Currently, one of the dominating trends in ecommerce is the fusion of online shopping and messaging applications. This model has earned the name “conversational commerce” and is literally changing the way people shop online.
Chatting with a virtual shop assistant adds the personalization that traditional online shopping lacks. The customers appreciate it for the new experience it creates.
In this article, we will dive deeply into the chatbot technology and see whether they are as good for online commerce as they are thought to be.
What is a chatbot?
A chatbot is a piece of software that can take over the functions of a human assistant.
Depending on the primary purpose of its parent application, a chatbot can be a support operator, a service desk consultant, a personal coach, a doctor, a shop assistant, etc.
Service chatbots provide answers to the most frequent questions; medical chatbots supply preliminary diagnosis based on your symptoms; fitness chatbots create personalized workout programs, while commerce chatbots assist you in choosing the right product.
Having mentioned commerce, we have to say that this is the industry where chatbots fit perfectly, as in commerce, especially retail, the “conversational” aspect is particularly important.
How can you use chatbots in ecommerce?
Remember what you feel coming into a new clothing retail store for the first time.
You see racks after racks of clothes, and you feel lost. Where are women’s clothes – left or right? Do they have classic clothes at all? All you see in the front is beachwear; does it mean that’s all they have?
At that exact moment, you hear that magic formula: “Can I help you?” And as soon as you ask whether they have a knee-length skirt in dark gray or navy.
The assistant will show you a couple of possible choices or offer a close alternative. They will also help with size and may also suggest a matching scarf or blouse.
Is that good for you? Of course, as you found what you wanted quickly and easily.
Is that good for the store? Absolutely, as you have left the store with a purchase.
Now, back to chatbots, because this is exactly what they do! They greet you upon your first visit and help you find your way among the store’s products, carefully leading you to purchase.
A retailer chatbot will ask what you are shopping for and then proceed to style, color, size and, sometimes, the price range. And, once you have selected the item, it can suggest putting together a complete outfit.
Now scroll two paragraphs up – isn’t this the description of shopping in an offline store with an assistant helping you make the purchase?
For example, the chatbot of American Eagle, a US clothing retailer, starts with offering to match an outfit to the clothes in a photo you upload, to shop their jeans collection, or to contact Customer Service.
If you decide to look at the jeans, the bot then asks whether you would like to see men’s or women’s jeans and then about the style you prefer.
Your answers allow the bot to come up with the line of products matching your preferences. Finally, for each suggested item, the bot offers to build an outfit.
This is the experience users seek when they prefer chatbots to websites or applications. They are seeking a personalized approach; they want to be offered something that fits their specific needs.
And a couple of figures to support this statement – according to a study by Oracle, 65% of users prefer to contact a business via a messaging app.
The same study shows that 50% of the customers are willing to make a purchase via a messaging app.
What else attracts users to chatbots?
From the user’s point of view, there are quite a lot of things where chatbots are friendlier than mobile apps:
- No need to download one more app. It is one of the key advantages, as today’s users are tired of having an application for every little thing. Most chatbots are built on the existing messaging platforms, so if you have a Facebook Messenger installed, for example, you will have all Facebook-based bots within the same app.
- No registration. This point is directly related to the one before. If you have logged in to your account on Facebook or Slack, you have logged in to all the chatbots living there. No new names, no new passwords, no need to create an account for each business or service. And they immediately call you by your name, too!
- No searching for information over multiple pages. The beauty of chatbots is in the organization of their content in a single chat feed. No matter what kind of content you receive via a chatbot – links, images, videos, catalog items – it is all in the same place. For many users, this is a distinct advantage, as they can get confused while visiting complex websites or apps.
Can chatbots increase sales?
The first clear advantage is that once you launch a chatbot on an existing messenger platform, you immediately tap into the enormous client base of the messenger service.
And this is already something to think about – for example, with Facebook, we are talking about more than two billion active users every month.
Another point is that the simple and straightforward chatbot flow can increase the conversion rate.
Sephora, a beauty brand, observed an 11-percent increase of makeover bookings after implementing its Sephora Assistant chatbot.
The reason is simple – while the same flow in the Sephora app consists of eight steps, the Sephora bot requires only three – to select the city, select the store and select the time.
Bingo, you are booked for a Sephora professional makeover.
Tommy Hilfiger, a fashion brand, experimented with its Facebook bot by including the option of purchasing clothing items directly from the show during the New York Fashion Week.
After the campaign, the brand recorded that 87 percent of the users came back to repeat their chatbot shopping experience.
How do chatbots work?
The most widely used type of chatbots is rule-based. They lead you with a number of multiple-choice questions and, on the basis of your answers, provide the most fitting options.
The algorithm behind such chatbot is filtering the results according to the answers you select.
You can combine the rule-based algorithm with machine learning to get a bot that can both operate multiple-choice questions and respond to plain-text speech.
In the latter case, the chatbot identifies the pre-programmed keywords and can also learn in the process.
The eBay ShopBot can recognize what you are looking for from your plain-text question and then filter your options with multiple-choice questions.
Another option is a fully AI-powered chatbot with an extensive knowledge base that is continuously expanded through machine learning.
This allows the bot to hold quite realistic conversations, although, such advanced functionality may be somewhat excessive for ecommerce use cases.
How can I enhance chatbot functionality to attract more users?
Despite the fact that it has not been two years since the public launch of chatbots, we are already witnessing examples of ingenious and challenging technology integrations that literally open new dimensions in the conversational commerce.
Augmented reality is eagerly adopted by beauty brands, as it allows virtual try-ons of their makeup products.
Of course, this technology quickly found its way to chatbots, too, and now quite a number of brands offer to try on new makeup right from within a Facebook chat.
Another feature to which many ecommerce businesses are looking forward is an integration of payment engines in the chatbot functionality.
Facebook Messenger has already made certain progress in integrating PayPal into its chats, and as soon as payment mechanisms are available, chatbots will be able to provide the complete shopping flow including the checkout.
As we go on, we are going to see more creative integrations that may attract users to ecommerce brands and stores.
In 2017, Tommy Hilfiger, whom we mentioned already, launched a chatbot directly from within a video ad.
The CTA leading to the chat appears right over the video, and users can start a conversation with the bot immediately.
This solution led to quite a high user engagement, as the transition from the ad to the online shopping platform was very smooth and easy.
Are all chatbots built on existing messenger platforms?
In many cases, creating a chatbot on a messenger platform is rather cost-effective, as the developers make use of the existing messenger functionality, all available features and integrations.
This is one of the reasons why so many chatbots are running on the basis of Facebook Messenger, Slack, or Kik.
However, using third-party platforms can cause some concerns, too.
What if the messenger changes its policies or the supported functions? What if it goes out of business at all?
Of course, in these cases, your chatbot may be affected.
Don’t worry. We have you covered here, as well.
You can always opt for a native chatbot – a chatbot built directly within your website or app.
Of course, it is going to take somewhat longer to develop and may be more expensive than a chatbot created on an existing messenger.
However, in this case, you will be getting your very own chatbot independent of any third parties. And, goes without saying, in this case, you are in no way limited in customization – the bot will have the style, format, and structure that you choose.
Lemonade, an insurance company, offering its products and services online, implemented a native chatbot in its mobile app. This AI-based chatbot can both issue insurance policies to new customers and settle claims by the previously issued policies.
So, what are the benefits of chatbots for an ecommerce business?
If you implement a chatbot, it is going to bring multiple benefits for you:
- Increased user engagement due to an easy and straightforward interface;
- Increased sales due to a personalized approach to customers;
- Increased user retention through the implementation of advanced technologies;
- 24/7 service which is greatly appreciated by users;
- Replacement of human operators who can be transferred to other positions;
- Algorithm-based customer service reducing the chance of errors to the minimum.
As you see, a cleverly made chatbot backed by advanced technology can be a valuable addition to your online shopping suite.
If you are set on attracting, engaging and retaining your users, you should definitely implement a chatbot as another channel to reach customers.
Share with us your ideas, visions, expectations and goals, and we will help you choose the best chatbot model for your business.
Jasoren has considerable experience in developing chatbots of different scope and complexity, and we are sure we can create one that will suit your purposes.
Browse our portfolio for the descriptions of chatbot projects we have successfully delivered, for example, the Intelligent DocsReply Chatbot for Hospitality – a Facebook-based artificial intelligence bot efficiently providing customer service in a hotel chain.
We will be happy to work with you on creating a one-of-a-kind solution that can bring additional value to your service.
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