If there’s one thing that’s constant about ecommerce is that it’s always changing. Owners of online stores must constantly be on the lookout for new ways to serve their customers and improve the shopping experience.
Ever-evolving technology has led to quite a few updates in the operation of ecommerce businesses in recent years, notably the increased presence of chatbots.
If your site isn’t already using chatbots, keep reading to learn why you may want to start implementing them, especially if you’re looking to scale your ecommerce business!
What is a chatbot?
A chatbot is basically a computer program that’s created to talk with users on the internet in a way that simulates human conversation.
It works by using an algorithm to determine what the user needs and then responding with an applicable solution based on the keywords it finds in the user’s text.
Today, you’ll often see brands using bots in social media and ecommerce, as they can be adapted to nearly any situation and online store.
Whether you’re purchasing clothing, reserving theater tickets, or ordering a delicious take-out meal, it wouldn’t be uncommon for you to come across a chatbot at some point during the process.
Most ecommerce websites today use chatbots to assist visitors with finalizing their purchases, suggest products to visitors, or administer customer service.
Types of ecommerce chatbots
If you’re hoping to begin using chatbots, it’s good to understand the different kinds available to you. They vary in levels of intelligence, so which type(s) you decide to use will depend on the specific needs of your business and your customers.
Best used for answering simple questions, rule-based chatbots, also known as “scripted chatbots,” follow a set path. There are limitations with this type, as they can generally only respond with specific answers to questions that have already been determined.
Customers are often offered a range of predefined choices, which are used to lead them to the answers they seek. These chatbots can assist with sales leads, perhaps by organizing a call, and customer support, by providing a helpful website link or generic responses.
Many brands with a Facebook business account use this type of chatbot via Facebook Messenger to offer users automated customer support.
Although these chatbots can certainly assist with improving the ecommerce customer experience, they’re usually quite dependent on keyword usage. If the chatbot is confronted with a typo, it may not be able to offer the correct solution, causing increased frustration for the user.
Artificial intelligence (AI) chatbots
For more complicated matters that can occur, AI chatbots, otherwise referred to as “smart chatbots,” may be a better option. This type allows users to type or even speak into a chat box.
The chatbot should have a reasonably good understanding of various questions and commands that it might encounter, allowing it to respond to the user’s request appropriately.
Employing natural language processing (NLP) technology, AI chatbots are able to comprehend the intent behind the user’s query. Because of this, no actual human interaction is required to provide a solution to the user’s issue.
What’s also interesting about these bots is that over time, their functionality actually improves as they face different questions from customers. This increase in intelligence helps them to better serve users and offer businesses even greater efficiency.
Note that AI chatbots usually have limited knowledge, though, and can’t respond to queries that extend beyond the topic for which they’re created.
Despite the greater intelligence that bots with NLP technology possess, your online store might find that they’re an unnecessary expense. Rule-based chatbots may be enough for your site, and they generally tend to be easier to create and use and less expensive.
Why should your online store use chatbots?
Although bot technology is still relatively new, consumers are becoming increasingly used to interacting with chatbots when shopping online. Here are just a few reasons why you may want to consider using them for your ecommerce business.
Messenger apps are becoming more popular
A growing number of people are using apps for messaging to communicate for personal and professional situations alike. It’s no secret that many people, especially millennials, often prefer to text rather than make a phone call.
However, messenger apps go a step further and can provide a richer user experience than traditional texting. In addition, they’re usually free to download and use.
This can especially come in handy for international communication, as international messages sent or received via SMS texts can quickly add up!
A 2021 report by Statista states that the number of users of messenger apps worldwide in 2019 was 2.52 billion. Furthermore, that number is estimated to reach 3 billion users in 2022.
The seamless and intuitive messaging experience that these apps offer ensures that the popularity of options like WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, WeChat, and others, is unlikely to decrease anytime soon.
Consumers are shopping more often with messenger apps
Of course, people are more frequently using messenger apps to not only communicate but also to shop online with their favorite brands.
According to SmallBizGenius, around 40% of consumers, regardless of age, have a preference for interacting with chatbots when they make purchases on the internet.
With many of today’s consumers’ need for instant gratification, it’s no surprise that they’re becoming increasingly more comfortable with messaging apps when making purchases.
Chatbots often allow for a timelier resolution to challenges that shoppers might face on ecommerce websites.
In fact, 99firms states that 70% of customers are fine with using chatbots if that means they don’t need to interact with a real person for customer support.
However, note that even when you automate your ecommerce customer service, you probably won’t be able to eliminate human interaction completely.
An increasing number of businesses are using chatbots
It’s a wild, competitive world out there in ecommerce. Unless you’ve got a totally unique product that you sell, you’ll probably have at least a few competitors in the market.
For this reason, it’s important to keep an eye on your competition and see what is or isn’t working for them to help you become more successful.
If you take a look at ecommerce today, you’ll find that many existing stores are already using bots of some form or another.
Gartner states that the company’s client interest in implementing chatbots and related technology grew 160% in 2018. Most modern brands understand that bots offer a plethora of advantages that are hard to ignore.
Research from Statista found that the global chatbot market earned $51.7 million (USD) in 2018. The study also estimates that this same market is expected to increase to $454.8 million (USD) in 2027.
It’s safe to say that if you don’t want to fall behind, utilizing chatbots in your business is highly recommended!
How do chatbots benefit your store?
Perhaps you’re not yet completely convinced that chatbots are the way to go.
After all, maybe you think that your target customers won’t really have a need for them or that they’re not worth the time and effort to implement.
Before you decide that bots aren’t a good fit for your operation, let’s go through some of the amazing benefits that they offer.
1. Increase conversions
One of the major goals of any online store is to make sales and earn a profit. To do this, you’ll need to make sure that visitors to your site are converting into loyal customers.
While there are loads of different tools and strategies to do this, chatbots can be very effective at getting shoppers to click “Buy Now!”
Chatbots can assist in boosting your site’s conversion rate by helping shoppers throughout different stages of the sales funnel. For instance, this type of software can ask site visitors different questions to determine which of your products would best suit their needs.
By examining the answers people provide, the chatbot can make recommendations, saving them time when they’re trying to find the right product in a hurry.
In addition, bots can provide new ways to engage in cross-selling and upselling to suggest additional items to visitors. This will aid you in improving not only your conversion rate but your average order value as well.
2. Lower abandoned cart rate
Shopping cart abandonment is an issue for many online stores. This is when people visit a website and add items to their carts but then leave without finalizing their purchases.
Visitors might abandon their carts for numerous reasons, but it’s often due to a complicated checkout process.
To improve this situation, why not implement a virtual assistant to assist people while they shop?
This interactive chatbot could help them decide what items to purchase and later guide them as they check out, ensuring an experience that’s as seamless as possible.
You can also use messenger chatbots to schedule a message to be sent to visitors after they’ve exited your site and left items in their carts. After they receive this reminder message, they may be encouraged to return to your site and complete their orders.
When you combine this strategy with an email marketing campaign, you seriously increase your chances of getting shoppers to complete their purchases!
3. Improve overall customer satisfaction
One of the best parts about ecommerce for shoppers and business owners alike is that online stores stay open 24 hours a day.
Wake up at 3 a.m. with a sudden urge to order a pair of cozy, lavender-colored unicorn slippers?
No problem. Simply hop online, and with a few clicks of the mouse, you’re sure to find at least a dozen options to order right away!
This also means that as an ecommerce entrepreneur, your business can be making sales and earning you money any day of the week and at any hour of the day. However, you’ll unlikely be able to sit at your computer and respond to any customer service issues 24/7.
Enter the almighty chatbot.
When you implement chatbots in your business, you’ll have a system in place to respond to customer queries as soon as they arrive. The faster response time and resolution of their issues will no doubt make your customers happier and more likely to make a purchase.
Furthermore, if you’ve had a rough day, you run the risk of snapping at a customer, especially if you’ve had a long list of inquiries to respond to.
When you use bots, though, you remove the element of human emotion, ensuring that your customer service is always in a good mood. This in turn will help to provide every customer with the best experience that you can give them.
4. Allow you to gather customer data
Obtaining data from shoppers is extremely important for your ecommerce business. It helps you to better understand the people making purchases from your shop, how your business is doing well, and where you could improve it.
With careful analysis of this data, you can determine what to change and how you can better serve your customers in the future.
As chatbots interact with visitors to your website, they can easily collect important information that you can use for future analysis. This might include discovering what questions customers are most frequently asking.
If you find that people are often interacting with your site’s chatbots to learn more about a certain product, for example, you might need to add a more detailed description of the product.
You can also use bots to personalize the shopping experience for your customers. Chatbots are able to store data involving shoppers’ past and present purchases, permitting them to make targeted recommendations for future orders.
5. Help build loyalty to your brand
It’s a wonderful feeling to start seeing site visitors become new customers. However, you’ll also need to determine how to keep those people coming back for more. Retaining customers is essential for any ecommerce business, regardless of the product sold.
According to Invesp, it’s five times less expensive to hold on to current customers than it is to attract new ones. Prioritizing your customers’ satisfaction is one of the best ways to keep them loyal to your business.
The use of bots can aid in keeping shoppers happy by supplying them with conversations suited to their individual needs. They can also help encourage customer engagement, whether on your website, your social media channels, or elsewhere.
Little things, like having your chatbots ask new site visitors their names and then having them address them by that name in future conversations, can be effective at building brand loyalty.
Does your store have a loyalty program? If so, you may also want to use bots to remind customers about loyalty points they’ve accumulated or make reward suggestions.
6. Reduce costs for customer service
If you’ve just launched your ecommerce site, you might be handling most aspects of the business yourself for the moment. As your business grows, though, you may decide that a bit more assistance is in order and that you require a customer service team.
However, hiring additional team members can get expensive. If you use chatbots to take care of all (or at least most) of your customer service needs, you can save your business a ton of money.
In fact, even if you’re managing your customer service on your own, chatbots can make this more efficient. By reducing the need for human support for the customer service aspects of your store, you can focus your energy elsewhere.
7. Cut down on errors
We humans can be pretty great when we put our minds to it, but there’s a reason that the phrase “you’re only human” exists. It’s 100% normal for us to make mistakes in all kinds of activities, including ecommerce customer service.
Maybe you’re running on 3 hours of sleep or have a million other things on your mind. For whatever reason, it can be easy to miss or forget something when responding to customer queries.
With the assistance of chatbots, though, you’ll likely be able to reduce the number of errors your business makes. After you program your chatbots, they should run smoothly and always provide customers with the correct information.
Nevertheless, you’ll want to keep an eye on the chatbots that you add and review them periodically to ensure that they’re functioning as you want them to.
You should expect a few road bumps when you first set up a new chatbot, but they’ll hopefully be solved after just a short while.
Examples of ecommerce chatbots
When you incorporate well-designed chatbots into your online store, the advantages for you and your customers can be plentiful. To help inspire you, here are a few examples of ecommerce chatbots that have proved particularly successful for the companies that use them.
Sephora is known for its extensive selection of makeup and beauty products that it offers, both offline and online. Shoppers walking into one of the company’s physical stores or checking out the website could easily get overwhelmed by the sheer variety of items available.
To better assist customers in deciding what products are best suited for their needs, Sephora created an advisor chatbot, which operates on the app Kik. It targets members of Gen Z, who tend to prefer communicating via messaging apps rather than email.
To start, this chatbot provides people with a quiz to obtain relevant information, such as makeup brand preferences, the user’s age, and more. Based on this data, the chatbot is then able to make personalized recommendations and offer makeup tips.
It can also lead users to other Sephora content that may be applicable to them, such as product reviews and how-to videos, boosting the company’s content marketing efforts.
When Nike launched its AirMax Day shoes, the company also created an AI chatbot for Facebook Messenger known as StyleBot. This chatbot provides shoppers with product recommendations to help them locate shoes that reflect their preferences.
Users are able to pick shoes from Nike’s available styles or even create their own custom designs for further personalization.
They can also take a look at creations uploaded earlier by other people for additional inspiration. The chatbot allows them to test a variety of options to see which they like best.
Once users have designed their brand-new footwear, they may either save their creations or purchase them.
In addition, StyleBot enables users to share their designs with others via Facebook Messenger. This lets shoppers show off their creativity, but it also assists in promoting Nike and entices other people to try StyleBot out for themselves.
This type of chatbot is the perfect example of the level of personalization that consumers have come to expect from brands these days.
Furthermore, it also demonstrates that many shoppers are happy to provide companies with their personal details in exchange for special incentives, offers, or services that are personalized to suit their specific needs.
Amtrak is a major American transport company, providing railroad passenger services for customers in 48 U.S. states.
It has demonstrated how to skillfully adapt to a target market’s changing needs through the use of its chatbot known as “Ask Julie.” Over a decade ago, “Julie” was Amtrak’s telephone customer service agent and the voice that customers would hear when they called in for assistance.
Today, the updated version guides site visitors through the company’s website, employing NLP technology to help them find the answers they seek.
Users need only to type in a question, a keyword, or a phrase, and AskJulie will supply a short answer and lead them to a relevant page on the website.
The chatbot can also suggest additional links that’ll bring users to other areas on the website that may be of interest to them. AskJulie is able to assist customers who want to make a reservation, learn more about Amtrak’s rewards program, locate details for specific stations and routes, and find other information.
Another interesting feature that AskJulie has is the ability to vocalize answers in addition to providing a text response to accommodate a wider range of customers.
Amtrak has achieved significant results with the launch of this virtual assistant. Business Wire states that the company earned 30% more revenue and saw a 25% boost in bookings when customers used AskJulie compared to when they didn’t use the chatbot.
Without a doubt, chatbots are playing an increasingly significant role in helping online stores grow and achieve greater levels of success than before.
Yes, the idea of using chatbots for your business may seem a bit detached or even cold. However the advancements in chatbot development have made them much more approachable and like actual people today.
Chatbots are now an extremely effective way to communicate with shoppers, offering personalization and 24-hour convenience. Furthermore, they’re expected to only become more intelligent in the future as technology progresses.
Keep your online store up to date by researching which chat platforms members of your target market are likely to use. Then, determine what types of chatbots will best serve the needs of your customers and make their experience with your brand all the more enjoyable!