With mobile sales at their highest point in history, experts are recommending that retailers invest in a strong mobile channel in order to stay competitive. Technology company Linc listened to this but decided to approach it in a different way: The platform focuses on helping companies talk with their customers rather than on building a speedier checkout or mobile-friendly product page.
“Brands are seeking new ways to engage with their customer through bidirectional conversation,” said Fang Cheng, CEO of Linc. “By leveraging social channels like Facebook messenger or SMS, anything that is quick and easy, and facilitates two-way conversation, you can drive a deeper engagement.”
Through a multiservice AI-powered chatbot, Linc enables brands and retailers to use a single automated tool to communicate with customers on a range of issues, from order updates to customer service queries to product recommendations. The newest feature, Content Inspiration Botlet, makes it possible to share existing company content (social posts, blog posts, even upcoming product previews) within these conversations to drive additional shopping opportunities.
The AI function means that as the chatbot fields more requests, it learns how to better serve the customer and create these opportunities. If someone flags that a pair of shoes didn’t fit because they didn’t run wide enough, the bot might facilitate a return and then suggest a wide-fit option.
“It’s very different than just putting out a notification or sending out an email,” said Cheng. “Instead, it’s a destination for the consumers that are organically coming to these channels to interact with the brand.”
With an increasing number of shoppers using smart devices — 2015 marked the year that the number of smart devices overtook the number of people — Linc believes that it’s more effective to talk with customers on the social channels they’re already using. Through Facebook Messenger, the bot is able to share text messages, imagery, external links and actionable commands like “track order” or “shop now.”
For TechStyle Fashion Group, parent company of JustFab.com and ShoeDazzle.com, the introduction of a multiservice chatbot allowed it to phase out its entire email support channel. It saw 74% of customers proactively engage with the brand on Messenger, with the chatbot fielding 90% of customer interactions on social platforms.
“Once our members opt in, they stay opted in,” said Anna Pettus, VP of strategic operations, global member services, at TechStyle. “We have a minimal opt-out rate of less than 1%, with feedback pointing to the value and convenience we are providing by serving them on their channel of choice, with no delays.”
Yet Cheng believes that utilizing a chatbot can create an even bigger opportunity for reward, beyond automating customer support and prompting new product ideas. Due to the bidirectional nature of the conversation, Cheng recommends that brands start using it to field customer response on upcoming product and create a customer experience within chat.
“The botlet not only circulates content, but it can also ask questions and receive customer feedback on that content,” said Cheng. “You can send out new product lines that are coming to launch or go upstream into the product development process — wherever you want customers to provide feedback. Using that content to really engage with customers is where you really start to truly see the advantage of this bot capability.”
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