Advances in Chatbot Technology Have Engaged Consumers and Transformed the Shopping Experience. Combined With Omnichannel AI, Chatbots are Now a Powerful Force for Driving Loyalty, Sales, and Time Savings.
Chatbots have come a long way in terms of successfully communicating with humans. If you’ve used any of them over the last 10-15 years, you’ve probably had a range of experiences.
Maybe a web chatbot answered with the ubiquitous “I’m sorry, I don’t understand your request,” which was immediately transferred to a human via livechat.
Or a voice chat interaction might have devolved into yelling “Agent!” until you got a person on the phone.
There are a few common themes here;
- frustration with technology and
- the desire to interact with a human.
Fortunately, chatbot technology has improved over time. Scripted chatbots can be programmed with a large number of responses.
Natural Language Processing (NLP) has contributed to much better recognition of user questions. And Artificial Intelligence (AI) helps chatbots to learn from conversations, adding to an overall knowledgebase and improving the experience for subsequent interactions.
As for our innate desire to interact with humans (not robots), we still prefer the former. In a survey by Userlike, nearly two-thirds of participants said they would choose to wait for a human agent.
But it seems we are in the process of changing our minds:
- Over three-quarters of respondents in an Uberall study report positive experiences with chatbots. (Uberall)
- More than half the participants in a Usabilla report say they would choose a chatbot over a human if the interaction saved them 10 minutes. (Usabilla)
- Almost one-third of consumers surveyed by Userlike would pay bills with a chatbot; almost 20% would even make a purchase. (Userlike)
The technology powering chatbots has improved rapidly and will continue to evolve. As it does, humans will become more and more comfortable with chatbot interactions.
The key differentiator will be making those interactions uniform regardless of channel.
You can have the most advanced chatbot there is on your retail website, but if your SMS chat, Facebook messenger, and voice chat don’t mirror the experience, it’s a lost cause.
Customers today expect a consistent cross-channel experience, with Salesforce reporting that three-quarters of consumers agree. And an even bigger motivator:
“73% of respondents in the same study said they will consider changing to another brand if they don’t get that consistency.”
Retailers can make the leap from disparate interactions on siloed channels to a uniform, cross-channel experience by leveraging an omnichannel strategy. Layering in AI will help them learn from individual customers to inform all customer interactions across the board.
Using an automated customer experience (CX) platform like Linc can help bring all communication channels and customer interaction tools into one fully connected system.
With customer purchases, conversations, and marketing all in one place, retailers can easily apply AI tools to continually improve.
But what does that look like in practice?
Omnichannel AI Informs Chatbot Conversations to Drive Sales & Savings
A chatbot by itself can answer questions based on a series of scripted responses, and even learn to create new responses based on AI. That standalone chatbot can only do so much. Connecting that chatbot (and all other systems) to a customer experience (CX) platform allows the chatbot to leverage all customer resources.
Chatbots can link directly back to a retailer’s CRM to extract purchase history.
They can check sizes, what’s in stock, which physical stores might have specific items, track shipments, and even provide restocking information.
They can look at viewing patterns across devices to see what products a customer has viewed, at what time and frequency.
And yes, customers do make purchases through chatbots: according to WorldPay, nearly one-fifth of users reported making a purchase through a chatbot.
By integrating with Linc’s automated chat assistant, a leading fashion brand was able to generate an additional $2M per year via contextual selling. The brand also saved $2.4M in customer service costs.
Chatbots Support Struggling Retailers During the Covid-19 Pandemic
Let’s rewind back to March of 2020. The global pandemic has just hit. You’re a retailer with a chain of physical stores. You’re forced to close your stores until….well, it’s not clear at first.
In-house customer service is disrupted as your company accommodates agents now working from home. Fulfillment slows to a snail’s pace as global supply chains are impacted.
Your call center wait times are greater than 2 hours during peak times.
This is exactly what one children’s clothing brand experienced earlier this year.
The brand moved quickly to launch Linc’s automated chat, which handled order support via “Where is my order?” (WISMO) questions and return processing.
After rolling out automated chat in a mere 2 ½ weeks, they were able to;
- Deflect 90% of customer inquiries
- Receive an 85% cost savings
- A 30% increase in repurchase frequency
A Chatbot Powered by OmniChannel AI is a Chatbot on Steroids.
A scripted chatbot that answers simple questions can provide value to a retailer. But given the rapid change in consumer expectations, retailers and shoppers both need something much more robust.
The overwhelming majority of consumers expect cross-channel consistency and would consider ditching a brand if they don’t get it.
That alone is enough to drive retailers to take action. And one way to get there relatively quickly is by leveraging omnichannel AI, specifically in the chatbot experience.
Customers get answers to all kinds of questions much more quickly, driving lower customer service costs and increased sales for retailers. This is especially timely given the pandemic, when we’ve all been forced to use online channels more frequently than before.
Want to learn more about Linc’s automated chat interactions and how they can support your brand’s goals?