Bringing the power of chatbots to online stores

As we've written about elsewhere, automation and personalization two of the big trends re-shaping ecommerce in 2021. With the ability to both reduce costs and increase sales, they have become a cornerstone to successful ecommerce businesses.

One of the best routes by which to capitalise on these trends is with chatbots. Chatbots bring a degree of automation to customer interactions while also personalising customer experiences on your website, leading to more conversions for less cost.

So, how do chatbots work, and what you can do to introduce them to your business.

What is a chatbot?

A chatbot is a software application that can conduct online conversations via text. To put it more simply, it’s a robot that can talk to your customers over chat.

There are a lot of different types of chatbots. For example, a basic chatbot will only recognize keywords from what customers are saying, and then recommend support articles about related topics. More advanced chatbots can take those keywords and formulate answers, either predefined or developed through machine learning. They can recommend more than just simple support articles. Advanced chatbots can send visitors to products or snippets of a privacy policy.

In ecommerce specifically, chatbots are used to complete an order, upsell, or just provide customer support. Most digital first brands have extremely complex chatbots, that can provide a lot of help to a website’s visitor.

But they’re not restricted to big brands. Even small and modestly sized online stores can make use of chatbots. And they should.

The Benefits Of Chatbots

The first clear benefit of chatbots is that they’re familiar. Since 2015, messaging apps have become more widely used than social media platforms. This means that the mechanism of chatting - whether it’s with a human, or a chatbot - is something most visitors to your site will be familiar and comfortable with.

Indeed, survey data indicates that 71% of people are happy to get customer support through a chat bot. By giving potential customers the experience they’re looking for, it’s easier to convert them into happy buyers.

On top of all of that: chatbots save you time. They can pick up tasks from customer support agents, and sales agents, freeing their time to focus on more important things, or give extra care to special cases.

There’s no reason not to have a chatbot - so let’s get to installing them.

Building chatbots into your business processes

Each chatbot has a different system of implementation. Simple premade responses for Facebook Messenger, just require you to write a few rules in Facebook’s Messenger Platform. If you buy a chatbot system to install on your site, with complex, AI-driven responses for customer queries, the set-up process will take a bit more.

Chatbot providers have detailed information and support available when it comes to integrating this software into your wider business, so decide what it is you need from your chatbot, and then find the provider that works for you. 

Optimising chatbots

Taking advantage of all the advantages chatbots can bring to your online store doesn’t end with installation. Like any business process or improvement for your online store, if you want to make the most out of chatbots, you’ll need to constantly optimise them.

Crucial to your chatbot's success is ensuring it's up-to-date with the latest inventory and marketing information from your business. As with any other marketing effort, if inventory changes, so must your communication. If you have a particular product on sale, consider updating chatbot responses to specific queries so that it recommends that product, instead of anything that was before. Similarly, if a product is out of stock, make sure the chatbot doesn’t recommend it to potential clients. It can only lead to frustration on their end. If your privacy policy changes, you should make sure chatbot responses about privacy adapt accordingly.

On top of this, you also need to analyse the performance of chatbots over time, and change queries, or responses accordingly.

First, for queries, the research for what your potential customers need never stops. You start with an initial list of keywords, and the responses prepared for them. But that list should be organic. It should always change based on what potential customers are asking the chatbot, and based on customer support interactions.

Second - and this is important for upsells - chatbot responses should adapt based on what potential customers respond to best. If a specific recommendation works well in some cases, you can try recommending that product in more instances.

This is all based on analytics, and insight into your chatbot interactions. Luckily, most chatbot services have built-in analytics dashboards, that you can use to analyse all of these things. We recommend spending some time understanding those dashboards, and using them to improve your chatbot interactions.

Robot retail

Chatbots can help revolutionize how your ecommerce site (or social media presence) interacts with potential customers, or buyers that have some queries. It automates and saves costs on all types of customer interactions, so it’s a worthy addition to your digital toolset.

Set-up is usually pretty straightforward, and doesn’t require any coding at all. 

So if you don’t have a chatbot installed on your online platforms, it’s about time you took care of it.

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