While shoppers might be strapped for cash given a 9.1% rise in consumer prices, it doesn’t mean they’re willing to give up a premium customer experience. Although product and pricing remain key to acquiring customers in the retail space, it’s the top-notch, memorable experience a brand delivers that makes them stay.
Personalization along with convenience is at the forefront of customers’ minds, and conversational commerce integrates this into every step of the sales funnel. While conversational commerce isn’t brand new, it’s becoming a necessity in the retail space as consumers increasingly interact within digital channels and more and more brands are fighting for their attention.
Conversational commerce is a marketing strategy that integrates the conversational in-store experience that consumers know and love into the online shopping journey, making the buying process more personalized and convenient for eager shoppers. Conversational commerce takes an innovative, automated approach to an age-old process by amplifying customer support and accelerating the sales funnel.
Given the rapid digital transformation the retail space saw as a result of the pandemic, it’s vital for brands to provide several platforms in which customers can speak with them with ease. In fact, 62% of consumers now prefer to engage with brands on digital channels. Conversational commerce uses a mix of human agents and AI-driven messaging so buyers can ask detailed questions, request personalized product recommendations and make purchase decisions right from their mobile devices. As a result, it empowers customers to make quicker and more efficient purchases.
From live chat to messaging apps, SMS, and more, conversational commerce comes in a variety of forms. And with consumers now proceeding with far more caution before opening their wallets, this marketing approach gives them the additional support they need before converting.
The buyer’s journey has greatly transformed over the years given the vast amount of data brands have at their fingertips. Now, understanding who each individual buyer is and what they’re looking for is vital to successfully guide them down the correct path to purchase. Conversational commerce gives customers all the information they need to move through the sales funnel without leaving the conversation, thereby driving faster sales and unbeatable brand loyalty.
To understand how this strategy can be deployed at each step, here’s how conversational commerce can be used through all five stages of the buyer’s journey:
In the very first stage of the buying journey, the shopper typically looks for an answer to address a want or need. This is a vital timeframe to educate and raise awareness for your product so it’s top of mind for consumers further down the road.
Brands might leverage personalized messaging via SMS or ‘Message Us’ CTAs on ads to notify shoppers about current promotions or new items and provide an entry point into their messaging channel. To avoid a one-size-fits-all approach, tap into your customers’ order histories to understand past interactions and specific preferences.
Also known as the consideration phase, this is the time when consumers begin researching their options and proactively reaching out to brands. While the norm was once endlessly scrolling through pages of potential items, conversational commerce allows brands to take a more personalized approach to help consumers narrow their options. They can reach out for help to filter results and receive tailored product recommendations. With two-way messaging, both brands and their customers have the tools to facilitate educated, targeted purchasing decisions.
At this point, customers will start comparing pricing, reviews and other criteria for each potential product. Rather than manually evaluating each brand or product, customers can message a chatbot or human representative to help narrow down their decision and ask any lingering questions, giving them the extra push they need to make the leap.
The conversion phase is arguably the most powerful and vital step of the buyer’s journey, given that the customer has selected a product and is interested in making a purchase. Conversational commerce plays an essential role here by guiding buyers through purchase portals seamlessly and doing everything in its power to guide the shopper to purchase. Say goodbye to tedious, traditional payment processes by leveraging messaging bots or voice assistants to facilitate payment on the spot. Brands can now utilize shopping cart integrations to enable secure payment in digital messaging apps, significantly decreasing the likelihood of an abandoned cart. In fact, 70% of consumers say they’re more likely to give a brand their business if that brand offers the chance to contact them via text, web chat or other messaging options. This gives brands a far better opportunity to sell the customer right when the purchase is top of mind, avoiding last-minute drop-off.
It’s easier and cheaper to sell to your existing customers, making the post-purchase stages absolutely crucial. During the evaluation phase, lean heavily into customer service to address any questions and ensure the buyer is satisfied with their purchase. Q&As, forums or tutorials are great ways to offer extra product support and boost overall satisfaction. Post-purchase surveys and reviews are also critical parts of the evaluation phase in order to gather tangible customer feedback.
With the brand connection you’ve established, you can and should also use this time to nudge potential repeat customers back through the sales funnel, by pushing notifications about offers and sales promotions as well as communicating information about referral codes and membership programs to bolster long-term customer advocacy.
Ready to join the conversational commerce movement just in time for 2023? First and foremost, you’ll want to determine your brand’s main goal. In addition to increasing your bottom line, you might be looking to tap into conversational commerce to push various products or promotions, send real-time order updates or collect customer data.
Next, decide what channels will have the highest impact. You can utilize entry points on social, live chat and messaging apps. Understanding where your customers interact with your brand most and what platforms provide the best value is a helpful way to get started.
As a final step, it’s important to determine whether you’ll use human agents, AI or both. Live agents provide the high-quality, tailored responses your chatbots can’t but are not as budget-friendly. AI chatbots are certainly more cost-effective but aren’t quite equipped to handle more complicated issues. For the most well-rounded solution, retail brands should opt for a combination of both and delegate issues based on urgency, complexity and value.
In a cutting-edge space like retail, a casual conversation could be the start of a strong, long-term customer relationship. Conversational commerce gives retail brands a competitive edge while guiding buyers through each stage of the sales funnel. The integration of shopping and personalized messaging delivers the personal touch consumers crave from the comfort of their mobile phone or computer screen at home.
Lans Crauer is Senior Business Value Consultant at Khoros. He has spent the better part of the last 20 years in the contact center industry and business process outsourcing (BPO) space, with over three-quarters of that time dedicated exclusively to retail and ecommerce customers. His expertise lies in understanding what drives positive customer experiences and higher customer engagement that leads to sales growth and a reduction in customer churn.