marketing or sales questions, the percentage is 82%.
The numbers are very clear. Consumers are impatient. According to the above research, they need relevant answers immediately, which means 10 minutes or less. But, the average response of brands is more than 12 hours.
A quick response to your sales, marketing, or after-sales support questions determines your brand’s conversion, customer acquisition, and retention rate. A Conversational AI in place can handle thousands of concurrent users, provide one-to-one responses and keep doing this 24/7.
Shoppers are willing to share their data in exchange for a personalized experience. 76% of customers are comfortable sharing their data for personalization. 54% of retailers claim that product recommendations drive the AOV (average order value). Users who have clicked recommendations are 4.5x more likely to complete a purchase. They also purchase products they did not plan to buy after being recommended.
And the list of benefits of product recommendation goes on. With Conversational AI-powered chatbots, your brand can provide personalized recommendations based on users’ buying behavior. By analyzing past interactions, Conversational AI bots can identify the phase at which customers are and push notifications to other mediums (mobile, social platforms etc) through which they have interacted with the brand.
Let’s See How The Above Discussed Benefits Improve your eCommerce Conversion Funnel.
Customer Acquisition – Conversational AI bots can improve conversions on landing pages by initiating conversations and helping them progress towards checkout hassle-free. Kia, the South Korean automobile giant, managed to improve its conversion rate by 21% with the help of its chatbot ‘Kian’. The chatbot acts as a source to answer all the necessary information about KIA vehicles. The chatbot on Facebook messenger, achieved 3x more conversions than Kia.com’s website which is 7%.
Customer engagement – Providing personalized recommendations and educating customers by showcasing detailed information to make a buying decision. Emirates Vacations saw a 87% increase in user engagement by delivering their ads through chatbot.
Customer retention – Bringing back inactive customers, completing abandoned cart purchases, and providing relevant offers and discounts to keep them happy. Kia Motors’ chatbot Kian achieved a significant increase in customer engagement. The data gleaned through the chatbot was used for its machine learning algorithm to improve answers and also in retargeted ads. The brand saw a 24% increase in response rate for the retargeted messages.
How can Conversational AI Improve your eCommerce ROI and Operations?
Re-engaging buying process
Conversational AI bots can re-initiate customer interactions by sending notifications that carry the right marketing messages. Cart abandonment is a key challenge you might face. But Conversational UI can dig a level deeper than the abandoning phase of a buyer’s journey.
For instance, consider a scenario where a user interacts with a bot that asks for their style preferences and related information and ends up suggesting clothing and the user leaves the bot. This is somewhere before the cart abandonment phase similar to a user looking at a product and leaving it before adding it in a cart.
AI-powered chatbots can re-engage conversations with such shoppers by picking up items they’ve viewed and adding messages like “Where you looking for this product?”. Such relevant and re-initiated conversations can encourage users who have gone cold to complete the buying process. AI-chatbots can also provide alternative products and also provide upsell and cross sell options along with their initial messages to improve the likeness of conversion.
Promoting Active Sales Campaigns
Promote your active sales and marketing campaigns to your existing customers. It’ll not be like a mere email blast campaign. Conversational AI bots can make it more relevant by picking the products your users have shown interest in.
Covergirl, an American cosmetics brand’s chatbot that simulates conversation of an influencer, shares product information along with ongoing deals and offers on the same product. Through this exercise. The bot achieved 51% click-through on coupons delivered to its users. The brand also achieved a 91% positive customer sentiment and 48% conversion rate.
Automating Order and Returns Processing
Automate important support processes which customers hate waiting for. 83% of consumers want to communicate with brands they do business with through websites. With the help of Conversational AI bots, you can walk consumers through the ordering process by providing personalized answers and ensure they keep progressing towards checkout.
Also, you can process returns through Conversational AI bots when they wish to, even if it is beyond the working hours of your customer support team. By enabling self-service and automation in crucial areas like orders and returns, ensure you are being highly responsive to customer queries and keeping them engaged for long – all at a low cost.
Allows your Workforce to Solve Complex Problems
Using Conversational-AI powered chatbots, you can bless your team with fewer customer support queries. When human intervention is needed, AI-powered chatbots can transfer the conversation to appropriate personnel from the support, marketing, or sales team to guide customers to get things done quickly.
With Conversational AI chatbots, you can free up talents to focus on resolving more complex support issues by offloading and processing regular and frequently asked queries through automation.
Future of Conversational AI
While Conversational AI has started bridging the gap between human-to-machine communication, narrowing down the gap further is possible based on the maturity of several other concepts like NLP, neural networks, and deep learning.
As the number of ways a user here might frame a question is unlimited, technologies like NLP should be mature enough to comprehend longer and more complex sentences to enable Conversational AI bots to respond appropriately. When the inputs are voice-based, factors like language, slang, and pronunciation should be taken into consideration. If these challenges and limitations are dealt with, Conversational AI might become the foremost option for brands to automate support, marketing and sales communications.
Before you consider Conversational AI for your Business
Conversational AI is a technology to consider with its existing capabilities and promising growth trajectory. But before you decide to adopt Conversational AI, you should get a clear understanding of what business problem it is trying to solve.
Conversational AI adoption is appropriate for brands that deal with large-scale support queries. The frequency and volume of user queries your support team handles daily matters as you can decide mainly based on these parameters whether to have an AI-chatbot or not. Also, consider the number of channels and mediums your customers interact with your brand. See if you have customers asking questions on the web, mobile, emails, phone calls, and multiple social platforms. If so, Conversational AI-powered chatbots are the best bet to cater to millions of audiences 24/7 and build great experiences at a significantly reduced cost.