If you've been paying attention, the world of eCommerce shopping has changed... and it's about to do so again.
"Pre-Covid" it seemed like all shoppers wanted was one click "add-to-cart" purchases with products delivered to their door on auto-ship. Grey Sprinter vans seemed to be in every neighborhood and next to us at every stoplight.
When the world went into lockdown, everything came to a screeching halt. As a society went from merrily updating our auto-ship lists, to barely surviving. As the restlessness grew, and the effects of isolation set in, shoppers began to actively look for better products and more meaningful shopping experiences.
As time went on, developments in technology, primarily conversational commerce software, allowed shoppers to connect in real-time with personal shoppers and product experts who could curate products and services that were catered specifically to their needs. This new trend was known as "concierge commerce" software and has emerged as the preferred choice for shoppers looking for a more personalized experience.
This is where shopping experiences diverge. Some companies have decided to use technologies like artificial intelligence (Ai), machine learning (ML), large language models (LLM), and natural language processing (NLP) to handle customer interactions, others have decided to focus on facilitating real human connections between brands and customers.
Which one is better?
I'll let you decide.
This article takes an in-depth look at two leading platforms in the realm of conversational commerce, Humankind, and Wizard, and examines their capabilities, strengths, and areas of differentiation. The aim is to provide a comprehensive comparison to help you, as the marketing professionals at an eCommerce retailer, to understand which platform best suits your customers' unique needs.
Before we dive into the comparison, it's important to understand the underlying concept that drives both Humankind and Wizard - personalized marketing.
Personalized marketing, at its core, is a strategy that leverages data, the concepts of modern retail clienteling, and digital platforms to deliver more personalized shopping experiences - something customers have become increasingly accustomed to in the post-pandemic world.
Unlike traditional, one-size-fits-all approaches to marketing, personalized marketing requires a deep-seated understanding of a customer's preferences and needs.
A good analogy to visualize the differences between traditional marketing and a personalized marketing approach would be comparing your family doctor with a Doctor creating content on Youtube.
Imagine typing your symptoms into Youtube and seeing a doctor talk at length about all of the possible conditions and diseases attached to those symptoms - a terrifying experience I can assure you…
Now, imagine going to your family doctor who's known you for years. They know your past conditions, they've seen your medical records, and they'll be able to accurately diagnose your symptoms and recommend the appropriate course of action.. ALL, tailored specifically to you.
This same concept applies to personalized marketing. Brands are now able to leverage data, like customer profiles, purchase history, and segmentation to provide the same level of tailored experiences to their customers that a Doctor provides to their patients.
Now, let's take a look at each platform before diving into the content.
Humankind is a digital concierge platform that goes beyond conventional conversational commerce by creating a 1:1 human connection between brands and their customers. This "human" approach is a powerful differentiator in an industry that often leans heavily on workflow automation and AI-driven technologies.
Humankind's platform operates through a series of stages:
Customer’s who'd like help from a product expert or personal shopper can engage by filling out a personalized questionnaire that asks about their needs and preferences. This also provides the brand with valuable data that can help personal shoppers influence purchasing decisions.
The real magic happens during the engagement phase, where the brand-based expert makes thoughtful, educated recommendations based on the shopper's preferences.
To use a customer example, OLAPLEX Haircare uses the questionnaire to gather details about the customer's hair type and the products they are looking for then the customer meets with the brand-based expert, who's able to personally recommend specific product combinations to meet their needs.
These recommendations are handpicked, curated, and presented via beautifully designed custom landing pages and can be added to their cart in one click - Making the checkout process smooth and effortless.
The journey doesn't end at the transaction, as the platform supports continued engagement to foster long-term relationships and repeat purchases - we'll talk about this more in future sections…
Humankind's strategy has gained recognition and positive feedback from industry leaders. NEST New York's Chief Digital Officer praised Humankind for allowing them to provide a premium, concierge-like shopping experience, while the Director of Customer Experience for Gathr Outdoors commended the platform's efficient onboarding process and immediate results.
On the other side of the spectrum is Wizard, a conversational SMS commerce platform that utilizes AI to power personalized shopping experiences.
Wizard prides itself on delivering text-to-buy technology, allowing customers to browse, discover, and pay through a single text conversation. The platform emphasizes real-time, two-way conversations, aiming to build trust and loyalty in the brand.
Wizard's AI-driven personalization offers timely reorder prompts and live support from brand experts to enhance the shopping experience.
The platform differentiates itself from traditional SMS marketing platforms by offering one-text transactions that increase mobile conversion, two-way customer-driven text conversations, and an AI-based system for sophisticated and customized consumer experiences. The platform also emphasizes rapid customer responses, promising a "response in minutes rather than days."
In the next section, we'll delve into a more detailed comparison of Humankind and Wizard, examining factors such as customer engagement, personalization capabilities, customer experience, Ai implementation, and most of all, what these tools add to your bottom line as a brand…
Because that's what matters at the end of the day.
One of the critical aspects of personalized marketing is the ability to engage customers effectively. Both Humankind and Wizard offer robust engagement capabilities but with distinct approaches.
Humankind focuses on creating meaningful relationships with the shopper through real-time connection. During the shopping journey, customers are chatting with real human brand experts who can see the answers to their questions and help them choose the right products to best fit their needs.
Make note of this differentiator because Humankind's concierge commerce platform is currently the only provider of this service in the market. Other conversational commerce solutions in the industry allow customers to connect with call centers, which can then link customers to a brand's personal shoppers and product experts, but only Humankind powers the connection directly between the customer and the brand.
After using Humankind, OLAPLEX Haircare reported an increase in customer satisfaction (CSAT) rates. They've now achieved a 4.94 (out of 5)... you can read more about their growth in our case study.
I took a look at several of their case studies, even texted with a couple of them, and here's what I was able to deduce.
It seems like Wizard leans into the power of Ai conversational technology to foster customer engagement. After looking at their case study with Chido Tequila, their messaging appears to be light and fun - but not personalized.
Their introductory line of, "Feeling Lucky? Guess how many Chidos our Co-Founder Alex chugged at the Chido Malbon Invitational last week? And if you're right, you just might win something nice..." speaks volumes to the differences in approach.
Humankind aims for a customer experience more like texting a friend whereas, Wizard seems to focus on light-hearted quippy messages.
I don't think either approach is good or bad, but they're definitely for different audiences. If your customers are making high-consideration purchasing decisions, a real person will be a far better guide than a quippy SMS tool - but you're also not going to need "human connection" to sell Tequila…
Upon initial review, it appears that Wizard is more of a transactional SMS messaging tool than a conversational commerce platform. The difference is defined as a transaction vs. a relationship - volume over a connection.
Personalization is at the heart of both Humankind and Wizards. However, the methods and technologies they use for personalization differ significantly.
Humankind's personalization process begins with a questionnaire that gathers shoppers' information, preferences, and relevant details to help guide the purchase experience.
This zero-party data forms the basis of the personalized recommendations made by brand experts. A fancy way of saying - the rich data that's collected from questionnaires and conversations can be reviewed to make product development decisions, launch new collections, and offer bundles to customers - all on the most powerful communication channel: SMS.
Wizard's personalization is primarily driven by Ai. The platform uses AI to learn from customer conversations and deliver hyper-personalized interactions at scale. It also offers timely reorder prompts, which appear to drive engagement and an increase in sales by recommending products at just the right time.
Both Humankind and Wizard place a high premium on customer service. However, the specifics of their customer service offerings diverge dramatically from one another.
Humankind adopts a "the line is always hot" approach, allowing shoppers to easily stay in touch with their brand experts, texting them anytime they need something. The platform leverages marketing automation capabilities to assist product experts in maintaining conversations and nurturing customer relationships over the long term.
Wizard, on the other hand, promises "a response in minutes, not days." This commitment to quick turnaround times underscores the platform's dedication to immediate customer service and support.
Sidenote: One thing that I found really interesting when looking at Wizard's case studies is a screenshot from a competitor's platform showing the customer asking to speak with a human concierge directly…
Funny, even their case studies showcase the customer's desire to interact with real people. Enter Humankind... but I digress. Haha
Ai is all the talk today... and all the rage. What stance does each brand take when considering Ai vs. the Human element in interactions?
First, Ai plays a crucial role in Wizard's platform, driving personalization and supporting customer service. The platform learns from customer conversations to deliver hyper-personalized interactions, creating a sophisticated and customized consumer experience.
On the other hand, Humankind is researching how to use AI, NLP, and LLM to supercharge human interactions instead of replacing them. While the current platform focuses on real human experts, the potential integration of Ai and LLM models could further enhance the personalization and efficiency of the platform for the customer's benefit in the future.
To reiterate: I believe that Humankind and Wizard are very different platforms, targeting very different brands, with completely opposite customer experiences.
Humankind's human-centric approach emphasizes direct interactions between brand experts and customers, while Wizard leverages AI to drive personalization and customer engagement. The choice between the two ultimately depends on the specific needs, strategies, and goals of your eCommerce brand.
Buying a pair of running shoes, or a rooftop tent for Overlanding requires a personalized experience. In these cases, human dialogue and expertise are incredibly helpful in making sure the customer purchases the right product for their individual needs. It also means that the brand is building a relationship with customers that leads to loyalty and repeat purchases - increasing customer lifetime value (CLV).
Wizard's customers like Chido Tequila and Freestyle Snacks, who sell more impulse purchase items and products, require a lighter touch with their customer experience.
For brands that prioritize human connection and expert-guided shopping experiences, Humankind appears to be a far better choice. For those who value AI-driven engagement and rapid customer service, Wizard might be the more suitable option.
Ultimately, both platforms embody the evolving nature of personalized marketing - a realm that continues to grow and adapt in response to changing consumer behaviors and technological advancements. As brands navigate this dynamic landscape, platforms like Humankind and Wizard will play a pivotal role in shaping the future of personalized marketing in eCommerce.