AI Chatbots, Voice Assistants and How These Platforms Can Increase Your e-Commerce Profits
- Understanding Your Customer and Their Power of Choice
- What do They Mean; The Age of the Shopper?
- How to Offer Communication Channel Options that Invite Customers
- How to Be Accessible in Real Time
- Streamline the Purchasing Process for Greater Customer Retention
- Having Context Built Into Your Customer Care Platform
- Learning Continuously From the Feedback and Customer Experiences Shared
- Bonus: “How to Launch an Automated Customer Care Platform”
Understanding Your Customer and Their Power of Choice
Your customers have a new power of choice that they’ve never had before and indeed things have changed a lot compared to the past ways and how your potential customers used to shop.
Even a simple search for white shirt can deliver not only many results online but also all kinds of different offers, everything I click and collect next day delivery free shipping and free returns.
The shopper ultimately has the power of choice not only for products but also the kind of fulfillment delivery options that are really going to suit them and they will choose based on a mixture of many variables.
Maybe they want free shipping of a certain kind of “White Shirt Style” and maybe they also want to make sure that this item has free returns etc. this is how they actually make their decisions while shopping with your store.
Of course the way digital works now gives the customer the ultimate power of choice, they can simply move on to another brand if they’re not getting what they’re looking for.
When it comes down to it, in business, we really have 2 types of people that we are serving, purchasers and customers.
You might be thinking, “Isn’t EVERYONE a Customer?”
What is the Difference Between a Purchaser and a Customer?
A purchaser is someone who comes in and they’re searching for a particular product like a white shirt but come in once. They buy and then never come back.
A customer is someone who comes back to you and buys again and again. These customers were at one point purchasers who have remained loyal to your brand.
Now in some ways a purchaser really can be a cost to your business as we know that in E-commerce there’s a significant cost of acquisition and cost to serve each purchaser whether or not they will turn into a customer depends greatly on the experience they have had with your brand.
Many times the cost to acquire a customer who only purchases once (a purchaser) outweighs the generated revenue. Not to mention increased customer support costs.
With margins not what they used to be really the customer in the definition as we have outlined it here is the lifeblood of your business because that is someone who comes back to you and buys again and again.
This could sound counter-intuitive but ultimately your brand needs less purchasers and more customers to thrive but that’s not easy to achieve. With the right automation strategies in place, serving millions of one time purchasers and converting them into customers can be quite lucrative.
One of the reasons it’s not easy is because conversational channels like chat and voice are rapidly expanding and in particular when we look at chat-like text and some of the social chat channels we see that people who are 35 and down to about twenty years of age are very engaged with text and they also expect those texts to be in a relatively real-time kind of interaction method.
Basically what we’re seeing is that millennial’s open text messages within 90 seconds of receiving them so it’s a very immediate kind of communication format for this generation.
Likewise we see overall when surveyed customers these days would prefer text and email as a notification from business rather than a phone call.
Customer expectations and their preferences are starting to change significantly but it’s not just in text.
Voice assistance now the Amazon Alexa platform along with the Google Assistant platform are really starting to gain usage.
10% of all searches are now done by voice and over 40 million households use voice enabled devices like Google Homes and Amazon Echo and these devices are not just being used to check the weather either.
Already one third of echo owners have made a purchase assisted by Alexa so there is a lot of conversational commerce happening over voice too.
When you combine all of these factors we are definitely looking at a new situation and that’s a situation that has been most recently dubbed “the age of the shopper”.
Defining the “Age of the Shopper”
What does it look for retailers to be in the “Age of the Shopper?
Shoppers are surrounded by all kinds of different communication and purchasing channels that they can choose to use, whether it’s to interact with friends or brands, they have that ultimate power choice.
Really serving that customer in a way that they’re looking for is becoming increasingly complex and more difficult which brings in a new set of challenges for retailers and brands especially when factored in that customer experience is the key to turning purchasers into customers.
Harvard Business Review for example has shown that customer experience scores are directly related to annual revenue multiples as you can see on the chart above.
It was found in a recent internet trends report found that over 8 in 10 customers stopped doing business with a company after experiencing poor customer service.
This shows us that customers will not hang around if they don’t get the experience that they’re looking for and that’s a real challenge for your business and for all the businesses out there today. The increase in expected shopping experiences has also increased the customer service support costs incurred by brands to build this kind of customer loyalty.
When you look at a typical retail or e-commerce business and you see that over 50% of customers don’t return you start to see that there are some areas in the customer purchasing journey that need a little bit of extra attention.
In the graph above you can see some of the common spots where people really sort of disconnect from that brand experience and they never actually come back to purchase again.
The case for increasing E-commerce profitability is really about improving customer satisfaction through delivering experiences that make the life of the customer easier.
At the same time retailers and brands have to drive down customer service and support costs in order to compete with companies like Amazon while leading the purchaser into becoming a lifetime customer making consistent purchases with your brand.
1. Offering Customer Support Options
We mentioned earlier these new channels that customers are preferring to communicate with and it’s absolutely key that your brand is able to offer customer support and serve shoppers holistically on the channels they prefer.
(*Since the Covid-19 Pandemic No Contact Automated Customer Support Options Have Become the New Normal)
Offering Live Chat connected over text message but also through a platform like Facebook messenger has now become essential.
In regards to customers who are starting to use voice based devices you really need to be thinking about how you can offer voice assistance platforms to them as well.
We found that the order confirmation opening which is what you’re seeing in the image really is the most effective way for customers to discover that you’re available on these channels and also to acquire them so they actually opt into these channels and stick in those channels.
For example when we look at a customer like Lime Crime here in the Cosmetics business we see that the Opt in rate for text messaging is incredible with over 4 in every 10 people and we also see that the engagement is very strong.
42% of those who opted in actually tap through and click through to look at the landing page to get more details about their order for example and to really understand the exact status of that order they have placed in real time.
When we look at Facebook messenger and we look at a typical kind of Facebook Messenger experience here we can see that it can be a very simple thing for the customer to literally just opt in to being part of that experience and they can get a quick little message back.
Here we’re seeing how it works for a customer JustFab and ShoeDazzle and then from there they have a very natural interaction with you.
A customer can ask in their sort of natural language something like;
“Hey what’s my order status?” or “Where is My Order?”
And then easily there’s an immediate response there that not only includes a date includes a little map to show what’s going on so the customers happy because they’ve got that question that was on their minds solved immediately.
They haven’t had to phone in or email even maybe a chat through and social channel from a human agent they get that immediate results and are able to move on with their day.
And certainly we see that this is a channel that people are very interested in using so almost 14% of people here are opting in and that’s with no promotions or any sort of enhanced offers.
This was achieved through literally just offering them the ability to use that channel and we also noticed it was less than 1% of people opt out of that particular messaging channel once they have opted in, so it’s a very sticky channel to be offering your customers
2. Being Accessible in Real Time
These new channels include things like chat and voice as well as the kinds of mediums where customers expect a real two way kind of communication.
We reviewed earlier on that within the 35 – 20 year old demographic text messages are opened within 90 seconds and so there is obvious a immediacy to some of these platforms.
You can see here a great example of a customer using chatbots on Facebook Messenger in this case chatting with an AI Chatbot but they’re really using it as a two-way communication tool, it just bounces naturally back and forth.
It’s definitely not just a notification channel it’s not a marketing broadcast channel it’s something that the customer feels is quite personal to them where they like to interact.
We most certainly see this in the numbers as well not just in the anecdotes.
We see here that three quarters of shoppers actually ask a question or make a comment within Facebook Messenger, it’s a highly engaging two way platform.
We see when they do engage with the ai platform 92% of customer support inquiries were easily handled with ai automated customer service and so that really is quite an incredible statistic that shows most of the inquiries your customers will have are quite simple in nature.
The AI Chatbot was able to easily tackle those questions allowing your customers to move on with their day, to not delay them at all and give them exactly what they want in real time. A simple and seamlessly integrated customer experience process.
3. Streamlining the Purchasing Process
It’s like a look now at streamlining because streamlining certainly is very important when it comes to providing a customer with the fastest experience possible and really being able to give them what they are looking for.
In the case of a return for example we can see how the AI Chatbot can really help guide the customer through the entire returns process with very little information to work with.
The customer doesn’t need to know the details of the order they don’t need to know the name of the product or anything like that and they can still be taken through the return experience and given a simple and direct way to start their return on a particular product that I’d like to give back
The chatbot then can ask the customer “what’s that return reason?”, the customer can answer from a list or programmable or customized responses. It’s a very fast and seamless return experience.
The Chatbot then will follow up with some return instructions to let the customer know the return label has been sent.
Some other brands may opt to provide some instructions for return to store, or they might like to give the customer the option because ultimately it’s about providing that customer with the return convenience that they’re looking for.
Now the return once that mailing label is organized is also a great spot to introduce the to another product, you think I might be interested in it based on their order history, not browsing history or anything like that but based in particular on what they’ve been buying in the past.
We see that when you actually offer someone a product that you think they might be interested in at the moment of return that in fact 14% of those returns can convert to new purchases. With the right post purchase and return strategy you’re actually able to recoup a lot of that potentially lost revenue through offering an automated return channel.
Now we see in the image below that moving from chat to voice just how fast the customer can get an answer to one of their most important pressing questions;
“Where is My Order?” a.k.a “WISMO”
Asking “Where is my order?” (a.k.a WISMO) was the top-of-mind question for over 75% of customers after they’ve purchased and here we can see that a branded Alexa skill is able to deliver the exact information the customer is looking for in real time.
Again the customer is able to just get the information they need quickly without bogging down customer support and driving up costs with quests that can easily be answered by a competent AI chatbot.
WISMO is a question in a customer’s mind that previously may have required quite a few minutes or even up to 10 minutes for the customer to find an answer. Now the customer can get results in around 10 seconds.
4. Having Context
Customer Context matters in all kinds of different ways.
First let’s take a look at having context knowing the customer’s order history, who that customer is and also knowing the products that are sold by a brand.
In the example above we see a customer asking Alexa asking a branded skill to organize a re-order (this is a replenishment of a particular product), but the customer doesn’t need to know and nor should need to know the exact name of the product or the exact colour or type or anything like that.
Here we see a very simple request, however because of the context known for that customer in the order history you know the branded skill using AI is able to return exactly what the customer is looking for and just confirm it in a very simple way for that customer.
Along with that because of the context of the product catalogue there is an opportunity to provide the customer with some added value and in this case providing a free sample that’s complementary to what they’re ordering.
There is always an up-sell opportunity with omnichannel AI whether it’s a sample of a beauty product as it the case in the image above or whether it’s another product the customer can simply confirm they’re interested in and then Alexa branded skill can finalize that transaction on the spot again all this happens omnichannel in real time.
Going back to text messaging we do see that there’s a significant appreciation for just getting those real-time alerts again if people are checking these text messages within a minute or so it’s a great way to communicate with people in terms of delivery status and updates.
We can see from some of the customer quotes people absolutely love the notifications they get, they love that they get the detail every step of the way and certainly for Carters OshKosh they’ve seen significant engagement with the Shoppers who are opted in this channel.
On top of that Carter’s is so engaged they get detailed feedback on the experience of that delivery and gain valuable customer insight in terms of what that last mile delivery experience is actually like for real customers who are receiving orders every single day.
But That’s Not Where Context Finished
Context is also very important to human agents and so when there is a more complex inquiry for example that an ai chatbot over Voice Assistant isn’t able to tackle we actually see that adding context is incredibly helpful for a human agent who’s primary aim is to solve every customer support ticket.
On that first ticket the first time that they see it, they want to be able to solve that problem.
In the example we can see added context coming in so that they’re more likely to be able to solve that problem on the spot and also be able to do it more quickly without having to go and look up different records for example looking up different tracking number for UPS.
Finally we want to talk about learning because that’s one of the key things to do through these two way channels, learn from the interactions with our purchasers to retain them as customers and deliver increasingly valuable shopping experiences while driving down customer support costs.
You can see here customer’s use these feedback channels in a casual way using emojis and some of these graphics and that kind of thing and it’s the kind of customer feedback that you might only hear here in a conversation with in a store and that’s where these channels get very interesting.
Customers truly are using them as a personal one to one interaction on their preferred channel with a brand. With these stats you can see how people actually interact and at what point they are interacting with your brand and for what reasons.
This can guide you through the things like planning it helps of being proactive in terms of maybe educating the customer more about the process and all kinds of opportunities to increase efficiency or perhaps to reorganize how things are done to help improve the process and the experience for the customer
How Do You Launch an Automated Customer Care Platform?
There are few options to do that
Custom-build a customer care platform through an agency or a consulting company.
They certainly could do a fully customized build from the ground up there with a service provider like that.
Typically they would use some components off-the-shelf they’re not going to build everything from scratch but they’re going to build a lot of customisations in and do some of those one off-style Integrations and that kind of thing to make sure everything is working as it needs to work.
It’s one thing for a chatbot to understand a customer and its a whole nother thing to actually have that chatbot connect this understanding to some kind of a skill so that the AI Bot can actually take an action to resolve that customers inquiry.
Building an in house platform customized to your unique needs and customer acquisition and retention strategies.
This could work out well for business if you have a strong internal team and if you want to make this a core area of expertise in the future for example you can use some off the shelf AI parts and pieces like Watson api.
Sample with mobiles in the future you know you do and you project about psychic abilities of what you actually want to be able to provide to your customers it may be an option for you definitely consider it and send me probably you know if you’re really looking to cancel if you like soda pops Kyle the expertise within your organization you said you going to be to be able to do it fairly obviously
You can go with a proven customer care automation platform.
The type of software platform that you’re able to deploy quite rapidly which typically comes pre-built with Integration’s and capabilities.
it would be built to solve specific problems specific to your kind of business use case especially in terms of eCommerce and retail.
Generally speaking you should expect that an automated customer service platform like this will have custom and expandable features and capabilities you know you should be able to expect that you’re going to be getting for example more channels coming in the future and it will learn new abilities and getting smarter over time.
These proven automation platforms should be able to show the business case and it tends to be sort of a lower risk to actually launched into the market can be a lot faster as well.
Without going into too much technical detail let’s look at a common question we are asked
“How does an automated customer service platform integrate with existing platforms?”
Customer care automation platforms act more like a bridge between customer support between the e-commerce and LMS systems management platforms and social media management platforms along with other auxiliary systems, VIP product feed in terms of inventory and also on the marketing side of things and email service provider.
Most omnichannel ai customer service platforms uses SMS chatbot voice platforms typically you know would use web and email as well in order to really delivered to the customer exactly what they looking for on on any of those channels they prefer.
Then basically it’s about being able to bring together all these disparate systems and all these different pieces of data and used it to be able to act in real time and really address the customer in what they looking for.
Transforming One-Time Purchasers Into Lifetime Customers
We can see the kinds of things that you want to be able to offer your shoppers through customer care automation
- Item tracking,
- tracking split shipments,
- answering their where is my order questions,
- helping them exchange or return an item (also providing them with product recommendations),
- helping them with replenishment like we saw in her campaigning so they’re sending out recommended notifications around a season or something like that and then also offering sampling to them as well.
The idea is to create the environment to get your customers to re-engage with your brand and come back through that buying journey again and again.
We hope this class on increasing e-commerce profits with AI automated customer service gave you something to think a little bit more about in regards to coordinating your brands customer care automation efforts for maximum profits and reduced customer support and acquisition costs.
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