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Should you be using chatbots as an online merchant?

Customer experience is the backbone of any successful store, especially when it comes to ecommerce brands. But, it’s not always easy to engage and connect with consumers in the digital space.

Even with a stellar product catalog and a beautiful website, online merchants have a long way to go when it comes to delivering top-tier customer service.

With no face-to-face interactions, digital storefronts are faced with the task of replicating the personalized experiences that in-person shopping visits offer. And this task is not an easy one!

From informed recommendations to friendly smiles, in-store sales associates leave pretty large shoes to fill for digitally-native brands.

The good news is, not all is lost! With the advancement of technology and ecommerce platform integrations, there are plenty of ways to enhance the user experience.

The greatest of these innovations? The humble chatbot – and we’re not talking about tiny digital robots replying “yes” or “no.”

What are chatbots?

Chatbots are automated programs that interact with customers through an interface similar to live messaging, using a set of predefined rules and machine learning algorithms to provide instantaneous responses.

They are an incredible self-service tool that empower potential customers to take their experience into their own hands – if they have a question, they can quickly send a message and take it from there instead of waiting on hold for a support line.

The common misconception around chatbots is that they’re… well… bad. Think, angry customers typing “connect to agent” ten times in a row after not getting the appropriate help.

But, with the proper time and implementation strategy, chatbots can easily learn to answer your most frequently asked questions – and even provide product recommendations.

Oh, and did you know that consumers are actually looking for chatbots? That’s right – 56% of shoppers prefer to use chatbots than talk to a representative over the phone.

What are the benefits of chatbots for ecommerce brands?

With the increasing customer demand for speed and availability, chatbots are a wonderful source of 24/7, on-demand care for your customers.

Let’s dive into three ways chatbots can enhance the consumer experience:

1. Personalization and product guidance

The more personal an experience feels to a customer, the more likely they are to return! In fact, over 50% of online shoppers will head back to a website that recommends products.

This is where chatbots can come into play. Messenger chatbots can use a back-and-forth style quiz to understand customer pain points, preferences, and budget. With this information, they can then share images and links of products that align.

You can see below how Sephora offers quizzes, reviews, product searches, and more within a customer’s chat experience. This helps the customer find what they’re looking for quickly, rather than spending time combing through their large site.

2. Increased customer engagement

Consumers are more likely to interact with a business they can message. In fact, 61% of digital shoppers say messaging is the most convenient way to contact a business.

It’s safe to say that messaging is the new email, especially for online stores!

Not only are consumers already message savvy with the rise of platforms like Instagram and Facebook; they know sending a direct message will render a faster response than emailing a support or info address.

Did you know leads are 21 times less likely to convert if response time exceeds five minutes? With chatbots, there’s a guaranteed immediacy, encouraging your customers to stay engaged and stay on your website.

3. Quick responses and more time for CX associates

Because of their hands-off, automated nature, chatbots can quickly free up time for your customer experience team to attend to complex requests or inquiries.

Plus, they give your online shop the chance to be available 24/7, 365 days a year – something you can’t always pull off by utilizing full-time associates.

With a few simple rules and knowledge, your bots will be able to answer straightforward questions about your refund policy or shipping destinations, leaving the more complicated requests in the hands of your customer experience team.

Chatbots are a wonderful way to expand your team’s bandwidth without having to take away attention from other channels of communication.

Where to start when it comes to chatbots

If you’re ready to implement a chatbot within your ecommerce store, there’s a few things you’ll need to research first. Based on your customer inquiries, it’s important to determine what kind of chatbot will be best for your brand.

Do you want your bot to recommend products and help your users search the site and boost sales? Or would you rather it be available for FAQ questions or troubleshooting?

Whatever you choose, there are quite a few development platforms that you can explore for creating and deploying your bot. You’ll just need to do the proper research to understand what each technology has to offer, and of course – determine if it falls within your budget!

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