Whether the digital revolution is your friend or foe, society is driven by technology. It continues to shape how we live, work and shop. From booking an Uber to ordering a takeout dinner, it takes but a moment and a few clicks to accomplish these tasks. No more waiting in line, battling with crowds or dealing with tricky people.
Shopping has been an area that has been significantly impacted by digital uptake. Consumers are becoming more self-reliant and shopping is transitioning to digital channels. At its essence, though, buying products will always incorporate a social element.
Buying is about interactions, the conversations, about asking and responding.
Purchasing anything seems unachievable without asking questions such as “Is this available in another color? What do you have available for under $100? Is there something larger but still around the same price? What other options are there?”
In the current ecommerce environment, there doesn’t seem to be anywhere to ask these sorts of questions in the way that people typically like to ask them. Consumers are first expected to refine their needs through the use of categories and filters. This process is unnatural at best and clunky at its worst. It accepts the idea that people should adapt their approach to suit the machines.
But the tides are turning.
Conversational ecommerce has landed and it allows businesses and consumers to have a conversation again. The journey toward a purchase becomes a conversation. This can be achieved through a number of channels and avenues. Examples might be a chat bot, product finder and many other tools.
So how are we able to shop without being able to actually look at and touch the products that we want to purchase? Technology usually steps in to achieve the unachievable and it is a matter of time before we will be able to shop by talking to an AI powered program or by texting a chat support bot.
The typical challenges remain.
Preparing for conversational ecommerce requires a complete structural redo. Being able to develop voice powered consumer experiences involves rethinking the way that things have been done for decades.
Shopping is intrinsically different from the many other tasks that we do online. It’s not a straightforward process – rather a convoluted path with many directions that a customer can take. Programming machines to keep in step with the changing whims of the human psyche and developing your customer journey to provide for natural humanesque responses will be a tricky feat.
Search optimization will need to be reimagined. Integrating payments will also need to be implemented with a high degree of finesse and security.
If you set your business up for conversational ecommerce now the yields will be worth it. Indeed, if you don’t embrace this technology you may be left behind.
Optimize for Voice Search
Humans picked up speech first and, later, writing and reading emerged. In terms of computers, the reverse has happened. Text input came first and then voice recognition entered the picture. Which also means that we need to unlearn and relearn a new approach.
When interacting with conversational ecommerce programs, customers won’t be talking in keywords.
At the time when voice adoption truly picks up, search queries will instead be dramatically different. Natural language needs to be embraced. Responses to basic questions such as “I am wanting to buy a new pair of running shoes” need to be answered like a boss.
Questions such as “Which school bag do I need for first grade?“ will pop up and you’ll need to have a prepared answer. A customer might ask, “show me some good options for girls sports shoes” and you need to have appropriate answers ready such as, “Okay, you are looking for running or sports shoes?” and have appropriate products ready based on how the customer responds.
It would rarely be appropriate to offer product choices after the first question response. More questions would usually be needed. This is where it is critical to ask the right questions so that you can point the customer to the most appropriate product for them. They would be able to decide more quickly and would feel a sense of satisfaction with what they have purchased.
Write Product Descriptions That Come Alive
Certain avenues of conversational ecommerce don’t have any visual interface so this requires an exceptionally written product description to explain everything a buyer would want to know by listening.
Product descriptions should contain answers to all commonly asked questions.
Even if a customer has a visual interface to work with, they may still have some questions that they would prefer to ask verbally. These questions might be, “Is this camera waterproof?”
In this case, you would need to anticipate all the various questions that may arise and enable voice specific metadata that can be relayed to the customer.
From yes or no answers right through to elaborate responses, you will need to consider everything.
Remember Text Conversations
We have mentioned talking a lot here but there is also another form of conversation.
Messaging apps and chatbots have the capacity to take orders, present suggestions and compare products and this should be factored into your strategy.
Messaging apps are a convenient and enjoyable tool when it comes to shopping experiences and should be embraced.
Consider How You Accept Payments
Accepting payments via chatbots and voice platforms is a tricky aspect to master. After a pleasant shopping experience (with conversational tools) and identifying the correct product, if a user is expected to go to another platform, or use their device, it may cancel out the seamless experience that led up to it.
Mobile wallets can be incorporated. It may be some time before this will become a seamless process but we may as well be ready.
Keep The Human Touch In The Picture
Although conversational ecommerce will fundamentally be driven by AI, machine learning and language processing you can never ignore human interaction.
Understanding how a customer decides allows you to provide them with the right information at the right time. Asking the right questions, in the right tone, engages customers and keeps them moving forward along the purchase journey.
Find out how you can bring the best of human to human interactions from the real world to the digital world.
Even in the online purchasing journey, if you are able to provide hand selected products you are at a tremendous advantage. To make the best conversational ecommerce experience, you need to blend technology and human elements. When businesses are ready to do what it takes to promote customer satisfaction, they will be able to thrive in the time of customer empowerment.