You run an online store and you see that technology is changing rapidly. New tools, apps, and widgets designed for eCommerce stores are popping up every day. You want to stay on top of new trends to help your business remain ahead of the curve, but there’s just so much to keep up with.
One of the technology trends you’re sure to have heard of is chatbots, as chatbots are becoming increasingly popular and necessary for online retail.
While the idea of technology is exciting in science fiction stories, in the real world it can be a bit intimidating. How do we know if these autonomous bots are going to be kind and helpful or tyrannical and oppressive?
And probably more relevant for you directly is how your customers are going to react when they have to interact with a chatbot.
Well, this blog post is intended to help you get caught up on what a chatbot is, how it can help your store, and why your customers will appreciate it
Hopefully by the end we will have put your mind at ease and helped you formulate a useful strategy for your online store.
What is a Chatbot?
Chatbots are software programs designed to interact with real people on websites and online stores. This usually takes place through a chat widget (like the one on the bottom-right corner of this page). Bots can also be programmed to perform other, non-chat tasks on behalf of humans, but for the sake of this post we’ll focus solely on chatbots.
There are different types of chatbots, which can be used for different types of situations and needs. Below are three examples of the types of bots you may encounter in the wild.
Some chatbots are programmed to respond the same way each time someone interacts with them. This can be as simple as offering a quick answer to a common question or suggesting an action based on specific inquiries.
Some chatbots are programmed to interact a bit more naturally depending on keywords and questions they receive. This may seem fairly similar to the first example, but the range of responses can be much greater and nuanced.
Other chatbots are much more advanced and may even use machine learning to learn and adapt to the questions they receive. These bots can learn amd become better at anticipating the types of questions people may ask and even proactively offer to help someone visiting a website. These are the chatbots most people think of when terms such as artificial intelligence, machine learning, and the Terminator get thrown around.
Most chatbots used by websites today resemble example one or example two from above. This is because smart bots that learn and adapt can be very challenging and expensive to develop. They also aren’t always practical for every possible use case, which we’ll explore later in this post.
Chatbots are typically designed or programmed to interact based on a specific set of questions, such as the questions customers would ask on a given website.
For example, if you own an online store that sells pottery, you are likely going to use a chatbot that can answer questions related to pottery products, pottery materials and accessories, and your shipping and return policies.
Now that we know what a chatbot is, let’s explore why they are becoming more and more prevalent online today.
Why are Chatbots Becoming More Prevalent?
Chatbots are popping up all over the place and for good reason. It’s not just that the technology has become much better, which it has, but companies are finding real value in the use of chatbots. Here are a few specific reasons why chatbots have become much more prevalent.
The value of chatbots to individuals and businesses is quite similar to the value of computer software in general. They save us time and make our lives easier. The ability to automate regular activities give us the time to focus on other aspects of our lives and businesses.
For example: when you can step away from the customer support questions that are constantly coming in on your website, you suddenly have the freedom to try out new things that could potentially take your business to the next level.
Companies are recognizing the benefits of responding to their customers instantly. And consumers are turning more and more to messaging channels to connect with businesses.
According to a recent report by Facebook 78% of the world’s smartphone users will message every month and 71% of people surveyed from Colombia, Germany, Mexico and the US say they’re open to messaging businesses.
Why are so many consumers embracing messaging? It’s pretty simple – they want their questions answered immediately.
Chatbots are a great way for companies to ensure their customers receive answers to their messages as soon as they send them.
Chat is also much more convenient than the other support options. Who wants to pick up the phone and wait for a recorded menu to tell them which buttons to push? Who wants to send an email and wait days for a response? Facebook has also found that 56% of people would rather exchange chat messages than call customer service on the phone. And 53% of people are more likely to shop with businesses when they can message them.
Should an Online Store Use a Chatbot?
Online stores can be the perfect usecase for chatbots online, as customers are often asking questions in preparation to make a purchase. However, that doesn’t mean that chatbots are always the best solution.
When you have a chatbot you can maximize engagement with your visitors. Potential customers are visiting your site every day, but that doesn’t mean that you personally have the time to interact with them.
With a chatbot, even if you are physically unable to respond to customer inquiries, someone is always available for them. This is especially empowering when you have a small team or are a solo shop owner.
Just imagine the extra sales volume you could generate if your customers were able to ask questions and get answers 24/7.
Many times consumers who are engaging with a chatbot don’t even realize that it’s an automated experience. Rather, they simply walk away feeling well cared for.
Of course chatbots may not always be the best fit for certain online shops. It may be that your shop sells highly technical products that require a vast understanding of specs and parts. In such a case it may be cost prohibitive to use a chatbot that can fully engage with customers.
Remember from our chatbot examples above that there are different kinds of bots. Some are programmed to answer with specific responses and others learn and adapt. If you are a small shop, with highly technical products you may need a very sophisticated bot to get the job done. In such a case, cost may be the limiting factor.
On the other hand, the majority of shops are not going to face this kind of dilemma. Even simple chatbots can handle a good number of customer questions. And, even if your bot doesn’t know the answer, they can be programmed to redirect the customer to a live agent, when needed.
Can a Chatbot Help Increase Sales?
In addition to the Pros listed above, there is a nearly endless list of ways your store could benefit from a chatbot. The most valuable of which is the ability to drive more sales. Not only are you available to provide 24/7 customer service with a chatbot, you also create many psychological benefits you may not have considered.
Here are three reasons chatbots can lead consumers to make more purchases on your site.
Convenience for customers: We mentioned this one above as well, but the importance of providing a great customer experience cannot be overstated.
Think about why people are willing to pay nearly three times as much for a bag of chips or a soft drink at a convenient store rather than driving to the grocery store.
Its because they are already there filling up on gas. Convenience is a major reason why customers make purchases.
After hours and weekend support is a big aspect of the convenience factor for customers. People are often shopping online or on their phones during their non-work hours. It could be a huge mistake to neglect the customers visiting your site at these hours.
Competitive Advantage: Having a chatbot on your website can be a competitive advantage. If customers come to know your shop as the one with instant answers, they will consistently choose you over the competition.
That consistent customer experience can pay you back in spades, because a competitive advantage can mean more initial sales, more repeat sales, and more referrals.
Build Trust: One of the most powerful benefits of live chat support is the ability to build trust with your customers. According to KPMG 51% of consumers trust companies more when they can speak with an employee directly.
Once a customer comes to trust your online store, they are far more likely to make a purchase, but the benefits don’t end their. Customers that trust a company become that company’s best marketing agent. The value of word-of-mouth marketing can never be overstated.
When Should I Use a Chatbot?
As you can probably tell Mochi is big on chatbots. For many online shops it just makes good business sense.
Of course you’ll want to make sure you have the right bot for your needs, but once you’ve determined those needs a chabot will make your life so much easier. It could also help to move your business forward in a serious way.
One data point to take into consideration when deciding whether or not to select a chatbot is the volume of queries you received from customers or visitors to your site. Even if you are a small shop with a small team, you may not need chatbots to help you out, if the volume is very low.
If you are consistently able to manage the conversations you’re having with customers, chatbots may not be necessary for you. Perhaps a Live Chat App is more appropriate and would be enough to get the job done.
So how do you know when it’s time to upgrade to a chat bot?
To help gauge when it’s time to begin using a chatbot, take a look at your team’s daily load and their effectiveness in moving your company forward.
When you begin to feel that you or your team could be more productive doing something other than responding to customer inquiries, it’s probably time you implemented a chatbot.
If you feel that your time could be better spent writing marketing copy or establishing partnerships, chatting all day with your customers may not just feel overwhelming – it may be negatively impacting your business.
That’s not to say that interacting with customers and providing them with the best experience possible is not important. Clearly great customer service is one of the most important parts of a business. However, with the right chatbot this is something you can automate and thus free up your time to focus on other aspects of your business.
In this way, chatbots can really help you move the needle.
Coupling Chatbots with Live Chat Support
Of course the world of chat support does not have to be an all or nothing scenario. Many smart eCommerce shop owners choose to use a hybrid approach as their chat support strategy.
During the day or when they’re available, many shop owners do choose to interact with their customers directly. This allows them to get to know their customers and showcase their personality in the interaction.
Then, when they are unable to respond to customer requests, they simply rely on chatbots to answer questions and guide customers to useful information.
This is a common strategy for Mochi users. Mochi’s live chat app allows you to set schedules for when you are available and when you will be offline. In this way customers always feel taken care of and you know that you’re never missing an opportunity to please.
Over to You
We hope this quick overview of chatbots for eCommerce was helpful for you. If you have any additional questions or comments please let us know below.
Now that you’ve had a primer on chatbots, its up to you to give it a try. Mochi makes it easy, with a 30-day trial that is absolutely free.
If you’re ready to see how chatbots can help simplify your life and grow your business, then give Mochi a try.