What is Conversational Commerce?
Conversational commerce refers to e-commerce enabled by conversational AI solutions like chatbots and voice assistants. From product discovery to consideration to final purchase, the complete shopping experience is driven by conversations in conversational commerce. It stimulates the in-store experience provided by sales assistants, enabling you to minimize cart abandonment and boost conversion rate.
What is the missing link in your online retail space?
Since its inception, e-commerce has been reshaping and transforming how people shop and spend their money. Accessibility, time efficiency, and hassle-free purchases have pushed the digital retail industry to new frontiers in comparison to brick and mortar brands. From pop-up online stores to massive retail corporations, today everyone finds themselves expanding their customer base online with the far-reaching benefits of digital retail.
While the opportunities of e-commerce are endless, there’s also fear if the future of retail businesses with no physical presence is as secure and enticing as it should be.
Let’s weigh customer mindset and find out how rewarding is their experience of online shopping.
According to a recent study , 55% of customers in the U.S feel retail experiences are disconnected across channels. Hence, 70% of customers spend a considerable amount of time researching the product they want to buy before actually making the purchase. This also speaks volumes about the substantial cost incurred by retail businesses every time customers go for ‘free returns’ if the product fails to meet their expectations.
Many customers also feel that online shopping is not as satisfying as an in-store purchase. We can’t overlook how intrinsically satisfying it is to come across a product marked down in price, leading to a euphoric dopamine response from striking a bargain. Or when we see the products that we might not necessarily need but still purchase because well, we can’t forgo our primeval hunter/ gatherer instincts!
Another recent survey shows how 63% of shoppers in the U.S feel that retailers don’t know them. What online retail sites lack is a personalized customer approach which revolves around providing a complete customized shopping experience for each potential buyer. Today much of digital space is occupied by brands who invest in personalizing their offerings or creating messages to connect with buyers at an emotional level.
So why not personalize the online buying experience as well? Why not find a way to satisfy the emotional needs of the customer in the online retail space? Why not make them keep returning to their favorite e-commerce sites? Conversational AI addresses all these requirements by blending personalized experience and endless choice.
Early adopters of conversational commerce
In the year 2016, Domino’s Pizza started exploring natural language understanding solutions and AI to enhance its sales. The company realized that price, product, place, and promotion were not the only factors influencing business value creation. Retail customer experience played a key role in improving sales as well. By implementing Conversational AI, Domino’s Pizza simplified its user interactions and complex ordering scenarios.
In the following years, Domino’s Pizza has transformed into an e-commerce powerhouse and today has developed its own voice ordering assistant. This is a next-level retail venture. Today organizations like Domino’s believe that by providing an inhouse tailored experience to their customers, by minimizing confusion while ordering and by maximizing customer satisfaction, they hold the key to customer retention and enhancing future business prospects.
Senseforth realizes the extensive reach that chatbots, voice assistants, and messaging apps offer when it comes to customer engagement. The Home Center Bot, developed for one of our house décor clients, engages customers in real-time through speech to speech and speech to text conversation experience. It provides 24/7 support to the customers and helps them with their queries about order status, nearest stores, exchange policies, etc. By analyzing customer’s shopping pattern, it forwards offers and promotions and increases the visibility of the website.
The home center bot can handle all sorts of variations and complex queries, assuring that the customer has a personalized experience. It is easy accessibility through Google Assistant on mobile & Google home device makes it a constant companion and helps the business be wherever the customers are.
Paving the new path to purchase through conversational commerce
Amazon’s Alexa, Apple’s Siri, Google’s Assistant, and Microsoft’s Cortana – the advent of voice-based personal assistants have made complex interactions between humans and machines a reality. Such conversational interfaces help predict customer behavior and contribute to shopping in exactly the way that a real-life shopping experience might do.
Through such socially interactive platforms, retailers can easily mitigate the impersonal nature of online shopping. Chatbots can minimize cart abandonment by delivering personalized user experience at scale, creating an impact on purchasing decisions, guiding customers from indecisive browsing to the final purchase and helping marketing lead-generators in the e-commerce space.
Research from McKinsey Global Institute shows that the retail industry could reap global benefits from AI worth $400 billion to $800 billion in coming years. However, that’s just one half of the story. While digital technologies like conversational commerce will continue to drive retail, it is the customer who holds the steering wheel now.
With a smartphone at their disposal, customers have access to the world’s largest shopping mall. If they need to know what’s trending, they can read relevant blogs, follow their friends and their social posts and get inspired. They can compare products and pricing before making a purchase. And finally, they can access customer service whenever and from wherever they want, at a faster pace than the typical store associates can provide. In short, modern customers are in full control of the path to purchase.
Conversational commerce makes it possible to personalize every path to purchase, creating an opportunity for retailers to reach customers with smarter, more predictive experiences. The chatbots today, armed with artificial intelligence, move to the forefront to provide a seamless journey across all channels of engagement and this leads to a faster, more convenient customer support.
Streamlining your digital retail space
Most online retailers have already implemented some sort of personalization strategy for their customers through email, text messages or by adding “free goodies” as a bonus in the delivery package. However, to excel in the current competitive landscape, retailers must scale up their customer engagement strategies. Conversational AI platforms can impact the purchasing decisions of customers, by engaging them in a ‘heart to heart’ interaction. This engagement plays a subsequent role in shaping up the customer’s opinion about the product, it’s utility and helps in building a positive image of the brand.
Capabilities of a conversational commerce platform are not limited to just asking a customer what he/she wants. Such platforms are contextually aware and can serve multiple purposes.
They can run a one on one search and can track a customer’s past transactions or browsing history.
They can monitor a customer’s buying habits and recommend suitable products with precision.
They can help optimize the time spent by each shopper online, streamline their search process and take them quickly close to the final purchase.
They can support the customer through the payment process and suggest buying options.
Making relevant and authentic information easily accessible
With the number of reviews available on various social media platforms for a single product, it is easy for customers to form an opinion of any brand. The authenticity of such reviews and their sources are irrelevant for them. Instead, the word-of-mouth advertising acts as an influencer for the brand. Customers today are more informed as they have a vast amount of data at their disposal which influences their purchase habits.
Virtual assistants work in a multi-pronged way, not just engaging customers but also in retaining them. They are the representatives of the brand and work towards providing authentic feedback for the products. They can suggest which product would be the perfect fit to match the requirements, what are the possible alternatives, and ultimately channel customers towards an actual purchase.
They are also equipped to sift through the numerous user reviews on a product and give visibility to the most helpful reviews. So, if you want your customers to know about a product and don’t want them wasting time going through the information manually, your virtual assistant will choose and relate the relevant information, making sure the customer remains unbiased.
Conversation leads to conversion
Conversational Commerce opens the door to deeper customer interaction during the crucial period of deal closure. AI-based bots can tackle the challenges presented by multiple browsing options available to today’s buyers. During a crucial selection process, virtual assistants can help improve the odds of conversion. Prolonged waiting while contacting customer helplines and unexpected turnaround time for email inquiries can result in loss of business for online retailers. Virtual assistants can come to immediate aid working as an in-house sales rep, answering customer queries, providing product visibility and giving the extra assurance to the customer to make the final purchase. It helps businesses reduce support cost as multiple chats can be usually performed at the same time and enhance the user experience.
Dedicated bots serve niche demands of e-commerce visitors and go the extra mile in upselling and cross-selling products thus increasing the revenue. They minimize stress and become a form of customized online presence, helping customers find the information they need to make a purchase decision. They can also sync well with the whole e-commerce system and respond to queries with the finesse of a smooth-talking salesman!
Bots are smart. They are here. They are omnipresent. With increasing product/service offerings and stiffer competition, influencing buyer’s decision can be an uphill task for online retailers. This is where conversational commerce platforms can make a huge difference. They can draw customers attention by sending a thank you email for buying a product, note the feedback for future reference and provide friction-less after-sales support. With the ability to instantly respond to every customer query, update order status, and track delivery schedules in real-time, conversational commerce is quickly becoming a renaissance for the retail industry.