Why More Retailers Are Using Chatbots to Improve the E-Commerce Experience

Despite how commonplace it’s become to shop online, there’s still plenty of room to improve the e-commerce experience.

More than one-third (34 percent) of consumers surveyed by Market Inspector said they’ve had trouble finding their way around a company’s website. On top of that, another 31 percent couldn’t find answers to basic questions about the business—that could be hours of operations, shipping and returns policies and other simple FAQs. Even when they begin their shopping journey and add products to their online cart, 57 percent don’t feel quite prepared to buy (perhaps they want a coupon or promo code?) so they just abandon their cart. With no simple way to seek help and no consequences for walking away mid-transaction, it’s no wonder cart abandonment is as high as it is.

But here’s where chatbots can change the trajectory of an e-commerce shopping journey that otherwise might have gone off the rails. When executed thoughtfully and leveraged strategically, chatbots can assist consumers with common queries and offer a welcome pop-up when a shopper first arrives at a website. With just a few interactions, a chatbot can offer both relevant product recommendations and promotions in order to secure a conversion. At the end of the transaction, the bot can record the outcome and pass along feedback or complaints with the service to human customer service personnel in order to finetune and improve the chatbot experience going forward.

Given how firmly technology and artificial intelligence are rooted in consumers’ lives, it’s small wonder that 96 percent of surveyed companies believe chatbots have staying power—and 47 percent of consumers expressed interest in purchasing a product as part of a bot-assisted transaction. Although consumers have found recourse through social media in recent years when they require customer service or need to lodge a complaint, the strong interest (55 percent) in using some form of messaging to solve a problem with a company indicates there’s a better way to resolve an issue.

In the near future, it might be “novel” to interact with a live customer service rep instead of a bot. The majority (80 percent) of companies polled by Market Inspector indicate they’ll use some form of chatbot automation by 2020.

Editor’s Note: This story was reported by FN’s sister magazine, Sourcing Journal. For more, visit sourcingjournal.com.

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