A customer centric approach is undeniably the prime concern for retailers. And in order to deliver amazing customer experience, brands are always searching for innovative new ways to maintain communication with their customers. Chatbots, social media, email… these are just some of the things that brands have incorporated to assure convenience and accessibility of e-commerce channels. Yet, being an online ecommerce store still has its challenges.
First, being an e-commerce channel inevitably eliminates physical interaction - resulting in the lack of opportunities to really connect with and cultivate deeper relationships with customers, something that many well-known retailers today have built upon. Further, so as to acclimatize to the ever-evolving shopping patterns and increasing expectations of customers, retailers have to search for creative methods that can provide fantastic shopping experience and good engagement levels. The ultimate goal here, of course, is to earn brand loyalty.
Happy, loyal customers are acquired when retailers make an effort to stay on the front lines of technology adoption. Correspondingly, retailers are making use of artificial intelligence - a rapidly emerging technology - to significantly improve customer’s online experiences. It has been found that 45% of retailers are expected to increase the use of AI to improve customer experience in the coming three years, and 55% of retailers are more attentive in optimizing customer experience to make customers more inclined to become loyal to the brand. On top of that, people today have become more disposed to sharing issues with a product or service. To illustrate this, customer service on social media platforms such as Twitter had a whooping increase of 250% just over the last two years.
It can no longer be assumed that customers will submit their issues via legacy technologies such as email or to navigate a pre-recorded phone menu to speak with a brand representative. Because not only does this put customers off, it also deteriorates the brand’s reputation. Retailers now cannot turn a blind eye to negative reactions from customers and on social media. However, with AI, it has become possible and feasible to accurately and effectively automate customer interactions while yielding a more immediate and personalized response. The key here is to take away moments of frustration such as browsing through multitudes of products, page upon page, just to search for one item.
An example of a brand that recognized this customer frustration is The North Face. It launched a virtual shopping assistant that interacted with customers in a Q&A conversation so that customers could pinpoint exactly what they were searching for in the first place. AI’s abilities are also not limited to image recognition to power social media with tools such as visual listening - granting brands a good idea of what they are perceived as via images and videos that are shared across all digital channels on a daily basis. Every mention can be analyzed to see what kinds of experiences customers are having with the brand. For instance, an Amazon social media manager used this technique to directly connect with Instagram user consumers to interact with the brand. Such a simple communication cannot be underestimated; not only does it provide users with a personalized experience (key word: personalized), it also assists in brand satisfaction in the big picture.
Furthermore, chatbots can also be leveraged to optimize the customer experience. According to Gartner, 85% of brand interactions will be managed by robots by 2020. Just recently, two retailers, Macy’s and Lowe’s, launched AI-powered shopping assistants to direct shoppers in retail stores. Chatbots are becoming the new norm both online and in brick-and-mortar stores - essentially because they have the ability to give customers an immediate and personalized experience; and also fulfils great customer experience with minimal hassle.
Certainly, it has become more difficult to deliver experiences that meet or even surpass customers’ demanding expectations. However, there are tools and solutions that can aid in this challenge. Technology is not going anywhere, and we must utilize it to its fullest potential. Not only can it significantly improve customer shopping experience by giving it a personalized and immediate touch, it can also provide brands with opportunities that can cater to a better, differentiated customer experience. If a brand avoids using technology to streamline customer experiences, it will only lose eventually. Technology has no doubt become ingrained into our lives, and it will only go up from there. And so, it only makes sense to use it to our utmost advantage.