How eCommerce retailers are building their brand through online chat

As more and more consumer commerce moves online, the fight for consumer attention and loyalty is getting hotter. One way brands are waging that fight is by making themselves more accessible to customers. Customer loyalty is based not only on the quality of your products, but also on the quality of the interactions with your company. One-to-one conversations are the fuel for stronger brand-customer relationships.

That’s why chatbots and messaging apps are so amazing. Online chat widgets have been used for customer service for years—the immediacy of chatting helps customers solve problems faster without necessitating a phone call. Now brands are starting to branch out into social chat apps. Where these consumer-facing platforms were once just a place for friends and family to catch up, brands are beginning to enter the space.

Chatbots automate some of those interactions with pre-populated answers and AI, allowing companies to be accessible to consumers 24/7 without the need to staff up a massive team.

“Since eCommerce brands aren’t able to build a traditional face-to-face relationship, chatbots allow them to build personal relationships with customers at scale,” says Taran Soodan, marketing director at Facebook Messenger chatbot platform Octane AI.

Being able to connect with customers in every channel and give recommendations boosts trust and credibility. It also triggers a sense of personal connection with the company. Fashion companies have been some of the first to find success in this new channel, but brands in any market can use chatbots to enhance the buying experience at every step along the buyer’s journey.

Connect with customers in a one-to-one channel

Messaging apps, which started out as a way for friends and family to connect , have grown into a staple of the customer service field. Now brands are doubling down on this channel by deploying chatbots for everything from answering pre-sales questions to making recommendations to recovering abandoned carts. Being able to connect with customers in this channel builds a more personal relationship and enhances the customer experience at every touchpoint.

Connecting with a brand via chat, whether a real persona or a chatbot, feels personal and friendly—the tone of these interactions is generally casual and responses are immediate. Chat moves the conversation along quickly, especially when compared to other communication channels, which is why 42 percent of customers prefer it.

Response time by communication channel via Drift.

Customers expect online chat and chatbots to provide the most immediate responses, even more than face-to-face interactions. This convenience is what fuels their growing popularity, and explains why brands are investing in AI-powered chatbots that can be available 24/7/365.

Some eCommerce brands, like luxury personal shopping company Threads, have moved the entire customer experience to chat and messaging apps, forgoing a traditional website entirely. Threads CEO Sophie Hill told TechCrunch, “The idea behind Threads is curation and convenience. It’s a customer-centric business and it’s built on chat because that is where the customers wanted to be and transact.”

This makes their brand feel like a concierge, where one-to-one relationships are shaped via chat alone. Instead of focusing on driving customers and potential customers back to their website, the buying journey lives entirely in a messaging app. Chat provides Threads with a consistent connection with the customer as well as a distribution channel for new content, sales, and updates.

Chatbots are especially important for brands catering to younger audiences to consider. According to Worldpay, 38 percent of Gen Z consumers and 25 percent of Millennials have made a purchase via a chatbot. And of those who have made a purchase, 81 percent would do so again.

Chatbot purchased by generation, from Worldpay via PaymentsSource.

When brands meet the customer in their preferred channel, provide them with solutions quickly, and build trust through one-to-one relationships, they’re able to build better relationships with the customer. Messaging apps give companies a way to keep their brand top-of-mind as a trusted confidant.

Make recommendations feel more personal

Interacting with customers via messaging apps and chatbots boosts the credibility of a company’s brand. Because chat is real-time, customers feel more involved. Instead of broadcast, interactions are back and forth and that makes it feel more personal.

Personalized recommendations are a powerful motivator—they increase open rates, boost click-through rates, increase sales conversions, and produce higher average order values. While recommendations are typically made through the website or via email, making those recommendations in messaging apps or with chatbots adds another layer of trustworthiness.

According to Soodan, “Chatbots are helping eCommerce businesses create an online concierge service. Instead of shoppers browsing the site and trying to find a product themselves, shoppers can now get personalized recommendations from bots.”

Take Levi Strauss & Co.’s Indigo AI; customers can answer pre-populated questions about what they’re looking for:

Indigo AI questioning via Levi’s.

This brings up recommendations based on the customer’s replies:

Indigo AI recommendations via Levi’s.

And the customer can opt to see similar products by selection More Like This or see jeans on human models with the See It Styled option:

Indigo AI – See It Styled via Levi’s.

Levi’s product recommendations chatbot provides the brand a way to connect with the customer directly, making it easy for the customer to find exactly what they needed on the site. By delivering a personalized, contextual recommendations using the interactive chat channel, those recommendations feel more personal and relevant.

The immediacy of the chatbot’s responses allows the customers to move forward faster with their purchase than if they had to wait for support or try to find answers in a help desk directly could not. It also offloads the work required by human team members, giving them more time to focus on supporting the customer in more complicated matters.

Increase accessibility to information

Informed customers make better decisions. When companies use messaging apps and chatbots to provide contextual information to customers, they help shoppers better understand the product and their path to purchase. This helps bypass the potential for returns and abandoned carts because customers know exactly what they’re getting into at every step.

For potential customers in the research and consideration stage, chatbots provide quick access to important information. This helps move them further along the buyer’s journey towards an eventual purchase as well as provide additional information to augment the relationship. Alex Beck, Founder of Apt2B told Octane AI: “We’ve only been working with Octane AI for a short amount of time, but we’ve already seen a serious lift, about a 17 percent increase in revenue for those who interacted with the bot.”

Luxury fashion house Burberry’s chatbot helps customers browse different collections while also giving them more information on their brand and quick access to customer service.

Burberry Facebook Messenger chatbot via Facebook.

They’re also using emojis to mimic the conversational style that would typically occur in this channel, which is mainly used by consumers to chat with friends and family, remember. When you select ‘Browse collection,’ Burberry takes it a step further by asking for location information. This helps them personalize the experience even more with localized pricing and gives them a valuable piece of information about the customer.

This is smart, because consumers expect personalized experiences from from online brands:

Share of consumers who expect personalized shopping experiences vs. their actual experiences as of September 2017 by channel via Statista.

When a brand meets these expectations, it helps solidify the relationship and builds a stronger brand awareness. If they fail to meet these expectations, it can lead to lost customers and a poor experience.

With more information on the purchases they’d like to make, customers will have a better experience with a brand. They’ll understand the value of the products being purchased and appreciate the potential for more personalization in the future. Chatbots offer a unique opportunity to provide consumers with personalized guidance at scale. And it seems to be working: a 2018 survey from SUMO Heavy found that 72 percent of people who have used chatbots found them helpful, and the number of consumer willing to make a purchase via chat has grown considerably over the past two years.

Key takeaways

Connecting with customers via messaging apps and chatbots gives companies a way to make personal connections that build trust in their brand. By making their company available, without the need for additional human resources, these tools provide the customer with a seamless experience from discovery to purchase and beyond.

► Availability at scale

Automated chatbots and messaging apps make it easy for customers to reach out to your company at any time. This increases the perception of accessibility and shows customers that you’re invested in their experience 24/7. Bots also help your company provide these experiences at scale without adding more personnel.

► Personalize experiences

Customers love personalization. The more relevant information and product recommendations your company can provide, the happier they’ll be. Chatbots and messaging apps give you a way to provide this experience to the customer in the channel that they prefer.

► Automate customer searches

Customers want the quickest route to the product they’re looking for—using messaging apps and chatbots gets them on this path faster. It’s important for customers to find products easily, as any frustration can lead to abandoned searches and an overall bad shopping experience.

► Provide valuable information

When you’re selling a customer on your brand, they need to immediately understand what value you can provide. Connecting with customers via messaging apps and chatbots lets you tell this story quickly and ensures that valuable information on your product is easy to find.