There past number of years have brought immense change to the commerce landscape, with big players setting new expectations for both online and in-person customer experiences. This, coupled with shifting consumer demands and expectations, has resulted in a significant, meaningful and impactful change in how we purchase goods.
Your customers’ journey to purchasing is no longer the traditional walk-into-the-store-and-buy we’ve known for generations. Consumers now have information about products at their fingertips, can price and specification compare in seconds, and can have almost anything they desire delivered to their doorstep.
So why would they visit traditional retail stores at all? And how can you use emerging technologies like chatbots to create a seamless customer experience across channels?
The modern consumer has quite a set of expectations. They want ease, they want fun, and they want customer service to be personalized to their needs. Even more challenging, is the desire to have this sophisticated interaction at any touchpoint, from bricks and mortar to web, from app to social.
The buying journey can now be a long and winding road, and it’s essential to keep in mind that this is not only a challenge, but an incredible opportunity for deeper engagement. This omnichannel reality means there are more chances to engage customers with memorable experiences, sharable moments, greater convenience, and top-notch services that will collectively create a loyal—and, if you do it right—evangelical customer.
Shopping as an Experience is exemplified by retailers like Bass Pro Shops, who create environments that are entertainment destinations as much as they are spaces in which to buy products. Shopping in these stores has become an adventure, and so deep is the engagement with their customer they return again and again for an afternoon of fun. And while they’re visiting, of course they spend!
Of course, it’s important ‘experience’ stores function as practical shopping spaces too. But to really nail what a modern store should be, offer your customers an environment that helps buyers express their personal aesthetic. Insta-worthy spots are essential in the new retail landscape, and not only do they engage your customers currently on site, they also are a powerful marketing engine once images land on social media, driving even more traffic to your store. These can be fun—or romantic—but they must be attractive, interesting, and unique.
A couple of classic tricks in the retail toolbox have had modern updates as well. Convenience has never been more important. Click-and-collect, ship-to-store, and order-ahead apps are all examples of Faster Checkouts, with each model being an example of providing services to the customer that makes your store simply the easiest and most convenient to purchase from. Coupled with an age-old technique for keeping customers coming back again and again, Loyalty Programs are being updated for the modern age, with companies like Sephora leading the way by offering desirable samples through their loyalty card program.
The emerging opportunity to add chatbots to the retail experience enables the creation of a seamless shopping environment across channels. From functioning as an FAQ page for the new age, to bots that automate and completely personalize abandoned cart marketing, chatbots are available in many forms from transactional to conversational.
These tools allow you to blend your online and in-store experience. Remember, a key takeaway is that above all else, today’s shopping experiences need to be easy. Chatbots, when done with sophistication and sensitivity, mimic a human interaction, help brands personalize the shopping experience, and prompt shoppers to take action faster.
Put simply, conversational commerce is the interaction with businesses through messaging and chat apps or voice technology via a two-way discussion between a customer and company, where a relationship is established and a value-based transaction likely occurs.
Conversations and personal interactions have always been a big part of commerce and the retail experience. If you decided to start training for a marathon but were unsure what kind of shoes would help you on your way, you’d likely head to a store, tell an associate about your plans, and they’d be able to steer you in the right direction.
Conversational commerce allows you to take this type of experience and automate it.
With conversational commerce, customers can chat with your company, ask questions, get advice and personalized recommendations, read reviews, and complete purchases—all within a messaging app or using a virtual personal assistant (like Amazon Alexa or Google Home). These experiences can be delivered through chatbots, AI, human agents, or a combination of each.
The whole idea behind conversational commerce is to deliver convenience and personalization throughout the entire customer lifecycle, from sales to service.
It’s no secret that to be successful in business, you need to be where your customers are.
Interactions are becoming increasing digital and more and more people are turning to messaging apps to communicate (when is the last time you used your smartphone to actually make a phone call instead of firing off a quick message?).
Social media and messaging apps have become the channel of choice for many consumers, especially among 25-35 year-olds This means that messaging apps are where your customers are—and where more and more are going to be. If you’re not there, you’re missing out.
Conversational commerce offers exciting new opportunities to communicate with customers and improve the conversational user experience. Using messaging or virtual personal assistants, you can converse with customers directly in your online store, instantly answer questions, and highlight deals that might interest them. From simple questions to product suggestions, conversational commerce makes it easy to automate and improve interactions.
Conversational commerce isn’t just about improving the online shopping experience in the moment—it can also help enhance the customer experience journey by improving the follow-up process with customers who abandon their shopping carts. For example, if a customer left a product behind, the typical response would be to email them a few hours later asking if they wanted to complete their purchase. From there, the customer would have to click on the link in the email, likely log back into the company’s website, and go through the steps required to complete the purchase.
With conversational commerce, you can send a message directly to the customer asking if they wanted to complete the purchase, ask a question about the product, or be reminded again tomorrow. With the click of a button, the customer is able to take action and complete their purchase, directly within the messaging app.
Once they’ve made their purchase, you can notify them when their order ships, and make it easy for them to track their package. After their order has arrived, you can touch base and ask them to submit a review, share photos, and rate their overall satisfaction—all with the click of a button. How easy is that?
Indeed, online retail is the present and the future. We all know the stats are astounding, and online retail continues to grow, but customers still deeply value an in-store experience. Even the big players like Amazon have been testing store environments and making big acquisitions to bring them into the physical store game.
Blending experiences using the latest retail trends married with technological web-based solutions is a pathway to becoming the next omnichannel leader. The transition to conversational commerce is the next step on the journey to automated customer service in commerce.
The easier we make it for customers, the happier, more satisfied and more able to purchase they will be - and nothing is better for business than a satisfied customer.