Conversational Commerce Tools: What They Are and Why You Need One
Jan 13, 2023

Conversational Commerce Tools: What They Are and Why You Need One

Picture this: You're shopping online for a new shirt. You know exactly what kind of style you're looking for, but navigating the expansive online store is proving to be difficult. You want to find something specific, but all you see are pages and pages of options.

So you leave.

You don't return. You don't make a purchase.

80% of consumers are more likely to do business with a company that offers personalized experiences, and it's easy to see why. Shopping is supposed to be a fulfilling experience, but when you're feeling lost and frustrated, it's anything but.

Conversational commerce offers a pain-killing solution.

What Are Conversational Commerce Tools, Exactly?

Conversational commerce is the combination of e-commerce and messaging. It's a new way of shopping that allows customers to message brands and businesses directly to ask questions, get recommendations, and even make purchases.

The term may sound like a bit of a contradiction. After all, commerce is all about transactions, and conversations are all about... well, conversation. But the two work hand-in-hand to create a more humanized shopping experience.

Conversational marketing tools are the platforms that make this possible. And there are plenty of them to choose from. The most common conversational commerce tool is the chatbot, a computer program that mimics human conversation.

Chatbots are often used to provide customer support or to handle sales inquiries. Other common conversational commerce tools include voice assistants, such as Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant, and messaging apps, such as Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp.

Conversational commerce takes many different forms, but at its heart, it's about using software to automate tasks, give customers the personalization they're looking for, and scale the customer experience.

Marketers love chatbots because they're cheap and they can scale, but shoppers love humans because they can personalize, customize, and have real conversation.

Different Types of Conversational Marketing

There are three main forms of conversational marketing:

  • Chatbots
  • SMS
  • Voice Assistants
  • Live Chat/Video Chat
  • Omnichannel

Chatbots

Chatbots are the most common type of conversational commerce. They are computer programs that mimic human conversation. Most often, chatbots are used to provide customer support or to handle sales inquiries with automated messages.

Popular among online retailers, chatbots can help reduce the number of customer service inquiries, and free up employees to handle more complex tasks. They can also be used to recommend products, offer discounts, and provide shipping information.

B2B companies also use chatbots to initiate sales conversations and qualified leads.

SMS

SMS is essentially V2 of a chatbot—it's a text-based message that can be sent to a customer's phone. SMS can be used for the same purposes as chatbots, such as customer support, sales, and recommendations.

One advantage of SMS over chatbots is that SMS messages have a high open rate—over 98%. This means that when you send an SMS message to a customer, there's a very good chance they will see it.

There are two types of SMS: one-way SMS and two-way SMS. One-way SMS is the most common type, and it's simply a text message that is sent from a business to a customer. Two-way SMS allows customers to reply to the message, creating a conversation.

Two-way SMS improves customer relationship management by giving customers the ability to expedite shipping, track orders, change their addresses, and more.

Voice Assistants

Voice assistants like Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant are becoming more popular in the home. These devices allow users to perform tasks, such as setting alarms, adding items to a shopping list, or playing music, with voice commands.

As voice assistants become more commonplace, businesses are beginning to use them for marketing purposes. Amazon Alexa is the best example of this—users who own one can connect it to their Amazon account and shop hands-free. If they know exactly what they want, they can add it to their cart with voice commands and check out on their smartphone.

Live Chat/Video 

Live chat is a type of customer service that allows customers to chat with human agents in real-time. This conversational commerce tool is often used by online retailers to answer questions about products, offer recommendations, and solve customer problems.

With the success of chatbots in boosting conversion rates, many businesses now use live chat as the second touchpoint in their customer success strategy. After a customer has interacted with a chatbot, they are then transferred to a live agent if they need further assistance.

Human interaction is the logical second step—chatbots are great at handling repetitive customer service requests, but they can't replace the human touch needed for complex queries, descriptive shopping requirements, or hyper-personalized suggestions.

Video chat is an appointment-based version of live chat where customers can see and speak to a human representative on their computer or phone. It is often used by businesses that sell complex items like software, cars, or houses.

It is also used for personal stylists and concierge services. These businesses use video chat to get to know their customers and provide them with personalized recommendations.

Omnichannel

When online meets retail, it's called omnichannel. It allows businesses to connect with customers across multiple channels, such as chatbots, SMS, live chat, video chat, voice assistants, and in-person.

From an omnichannel perspective, businesses can provide a more seamless customer experience by meeting customers where they are. This is especially important for businesses that have a physical presence, such as retail stores or restaurants.

How Does Conversational Commerce Work?

There are two main methods of conversational commerce.

AI Powered Conversational Commerce

Using artificial intelligence (AI) and natural language processing (NLP), conversational commerce platforms can understand human conversation…to a point. This technology allows businesses to automate tasks, such as customer service, sales, and marketing.

When a customer makes a query, the AI platform analyzes the customer's intent and provides a response accordingly. For example, if a customer asks a chatbot about a new sale, the chatbot will provide information about the sale or link to an FAQ section.

Conversational commerce platforms can also be used to create a more personalized customer experience. By understanding a customer's preferences, businesses can make product recommendations or send targeted discounts.

The downside of machine-only conversation is, well, its still a machine. And unless your request fits nicely into one of the pre-determined choices or triggers a relevant keyword in the FAQ, users will often very quickly hit a wall. 

Human-led Conversational Commerce

Using routing and queue technology, another approach to conversational commerce is leveraging humans. 

It’s unrealistic to think that a single human could manage hundreds of conversations simultaneously, but when relying on technology, they can see wait times, intent, and likelihood to buy, repeat v new customers, allowing them to prioritize in real time the conversations that they’re going to have.

Mapping Out the Customer Journey From Start to Finish

Each site will have a different conversational commerce strategy, but there are some commonalities between them.

Let's take an in-depth look at how conversational commerce works from start to finish.

1. A user navigates to the site and is greeted by a chatbot, promotional placement, or CTA.

Chat with us on site

When a web user first lands on a page, there is usually a chatbot in the corner. In some cases, it will pop up automatically—especially if you are a first-time visitor. In the example above, you can see it in the bottom right corner of the page.

Chat with us luma leaf

If it pops up, or if you click on it, the chatbot will introduce itself and ask if you need any help. In this instance, there is only one instant answer—for order tracking. All other inquiries require a typed-out message.

Click up conversational marketing

For B2B companies, this process works the same. In this example, the chatbot window pops up with three different options, depending on what the user needs help with.

2. The user responds to the chatbot.

Chat bot on website

The user's response will determine what happens next. In the first example, the customer wants to track an order, so the chatbot provides a link to the tracking page.

If the user had asked a question that required more than one response, such as "What is your return policy?", The chatbot would provide a link to the returns page or an FAQ that contains all the necessary information.

Chat bot with luma leaf

In another example, the user might want specific help with something. Let's say they needed help finding a product that helps with dry skin. The chatbot would then ask a few follow-up questions to get more information, such as:

  • "What type of product are you looking for?"
  • "What is your budget?"
  • "Do you have any allergies?"

In this case, the customer asked the question outside of business hours, so the chatbot enabled the user to enter their email address to receive a response later.

This is a common tactic used by chatbots—if they can't answer the question immediately, they will either provide a link to an FAQ or collect the user's contact information so that a human representative can follow up.

3. A personal assistant comes in to help.

In some cases, a human assistant will jump in to help with more complex inquiries. This is most common in BSPs (business-to-consumer) chatbots, as they typically handle sales and customer service inquiries.

The human assistant can provide a more personalized experience, answer questions that require personalization or empathy, and upsell products.

Chat bot on sense site

In this example, a human assistant takes over to help the shopper choose new clothing. Many large online retailers offer this type of service, as it helps increase sales and build customer loyalty.

Chat bot on clothing website

The customer service representative returned with some new hoodie options for the shopper to choose from. By clicking these links, the customer is taken to the page to view each item.

This is a perfect example of how human assistance can lead to a sale that might not have otherwise happened.

This is also the point where Humankind is different. We don't have auto/chat bots integrated into our software; we move right from quiz to text and get you talking with a human right away. Brands can still utilize chats for initial contact, and would continue to house their own quick order tracking and customer service software on the website after the order, but Humankind fills the space inbetween, where customer interaction is so vitally important.

Conversational marketing website

In the example above from our platform, the right-hand side includes notes about allergen information and specific skin information. By using our platform, this company was able to take personalized service a step further by asking these types of questions ahead of time.

Part of the Humankind experience includes customizable onboarding quizzes, which enable you to ask your customers about product specific information, such as:

  • Allergy information
  • Size and fit preference
  • Style preferences
  • Health limitations or conditions
  • Dietary restrictions

Being able to ask these types of questions before chatting over the computer or setting up a virtual appointment enables companies to give more personalized recommendations and service right off the bat.

4. The customer is transferred to SMS.

Many retailers use in-app messaging and customer service as a way to improve the customer experience.

According to TechCrunch, 92% of the time Americans spend using their cell phones is on social media platforms. By processing customer inquiries on the messaging platforms they already use, store owners can help online shoppers get the help them need without forcing them to use a new platform.

Popular apps for SMS messaging include:

  • iMessage and text messaging
  • Encrypted options like: WhatsApp and Telegram
  • Facebook Business Messenger
  • Google’s Business Messages

5. In-depth conversations provide customers with information and suggestions.

Humankind conversational marketing

Using conversational commerce platforms like Humankind, businesses can have in-depth conversations with their customers. In the example above, the assistant provided their new lead, Maria, with helpful information on how to prevent dry skin in the winter. On the right-hand side are product suggestions that solve this problem for Maria.

Having a dedicated online sales assistant that gives website visitors the help they need improves customer satisfaction overall and encourages repeat purchases.

6. Businesses re-engage with their customers.

Re-engaging with customers is important for two reasons: it helps keep your business top of mind, and it allows you to upsell products or services.

Chat bot through text message
Image Source

In the example above, the spa sent Jane a message to remind her that it's been a while since her last visit. They also included a 10% off deal to incentivize her to return.

This form of customer communication may also happen through email marketing and other types of retargeting campaigns.

In some cases, the initial outreach message is automated. In others, it’s done manually with reminders.

Why You Need a Conversational Commerce Tool

If you're thinking, "my online store is doing just fine without these fancy tools," you might want to think again. 91% of global consumers want real-time service, and companies that include conversational commerce in their strategy see an increase in customer satisfaction, and higher order values.

Conversational marketing improves customer engagement.

In a world where we can buy anything with the click of a button, it's easy to forget the importance of human connection. By adding personalized messages to your online store, you can create a more intimate shopping experience that will keep customers coming back.

Research shows that people prefer live chat to email and phone support because of its immediacy. And the omnichannel nature of live chat services means that you can provide support on the platform of your customer's choice—whether that's Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, iMessage, or SMS.

In the case of clothing and product retailers, personal shoppers and virtual concierges can provide recommendations, suggest items, and even help with sizing. 

Personalized suggestions provide opportunities to upsell products and services.

In addition to providing support and building relationships, conversational commerce can also be used to increase sales. When customers receive personalized recommendations, they are more likely to make a purchase, even if it is a larger one.

From a sales standpoint, this is beneficial for the company, as it helps to increase the order value. And from a customer experience standpoint, it helps your customers find the products they need, which creates a win-win situation.

When you automate customer contact, you save time and resources.

Ecommerce businesses that automate customer-facing conversations see a massive reduction in support costs. Live chat agents can handle multiple customer conversations simultaneously, saving businesses 15% to 33% compared to phone support.

By limiting the amount of time spent on these tasks, you can free up your sales teams’ time. And most importantly, you can enable them to focus more closely on the customer, which leads to improved customer satisfaction.

Businesses see further savings with the data they collect. When they collect customer insights from their conversational commerce tools, they save the money that they would have spent to collect that data elsewhere.

This data can be used to influence product development, product line optimization, and experience enhancement.

Engaging customers unlocks powerful customer insights.

In order to create targeted messages, you need to understand your customer. By engaging in conversations with customers, you can learn about their needs, wants, and pain points.

There are two types of data that conversational commerce tools collect: structured and unstructured data.

Structured data is the data that you can put into a database, like a customer's name, address, and purchase history.

Unstructured data includes things like the customer's tone of voice, emotions, and even the words they use.

This data is valuable because it helps you understand the customer's intent. And when you track customer reaction data, you can create messages that are more likely to lead to a sale.

Conversational commerce gives sales and marketing teams a head start.

When your team can instantly start sales conversations, they're able to move customers through the sales funnel faster.

And when your marketing team can track customer interactions, they can quickly pivot their strategy to better align with customer needs.

When customers are provided hand-selected, curated product recommendations, there is a higher likelihood of satisfaction and lower return rates (or buyer’s remorse).

Having a head start means creating better marketing campaigns.

With new marketing and sales insights, your teams will be able to create more targeted campaigns that are likely to convert. 

Having customer data that tells you exactly what your customers are saying means that you can create messages that speak to their needs. It also allows you to create more personalized sales and marketing campaigns, which are essential for building customer relationships.

Conversational Commerce Best Practices

Simply integrating an SMS service isn't enough to create a successful conversational commerce strategy.

You need to know how to use these tools effectively to see the benefits. That's why we've put together a list of best practices for conversational commerce.

1. Integrate conversational commerce with your CRM.

Your Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software is the backbone of your customer data. By integrating your conversational commerce tools with your CRM, you can ensure that all customer data is captured in one place. This makes it easy to track conversations, identify trends, and create targeted messages at scale.

It also allows you to segment your customers based on criteria, such as:

  • Their interactions with your chatbot or human agents.
  • The products they're interested in.
  • Their purchase history.

This helps you create more targeted content and improve the customer experience.

Our platform integrates with a few of the biggest CRM tools available for ecommerce businesses, including:

  • Shopify
  • Shopify +
  • Salesforce Commerce Cloud
  • Bigcommerce

2. Use the communication channel that your customers use.

When using messaging apps, be sure to engage customers on their preferred communication channel. For example, if your customer base primarily interacts through Instagram, Facebook Messenger and Instagram DM should be your primary focus.

If you're not sure which channels your customers use most, you can usually figure it out by looking at your website traffic and social media data.

For example, a brand with mostly mobile traffic would want to implement an SMS strategy, while companies with desktop-heavy audiences might consider using live chat and video chat options.

3. Ensure your sales team is trained on conversational commerce.

If conversational commerce is part of your sales process, it's important to ensure that your sales team is properly trained on how to use it.

This includes understanding how to engage with customers, what information to capture, and when to escalate a conversation.

It's also important to have a plan for dealing with customer objections. By being prepared for these questions, you can create a better experience for your customers and increase the likelihood of a sale.

We also talk a lot about the importance of establishing the trust quotient—through the crescendo.

Build the crescendo

4. Engage with your online shoppers at every touchpoint.

To provide the ultimate personal shopper experience, you need to engage with your customers at every touchpoint. This means being available at every stage of the customer journey and using conversational commerce to fulfill your role in their buying experience.

This includes:

  • First-Time Visit: When your website visitors first land on your page, they should be greeted by a friendly message from the corner of the page. You should make it known that help is there if they need it.
  • Returning Customers: For shoppers that are familiar with your brand, you can still offer assistance. If they've been to your site before and know what they're looking for, you can provide them with product recommendations or answer any questions they may have.
  • Product Page: Use chatbots or live chat to answer product questions in real-time. Provide personalized suggestions when necessary and inform customers about any product information or helpful content that could help them in the sales process.
  • Abandoned Cart: When customers add items to their cart but don't complete the purchase, reach out and ask if they need help.
  • Post-Purchase: Use conversational commerce to thank your customers for their purchase and provide them with next steps, such as how to use the product or where to find more information or to provide feedback.
  • Retargeting: Re-engage customers who haven't returned in a while via SMS, push notifications, or email marketing. You can also use this opportunity to tell them about new promotions, give them new suggestions, and let them know you're thinking about them.

The more you engage with your customers, the more likely you are to create a lasting relationship.

5. Use emojis and casual language where appropriate.

Hey there! 👋🏻

David from Humankind, here.

Let me know if you need help with anything. 😄

Emojis and casual language are a great way to make your chatbot or human agent sound more friendly and approachable. In most cases, it's appropriate to use them when engaging with customers. 

But, using the wrong language or emoji can come across as unprofessional or even offensive. So, use them sparingly and only when it feels natural.

Take a Personalized Approach to Conversational Commerce With Humankind

Regardless of your tech stack when it comes to conversational commerce, one thing is for sure: personalization is key.

When you message customers, they should feel like they're the only ones you're talking to, and your messages should be tailored to their needs.

And that's our bread and butter.

We give you the tools you need to gather important data, make personalized recommendations, create custom workflows, automation, and most importantly host meaningful conversations that will resonate with your customers. All of this is organized easily within the Humankind platform.

And with the ability to manage conversations with several customers at once, you'll be able to create meaningful relationships, give suggestions, and send helpful information - all while providing an amazing customer experience.

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