It’s safe to say that lately, many things have changed in a short space of time. With the vast inundation of technology, we’ve found ourselves reconsidering a whole host of things, from what the future of chatbots in eCommerce might hold, to ensuring successful webinar marketing, as we fumble around trying to adapt to our ‘new normal’.
The surge in today’s digital transformation has also forced us to change the way we communicate. So workplace collaboration arrangements and the use of video conferencing tools have had to be scaled up dramatically and suddenly.
It’s reshaped the way we interact with one another – with social distancing measures likely to be in place for the foreseeable future. And it’s also spurred an evolution in the way we do business, with stores, restaurants, and bars all forced to make quite drastic changes to ensure customers’ and patrons’ safety. We’re also keeping in touch via virtual meetings as part of the effort to minimize in-person contact.
What’s more, against a backdrop of wider economic weakness and uncertainty, e-commerce is one of the few sectors to have prospered recently. Online retail was already trendy among consumers. With more people choosing to stay away from the stores (at least for the time being), people use e-commerce outlets to buy a wider range of goods and services than ever before.
So, whether you’re selling computer telephony integration software to businesses or you’re turning a side hustle into an online retail business, you need to know how to get ahead in a hugely competitive marketplace.
What is the Competitive Advantage of Chatbots in eCommerce?
With all that in mind, how can you glean an advantage over your rivals when you sell products online?
There are all sorts of ways you might catch consumers’ attention – messaging app (e.g., WhatsApp) marketing, for example can help you find customers who might be interested in what you’re selling.
But above all, you need to think about the architecture of your website itself. Is your site optimized for search engines; does it target relevant keywords? Is the content on your website helpful and informative? Is your site easy for users to navigate so that they can find what they want? These are just some of the questions you’ll need to consider.
They aren’t the only questions to think about, however. More and more e-commerce sites are turning to live chat software – or, even more often, chatbots – to engage with consumers and guide them to take the next steps in their journey to (hopefully) go all the way to completing a purchase. This is where e-commerce chatbots can help.
Chatbots have grown rapidly in popularity among e-commerce sites in the last few years, and for a good reason. That’s because they appear to be delivering real results – meaning higher conversion rates and thus sales – which in turn boost revenue and that all-important bottom line.
So, what is it about chatbots that makes them such a must-have for eCommerce sites? And what are the most effective ways to make use of them to boost customer engagement? Here, we’ll look at some of the most successful ways of deploying chatbots on your eCommerce outlet to enhance the consumer experience and lead to higher sales.
Before we do that, though, we’ll take a closer look at just what eCommerce chatbots are, what they do for customers, and what you can realistically expect them to do for your business. Read on to find out more.
Chatbots are, quite simply, a kind of service with which users can interact through a chat interface. They’ve been used quite commonly on social media channels for a while, but they’ve become widespread on eCommerce sites more recently. Sometimes, they are rule-based following “choose-your-own-adventure” logic, and sometimes they use artificial intelligence (AI) technology.
The reason they’re so widely used in eCommerce is that they can help to improve customer service, helping people find the kind of products, solutions, or services they’re looking for. That provides a more streamlined user experience and saves them an unnecessary hassle.
Of course, not all chatbots are the same. Some of them can hold quite complex conversations with users, while others are rather more basic. For example, some may simply use keyword matching to display apparently relevant information to users. Meanwhile, others have active learning capacities that allow them to draw on information from previous conversations and thereby devise neatly tailored suggestions or in-depth responses.
Today’s savvy consumers expect brands to be highly responsive to their needs – for example, through customer support on social media – and increasingly, they also expect to have a chatbot on hand to help them with certain functions.
Some chatbots are straightforwardly functional, guiding customers straight towards whatever it is they’re looking for (or at least the closest possible approximation). Others are programmed to take more fun and light-hearted approach, conveying the personality of a particular brand and providing consumers with a bit of fun and entertainment and practical help.
Whatever the exact approach is taken, chatbots are there first and foremost to serve a useful purpose. That’s simulating human conversation as convincingly as possible and providing users with the kind of help they’d otherwise be able to expect from a human. As we’ve noted, some chatbots fulfill this purpose more convincingly and effectively than others.
There are different types of chatbots, too. These include:
- Virtual assistant chatbots, sometimes voice-activated, like Siri or Cortana, can be used to retrieve information and perform certain administrative tasks like setting reminders or making appointments.
- Text-based chatbots provide a point of first contact for customers and can provide answers to simple questions.
The latter are commonly used in eCommerce for marketing and to provide both customer support and product recommendations. Ecommerce chatbots are intended to guide customers along the sales funnel to find the products and services they want so that they then go on to complete a transaction.
So, we should have established by now what it is about chatbots that makes them so useful. Consumer expectations are changing all the time, and you need to ensure that your business meets the kind of standards they want to see. You need to be accessible to your customers when they need you. So, among other things, you must have reliable small business phone lines in place so that consumers can reach you by phone.
Chatbots are highly useful in this regard, too. They provide visitors to your site with automated help to find what they want so that your human staff can help customers elsewhere.
But how should you go about making the most effective use of chatbots? What are their purposes for eCommerce sites? How can they be integrated into your business so that they provide a genuinely useful complement to what you do – and boost sales?
These are just some of the issues we’ll be covering below. Here are our top 5 tips to help you make the best possible use of chatbots on your eCommerce site.
A huge problem for eCommerce sites is shopping cart abandonment. In other words, consumers putting items into their virtual shopping cart and then leaving the site without actually completing the transaction.
You might be surprised at just how common this is – perhaps you always complete your transactions once you add items to your cart. If this is what you do, you’re part of the minority. According to one study, the average shopping cart abandonment rate in March 2020 stood at a massive 88 % – and for retailers in the automotive industry, this rose to 96 %.
You can see, then, why this is such a concern for online retailers. If customers aren’t going all the way to completing a transaction, eCommerce sites need to find ways of encouraging them to take further steps along the sales funnel. A chatbot can help both simplify the sales process (making it easier for consumers and thus facilitating more completed transactions) and ensure that fewer consumers simply abandon their carts without buying anything.
For example, eCommerce chatbots can perform a task known as ‘remarketing.’ This is, in effect, providing customers with reminders that they have uncompleted purchases in their cart. Hence giving them a little nudge to proceed with the transaction. It’s a simple thing, but it’s proven to be quite effective.
You might be a little reluctant about using chatbots in eCommerce. Perhaps you fear that customers might be irritated by the presence of a chatbot asking them if there’s anything it can do. In fact, however, you’ll find that many consumers who visit your website will appreciate having a virtual helping hand – not least because it saves them a lot of the hassle when looking for what they want.
Even if your website is perfectly designed and easy to navigate, a chatbot can take consumers straight to what they’re looking for. It’s worth noting here that, according to a survey reported by Forbes, more than four-fifths – 83 %, to be precise – of customers require some sort of assistance to complete an online purchase. Meanwhile, 75% of them expect to receive help within just 5 minutes from the start of the order cycle.
So, not only do many customers need and expect help, but they also expect it to arrive with the minimum of delay. It’s really only a chatbot that can provide this kind of rapid response. Your human staff, especially if you’re running a small business (or if you’re a sole trader), will almost certainly be unable to oblige as they’ll have so many other tasks on the go.
Ecommerce chatbots can also serve a useful purpose in suggesting purchases to customers based on their previous browsing history on the site. Your chatbot can send call-to-action messages to users drawing on this information and suggesting useful related purchases. This helps to drive sales and ensures your customers find more products that are genuinely relevant to their needs.
Following on from the previous point, eCommerce chatbots are a very effective way of gathering valuable customer data. The more visitors engage with your chatbots, the more data they acquire. This can be hugely helpful in better understanding what it is they want from your site.
You might be a little apprehensive about data (after all, there are so many pitfalls you can fall into), but don’t be squeamish. Data can provide you with a huge array of important insights, which you can use to reorient your business to better suit consumer needs and align them with your customer engagement plan.
Chatbots collect anonymous data from customers (each customer who engages being assigned a unique number), and this helps you to understand in more detail how they use your website. That means things like how long they spend on it, what they browse and buy, and so on.
If you have a better idea of what your customers want, you can guide them towards those items, thereby driving more sales.
We’ve noted already how pop-up notifications can be used to remind customers that they’ve got an uncompleted purchase sitting in their virtual shopping cart. Ecommerce chatbots can also be used to send users notifications about ongoing or upcoming sales and events that your business is holding.
Again, customer data can prove vital here, allowing you to target individual users with promotions that are most in tune with their previous preferences and browsing and buying history. Chatbot email marketing can also be a huge help here, especially alongside email productivity tools, which allow you to schedule emails to be sent out to clients and customers.
In addition to all this, it shouldn’t be overlooked how valuable chatbots can be when it comes to customer acquisition. Given the immense popularity of messaging apps like WhatsApp, it makes sense for brands to reach customers in ways they’re increasingly accustomed to – and eCommerce chatbots are highly adept at reaching out to people through messaging.
Because chatbots have so much data at their disposal (allowing them to make precisely targeted recommendations) and because they can also mimic human conversations quite effectively, they can supply new customers with suggestions and information much as a real-life salesperson could.
Chatbots in eCommerce can engage with customers through, for example, pop-up chat bubbles or personalized chatbot surveys. This can significantly increase customer acquisition rates and then boost conversions. Thus providing your business with an invaluable bump in traffic as new customers are brought in, along with the revenue that comes with them.