When you step into the online shopping environment, there is a clear divide between the needs of customers and how businesses present their offerings. Statistics show this clearly with the average online retail conversion rate hovering around 2%. In a physical retail environment, customers can ask questions and be offered advice which yields a conversion rate of around 40%.
These numbers show that commerce has an apparent engagement issue. So why is this the case?
Retailers & brands being resistant to change. Customers are inundated with products and messages in much the same way that they have been for years. There is a reason for this, though – it is difficult to scale personalised engagement. Many businesses simply do the same thing and the result of doing so becomes lowered consumer response rates. To be relevant to today’s consumer, businesses should avoid the product-push approach and instead move toward meaningful engagement at the times when consumers are actively wanting a product.
Myopic focus on traffic generation. The majority of a business’s budget usually gets spent on generating traffic to a website. There is an ingrained belief that the marketer’s job is done because a user has visited a site. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Consumers have endless choice at their fingertips – once they have visited your site, they will continue researching and evaluating their purchase before actually completing the sale. The focus, then, should be on optimising the traffic that has come through the site by way of genuine, relevant and helpful guidance and engagement.
Undervaluing the importance of human touch. Human elements such as personalisation, interactions, and assistance in the moment haven’t reduced in importance as a result of online shopping. They are just as important as ever and businesses should incorporate human touch into their digital funnels to minimise customer effort and guide them along their purchase path.
Remaining stagnant and adopting sluggish attitudes are no longer options in the retail environment. Machine learning and deep learning are more readily accessible and companies are able to create highly intelligent and more engaging interactions by:
- Having a two-way conversion in order to listen and comprehend actual needs, tastes and context;
- Blending technology with human skill and real-time assistance; and,
- Providing customers with what they actually want in that particular moment.
The need to bring these personal, direct experiences to the digital customer journey could not be more urgent. Intelligent AI systems, digital assistants and adaptive technologies are imperative for delivering experiences that make a customer feel heard and cared for.
Conversational ecommerce – the next phase of online shopping
Conversational ecommerce is not a new concept but it is fast emerging as the way that businesses bring 1-to-1 engagement into the online shopping experience. This is especially relevant in a post-covid world where businesses have needed to evolve and rely more heavily on online shopping.
Conversational ecommerce gives customers the direct, personalised support that they were used to before ecommerce captured the spotlight. It supports a consumer to become more engaged and likely to purchase.
What creates an effective conversational ecommerce experience?
1. Ask questions
If your goal is for a consumer to let down their guard, open up with their wants, and to release their fear of purchasing you’ll need to let down your own and become involved. It doesn’t matter what you are selling, people have a resistance to buying when they are being blatantly sold to. This is true even if they want to buy it. The key to getting that engagement with consumers is to ask questions. This paves the way for a conversation about why that particular customer came to your site today.
2. Asking the right kinds of questions
Conversational openers like “Can I help you?” or “Hi, I’m [a chatbot name]. How may I help you today?” need to be banished.
These questions are closed and only provide for yes or no answers. When money is in the picture, the answer is more likely to be “no”.
Questions that cultivate more meaningful engagement are those that:
- Are specific in detail and have a focused subject. Examples:
– What type of phone do you have?
– Are you after more memory or speed?
- Give consideration to context, in addition to intent. Examples:
– What are you getting this device to do?
– Who is going to be using this device?
- Allow customers to think about their unique wants. Examples:
– Is this benefit more important or this benefit?
– What are your concerns?
3. Including an element of psychology
Salespeople have a knack for improving their questions after every encounter with a customer. They learn to identify behaviour cues, comprehend context, and use previous experience combined with elementary psychology to guide how they direct future conversations with consumers.
Through the use of AI and machine learning, businesses are in a position where they can replicate these customer experiences via digital channels.
McKenzie & Willis, for example, use a bed assistant that asks questions and helps people find the right bed based on their answers. Tait Communications offer a ‘Build your own radio” tool which helps consumers identify what radio best suits their requirements. ProtectCrete‘s concrete treatment assistant guides a user through questions to hone in on what treatment option will deliver their project outcomes.
Want to see more examples? Check out this selection of Shop Assistant digital sales assistants.