How Grocers and Food Brands Fuel Conversations with Their Consumers Using Chatbots

Michael Morozov
Founder & CEO

Many retailers worldwide continuously wonder how they can improve their marketing strategy and get closer to customers.

Are retail chatbots profitable tools for food brands?

Сhatbots communicate with users, provide them with necessary information about menus and healthy recipes, or even trigger some virtual actions, such as adding dishes to a cart or closing an account upon request.

To imitate human responses, chatbots can use artificial intelligence (AI). While chatting with certain virtual assistants, users may not even realize they are talking to a machine, not a human.

For example, the Staples chatbot along with the device called “Easy button” can even recognize a human voice. It is aimed at helping office managers buy office supply.

This smart chatbot can “remember” the preferences of an office manager and place an order properly even with the only human phrase “I need pens”.

Juniper Research forecasts that chatbots will save businesses $20 million by the end of 2017 and up to $8 billion per year by 2022.

Certain food and grocery brands have created their own chatbots to increase their customer service efficiency.

Many well-known food brands, such as The Subway, WholeFoods, and Burger King have been using chatbots for communication with their customers for a couple of years.

What kind of benefits can virtual assistants bring to the food industry?

Chatbot for food industry

The advantages of using chatbots for food brands

Using a chatbot is an essential part of ensuring an omnichannel marketing strategy.

The term “Omni-channel” refers to multiple channels working seamlessly together toward the same end – improved customer experience and increased purchases.

In their omnichannel marketing strategy food brands try to increase the performance of every platform and device that their customers may use in their shopping journey. This may include a website, social media platforms, a mobile app, messaging platforms, and chatbots for that reason.

Modern consumers need to have their answers fast. Furthermore, they want to have various options for how they can connect to a company’s representatives and do it with real-time access from any device and in any location.

Omni-channel marketing allows companies to keep always in touch with their customers and provides consumers with access to offered products and services in the most convenient way.

Bots are ones of the most important touchpoints for corporate marketing strategy.

In the following paragraph, we will cover the main reasons why food brands get interested in building chatbots.

Better understanding of the market demand

One of the advantages that an FMCG chatbot can bring to food brands is collecting data that help businesses better understand the needs of their customers.

For example, your chatbot could collect data to determine which of your dishes are the most popular. It will help you implement a more effective marketing strategy.

For example, say you have a  grocery store. Your customers keep asking you questions about how many calories there are in your product.

One way to use this information for your own benefit is to launch an information campaign that will educate your consumers and help you sell food. You can use email for this campaign, or you can add a calorie calculator to your website. It will reduce the number of consumer queries and total workload on the customer service department (CSD).

Furthermore, chatbots facilitate query analysis by automated monitoring, collecting, structuring, and storing consumer queries.

By using chatbots and analyzing queries, food brands can better understand market demand and enhance their productivity in the right way.

Subway FreshDirect Cheesecak Chatbot

Fast responding and constant availability

The key factor of why consumers approach customer service representatives (CSR) of food brands via chats is time.

According to a survey by Econsultancy, 79% of surveyed consumers prefer live chat because they say they get the necessary answers immediately.

Nobody likes waiting for a long time until an operator answers the phone and explains whether it is possible to order some extra cheese for a pizza in the situation when a courier may have already left the restaurant to deliver the order.

When a customer contacts a support center, a system immediately connects a chatbot. Consumers can get qualified assistance in an extremely short time.

Since chatbots can work on a 24/7/365 basis, you will always be able to take care of your customers at any time of the day or night.

Therefore, it will help you increase brand loyalty.

To learn more about chatbots in retail, read our article How Chatbot Integration Benefits Ecommerce Retailers.

Reducing customer service costs

Researchers at IBM show that companies annually receive about 265 billion requests worldwide. They spend $1.3 trillion to process these queries every year.

The most significant part of this expenditure is obviously allocated to paying their support teams.

Nearly 50% of all requests coming to food brands are routine and chatbots can efficiently process such queries. It frees up CSRs and allows them to focus on complex queries that require human participation, such as food delivery delay complaints.

Furthermore, chatbots allow food delivery business owners to reduce the number of necessary support employees. Data by Chatbots Magazine proves that implementing virtual agents saves companies up to 30% of their customer service costs.

Read more: How Chatbots Can Drastically Improve the Customer Service

Using chatbots in the food industry: use cases

One of the reasons why food brands start creating and implementing virtual agents is to improve customer experience. In this paragraph, we will cover some existing food brand chatter bots used in the food sector.

Sandwich ordering

In April 2017, Subway announced its chatbot for Facebook Messenger. This simple virtual agent allows customers to easily order a sandwich to go.

The chatbot provides users with options to let them choose ingredients for their sandwich and pay for it in Facebook Messenger using Mastercard’s Masterpass.

After the order confirmation, the chatbot redirects a user to the Masterpass login screen. Once login details are entered, a click on the “continue” button will finish the payment.

Subway chatbot

It is one of the smartest chatbots for ordering food. The Subway virtual assistant can determine the user’s location via a smartphone-based GPS to show the nearest store on the map.

It uses a friendly and informal manner of communication: when asking users about their cheese preferences, the chatbot “says”, “Let’s get cheesy”. This style of conversation makes a chatbot more human.

To create a chatbot like that, you can use AI and ensure your chatbot AI has self-learning capabilities, or you can train the bot manually.

With emotional intelligence technologies, your chatbot will be able to recognize the emotions of the person it is chatting with and properly react to them.

For example, it can use a sad emoji and offer to order a hot dish if a user texts they are cold and need something to warm up.

Providing healthy recipes

The Whole Foods company has its own chatbot that helps users find healthy recipes. Their virtual agent uses artificial intelligence (AI) to recognize human-generated text.

The chatbot is developed using Conversable, a SaaS platform for creating conversational messaging experiences.

To find a recipe, users can enter keywords or even use emojis. For example, a user can enter “grape” or use a corresponding emoji, and the chatbot will show a recipe of a sparkler or other drink that contains grapes.

Whole Foods Chatbot

The Whole Foods chatbot provides recipe links that navigate solely to their website.

Buying and sending out gift cards

A simple chatbot from The Cheesecake Factory helps shoppers purchase and send out gift cards.

In fact, it provides the user with two options: purchasing a gift card via Masterpass and finding the location of The Cheesecake Factory nearest restaurant.

When it comes to gift card purchasing, the chatbot redirects a user to the Masterpass login screen after the order confirmation. Once login details are entered, a click on the “continue” button will finish the payment.

Cheesecake Factor Chatbot

Consumers choose offered options to purchase electronic or plastic gift cards. They also can set the necessary amount to post on the card and enter a message with congratulations.

Food ordering

FreshDirect delivers food to seven states across the U.S. They have a Masterpass-enabled chatbot that allows customers to browse and buy their groceries via Facebook Messenger.

FreshDirect Bot

Subway, The Cheesecake Factory, and FreshDirect were built in partnership with Mastercard.

In April 2017, Mastercard announced a set of various food ordering chatbots that allow users to make purchases through Masterpass. Masterpass-enabled chatbots have different applications – from restaurants to retail.

They are all command-based chatbots because they provide users with options and process chosen commands to make necessary actions.

FreshDirect chatbot provides dish options by showing corresponding links that navigate to their website.

Finding the nearest store

Wingstop, a chicken wing chain, created their Facebook Messenger chatbot also in partnership with Conversable.  This platform integrates into an e-commerce system and provides consumers with relevant content.

The virtual agent allows users to find the nearest Wingstop store, browse their menu, place an order, and pay for it by choosing from the provided options.

Reordering saved orders

Pizza Hut also partnered with Conversable to create its own chatbot. Using this Facebook Messenger or Twitter virtual assistant, customers can reorder their saved orders or favorites by chatting with Pizza Hut accounts on social networks.

Chatbot for pizza ordering

It provides users with different options they can click on and inform the chatbot what pizza they would like to get.

Lunch ordering with AI chatbots

Taco Bell partnered with Slack to build an innovative virtual agent that behaves like a real human. It uses artificial intelligence to communicate with customers and process orders.

Furthermore, this virtual assistant can understand what users need and answer questions not related to a current order using AI. You can tell the chatbot you like it and it will say, “I don’t have emotions but… I like you too I guess”.

Taco chatbot

When users start a conversation, the virtual assistant connects them to their account, and then the chatbot integrates into a backend e-commerce system.

The AI computer program converts the pricing and menu into a conversational language and then provides users with relevant content.

Domino’s was one of the first food brands using chatbots based on the Facebook Messenger platform.

The artificial intelligence-enabled chatbot could let customers reorder their favorites or orders saved in their Domino’s accounts.

To place an order in the chatbot, users had to create a Domino’s account and set necessary pre-order options on the Domino’s website.

Domino Chatbot

Now, customers can access the whole menu directly from Facebook Messenger, add or remove ingredients, and make purchases. Dom, the Domino’s chatbot, can easily understand a user-generated text.

How chatbots help food brands increase sales

The examples of the above-mentioned conversational commerce examples show how food brands can facilitate the checkout process.

Such virtual agents automate the sales process by allowing customers to place their orders online by sending messages via Facebook Messenger, Slack, or other platforms.

What makes chatbots so good at sales?

  • Chatbots are fast and easy to interact with

Since chatbots can process orders faster than customer service representatives do, companies can significantly increase the number of processed orders and, as a result, increase sales.

  • Chatbots know your customer preferences

By using artificial intelligence, chatbots can ask customers about their food preferences and then offer a variety of dish or drink choices.

Because chatbots can offer food a customer will most likely want to buy, grocers and food brands can sell more.

  • Chatbots are nice and polite

Furthermore, chatbots are always polite and never get mad. It means that even the most discontent customers are likely to proceed to your checkout page.

Chatbots are a significant marketing channel that drives a loyal audience, increases both customer engagement and sales, and decreases customer service costs.

Our professional team will be glad to advise you on how to use a chatbot effectively in your case. We will also help you with chatbot development so that it brings your business to a new level.

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