Since the emergence of the pandemic early in 2020, so much has changed: not only have we transformed the way we work, with so much of our time being spent online, but we’ve also adjusted the way we communicate and shop. As a result, retailers have been inundated with a flood of customer requests across many channels, especially social and chat apps. This constant flow of inquiries creates challenges—but also opportunities! In this article we’ll explore how retailers can leverage the power of conversational AI chatbots to automate handling customer FAQs, boost sales and create memorable CX, all without lifting a finger.
How AI Chatbots Improve the Customer Journey
Today, shopping is available to consumers at every moment of every day. This constant availability means that there are myriad opportunities for people to launch into customer journeys, and just as many reasons for them to do so. According to the Harvard Business Review, “in the future of retail, we’re never not shopping,” so, if you play your cards right, every interaction becomes a sales opportunity.
To describe how people use their mobile devices to search for, discover and buy things online, Google breaks the process down into four categories of “micro-moments”: these are called I-want-to-know, I-want-to-go, I-want-to-do and I-want-to-buy moments. The latter pertains to when someone is ready to make a purchase, and may be looking for help about what to buy or how to buy it. This is where AI chatbots can step in to guide decisions all the way to purchase.
The truth is, a customer’s journey towards a final purchase isn’t linear, but rather resembles an infinite loop of customer activity and feedback.
At Heyday, we like to call these moments in the journey the “7 Conversation Starters,” made up of the following steps. For each step, there’s a way a chatbot can help:
1. Inspiration and Pre-browsing
When looking to find the right product, whether it’s a pair of eco-friendly sneakers or a blender powerful enough to make the perfect crushed-ice margarita, consumers could often use some guidance along the way. In this first step, people are figuring out what they want, where they want to buy it from and sussing out the parameters of an eventual purchase by asking questions, like what the brand’s return policy is or how long the product’s warranty lasts.
At this point in the journey, chatbots can act as helpful guides and curators for shoppers by pin-pointing their individual needs, quickly determining what they’re looking for and making sure to answer, sometimes even anticipate, their questions.
The Chatbot’s Role: Product Curator
This step in the process is all about helping the customer make their purchase decision by offering them products tailored to their needs. AI-powered chatbots shine here by narrowing down the endless sea of options and pulling the right ones out from all the noise. This kind of assistance is what starts to build a relationship between a consumer and a brand, offering the kind of service that will stick in their mind, making them want to repeat the experience and become a return customer.
The Chatbot’s Role: Long-term Relationship Builder
Checkout is obviously a crucial part of the journey and, when landing on the last page, shoppers can often experience doubts and don’t complete their purchase – last year, nearly 75% of online retail orders were abandoned. People also often have final questions about the product they’re about to purchase or they want to know about available add-ons.
This is when chatbots can swoop in and act as the closing sales clerk all online shopping sites should strive to have. That extra boost of last-minute help can mean the difference between finalizing a sale and letting that item get stuck in the online cart to infinity. You can even offer a last-minute incentive or promo code to ease the sale.
The Chatbot’s Role: Last-Minute Counsellor
One of the unique facets of online shopping is the limbo time between when you click the last button to get shipping on its way and when that package actually shows up at your door. That waiting period can be accompanied by a little bit of stress, as prized purchases travel out there in the world.
This is especially true during the holiday shopping frenzy between Black Friday and Christmas, a period of time during which most of our clients report that 80% of received questions are related to tracking. Tracking orders helps calm those worries, and chatbots can offer peace of mind through useful reminders and updates about customer orders.
The Chatbot’s Role: Stress Easer
Once a client has received their product, the chatbot starts playing a whole new ball game in its role as a quality control inspector. This is when brands should check in with the customer to make sure they’re satisfied with the purchase, see if they need help setting anything up in the case of electronics, ask if they have any feedback for the company or if they would like to submit a review of the product.
All these actions become extremely useful data that can help brands tweak their offered shopping experience until it’s just right.
The Chatbot’s Role: Post-Purchase Customer Service Rep
The average ecommerce return rate of nearly 25% is enough to break any retailer’s heart, but it’s actually an opportunity to shine. If handled well, this moment in the customer journey can help build trust between a merchant and customer, and solidify their relationship. It’s a crucial time that must be treated with great care to show customers that they remain the priority, even after the purchase has been finalized. With packaging and postage involved, returning items can be tricky, and chatbots turn a more rudimentary part of the process into an easy and stress-free step.
The Chatbot’s Role: Facilitator
After all is said and done and customers are walking around in their pineapple-leather shoes or enjoying an after-work margarita, the chatbot’s work continues to ensure that people return to brands. This is the step of loyalty creation and is an opportunity to move towards customer lifetime value. Re-engaging users, with suggesting complementary products to the one they already purchased (would a set of cocktail glasses go with your blender?) and personalized alerts to let them know those shoes are now available in black, is the key to a lasting relationship.
The Chatbot’s Role: Loyal friend
With seemingly endless options available at our fingertips at all times, we can reach a point where it all becomes noise. With so many similar items to choose from, it can be hard to perceive any difference between all the brands within the same category, which means that customer experience becomes an incredibly powerful tool for companies to set themselves apart.
Chatbots are a sustainable and ever-present tool that makes everyone feel like they’re browsing with a personal shopper, there to help smooth out any bumps in the road and guide them towards their ideal purchase. In the age of AI assistance, Heyday can deliver these chatbots that become the helpful friends who can create a seamless shopping experience, and happen to know exactly what you’re looking for.
If you’d like to learn more about how we’re helping global brands like Decathlon, Make Up For Ever and DAVIDsTEA, as well as high-growth Shopify stores like Polysleep, Fody Foods and The Last Hunt, book a free consultation with one of the amazing humans on our team here.