Amidst the ongoing move from brick-and-mortar to online shopping, the number of digital buyers has jumped drastically. In 2020, during the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic, over two billion people purchased goods or services online, and during the same year, e-retail sales surpassed 4.2 trillion U.S. dollars worldwide.
The digital shelf has emerged as one of the most widely discussed terms in today’s age. Recall the last time you bought a product online. You may discover the product or service on Facebook, see your favorite influencer use it on Instagram, or simply scroll through the brand’s website to research and buy it.
The digital shelf is “anywhere and everywhere” customers can discover, research, and shop for something online. Think of it as the shelf in the local brick-and-mortar store, only with more product options and a broader set of touchpoints to choose from — be it retailer websites, social media, mobile apps, or third-party marketplaces. Customers can even interact with the digital shelf when they buy products in-store.
Conversational AI is the new paradigm in the customer experience (CX) world, allowing organizations a flexible, reliable, and speedy way to interact with customers digitally all day.
Let’s explore what conversational AI is and how it can help brands win the digital shelf in 2022 and beyond.
Before we delve deeper into winning the digital shelf with conversational AI, let’s first understand what conversational AI is.
Conversational AI is a set of powerful technologies & new-age technologies, including machine learning, natural language processing (NLP), and natural language understanding (NLU) — used in conjunction with chatbots to help brands interact with customers throughout the sales journey.
How is conversational AI supporting the digital shelf? Well, the answer is simple.
Amidst an overwhelming demand for support, customers turned to self-service options like AI chatbots, during the COVID-19 pandemic.
More than a year and several “waves” of the virus later, customers are now accustomed to using chatbots to search for products online, make purchases via digital channels, and get their queries answered within seconds.
The CCW Digital Market Study released in August 2021 has noted,
“Customers are particularly willing to self-serve for informational issues. Just under 49% of consumers prefer to use self-service for inquiries like account balance checks and delivery date confirmations. Other popular self-service drivers include transactions (38%), desire for fast resolution (30%), and situations in which connecting with an agent would be inconvenient (26%).”
Chatbots can be embedded on various digital channels, including social media platforms like Facebook Messenger, common messaging apps (for example, WhatsApp), company websites, and mobile apps. They are easy to adopt, available 24X7, and help the brand service customers at scale.
To create awareness about their products & services, organizations deploy conversational AI bots on various channels that comprise the digital shelf.
Such bots can answer queries, push alerts about new products, analyze customer preferences, and send personalized tips.
For example, many brands deploy conversational AI bots that initiate a conversation with the visitors as soon as they scroll past a particular point on the website, indicating potential interest in the product.
While customer needs have become more dynamic and challenging to fathom, customers still tend to prefer brands that can understand their requirements, predict what they may need, and tailor support accordingly. Brands that leverage generic and repetitive messaging lose out on customers.
Conversational AI bots can capture and evaluate customer interactions while they happen, generate real-time insights into customer preferences, perspectives, and intentions, and help brands personalize the entire digital sales journey — helping organizations win the digital shelf.
Brands can then take a proactive approach, provide customers assistance, and pitch new products, even before the customers ask.
While reaching the right customer segment is crucial, bots must also assist them in making informed decisions about what to purchase to help create a winning digital shelf.
Conversational AI Bots study customer information, recommend suitable products, guide on product use, assist in navigating the brand’s online store, and help with shopping, payment, and checkout.
To retain customers and build a long-lasting digital shelf strategy, brands must continue to engage them with relevant and meaningful messaging.
As a customer interacts more with conversational AI bots, the brand can collect the required data to help marketers understand customer needs, measure engagement, and develop proactive marketing campaigns.
Consequently, such bots can proactively inform customers about the latest offers and upcoming sales and help upsell/cross-sell products using the digital shelf.
Moreover, loyal customers advocate the brand’s products, spread positive word-of-mouth, and help build a winning digital shelf.
To cement customer loyalty and strengthen the digital shelf, organizations must leverage chatbots to tailor loyalty programs, send customized discount coupons and freebies through email and chat, and allow customers to manage reward balances and redeem gift points online.
In the post-pandemic world, customers have attached newfound meaning to what exceptional brand engagement means. They not only want brands to meet and recognize them at every digital touchpoint but expect consistent and personalized experiences on each channel and want brand conversations to seamlessly flow across digital touchpoints, encompassing the entirety of the digital shelf.
That’s where omnichannel chatbots come into the picture. They allow brands to be present on popular customer channels (website, email, Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, IVR, etc.), adapt to the unique features of each channel, and coordinate communications across all digital touchpoints. For example, a customer may become aware of a product through email, gather additional information through WhatsApp, and ultimately purchase the product through the brand’s website or in-store.
Omnichannel bots are built once and deployed across multiple channels. In an era where customers are increasingly levitating towards brands that can predict their needs and make suitable recommendations, omnichannel chatbots understand customer context, store information in a centralized database, comprehend customer needs, and retain the context of the original conversation — delivering personalized conversational experiences and allowing customers to switch channels without starting from scratch.
Human conversations are seldom straightforward. They are often layered with interruptions and clarifications and move to a different topic without seeing the previous interaction to its logical conclusion.
Conversational AI Bots carry out the most natural and human-like interactions, create memorable user experiences, and conquer the digital shelf. Context and dialogue management allow bots to pause a particular customer task, switch intent, complete a different activity, and efficiently steer the conversation back to the original customer request without losing context.
The Customer Contact Week Digital report titled Customer Experience Trends, Challenges, and Innovation, states, “In addition to making it easy for customers to move between channels, leading brands will ensure their data follows suit. With a 360-degree view into each customer, the company and its employees can spot inefficiencies within the journey, tailor experiences to a given customer’s intent, personalize communication based on their profile and sentiment, and avoid the much-maligned habit of asking customers to repeat information.”
Online brands can reach a global audience by deploying bots that speak different languages.
Often, large brands have customers located in different parts of the world who speak different languages. While interacting with brands, customers prefer having conversations with bots that speak their native tongue.
Creating a separate chatbot for each language isn’t feasible. That is where a multilingual chatbot comes into the picture. Chatbots are capable of supporting and conducting conversations in customers’ native tongue scale localization efforts, amplifying digital reach, and making customers feel valued and understood.
We at Acuvate can help clients build a winning digital shelf with conversational AI by leveraging our enterprise bot-building platform called BotCore.
We also help clients build and deploy AI-chatbots quickly with Microsoft’s low-code bot-building application Power Virtual Agents.
To know more about this topic, please feel free to schedule a personalized consultation with our experts.