As an ecommerce store owner or marketer, it is becoming increasingly important to keep consumers engaged alongside the other functions to keep a business running.
From your own storefront to social media and all the other digital touch points you’ve established, keeping up with conversations at different stages of a customer journey is only getting tougher by the day.
The good news is that there’s a smart solution to do it all at scale—ecommerce chatbots.
Chatbots have become popular as one of the ecommerce trends for businesses to follow. A recent Business Insider Intelligence report predicts that global retail spending via chatbots will reach $142 billion by 2024.
If you’ve been trying to find answers to what chatbots are, their benefits and how you can put them to work, look no further.
What are ecommerce chatbots?
A chatbot is a computer program that stimulates an interaction or a conversation with customers automatically. These conversations occur based on a set of predefined conditions, triggers and/or events around an online shopper’s buying journey.
Let’s explain this with a simple example.
You visit Gymshark to explore its workout clothes. But you’re not sure where to begin, so you reach out via the chat bubble visible on its website.
As soon as you click on the bubble, you’re presented with a question asking what your query is about and a set of options to choose from.
Now based on the response you enter, the AI chatbot lays out the next steps. If you choose “How do I track my order?” the chatbot will display the next steps.
This is the most basic example of what an ecommerce chatbot looks like.
While our example was of a chatbot implemented on a website, such interactions with brands can now be experienced on social media platforms and even messaging apps.
Why are ecommerce chatbots important?
Chatbots are already being put to use across various industries with more consumers finding value in the quick, efficient, and around-the-clock responses chatbots can offer:
- The global chatbot market is expected to be worth $15.5 billion by 2028, growth led by consumer demands for self-service and 24/7 customer support.
- If the alternative was to wait 15 minutes for an answer, 62% of consumers would rather talk to a chatbot than a human agent.
- In 2022, 88% of customers had at least one conversation with a chatbot.
- About 90% of customer queries are resolved in 10 messages or fewer.
- The top five chatbot-using countries are the United States, India, Germany, the United Kingdom, and Brazil.
Here are some other reasons chatbots are so important for improving your online shopping experience.
1. Your customers want to talk to you
People want to talk to brands before making a purchase from them. This especially holds true now that most shopping has gone online and there is a lack of touch and feel of a product before making a purchase.
Your non-availability at a certain hour can be mistaken as you not wanting to talk to consumers, only to sell to them. A chatbot helps you talk to customers at a time and place they choose, assisting them in making purchases or addressing their anxiety, showing them your brand cares.
2. Your customers want immediate replies
How many times do you, as a consumer, wait for a brand to respond to a query in 24 to 48 hours?
Chances are, you’d walk away and look for another store to buy from that gives you more information on what you’re looking for. Or for someone who can provide you with shopping assistance.
According to a 2022 study by Tidio, 29% of customers expect getting help 24/7 from chatbots, and 24% expect a fast reply.
Imagine having to “immediately” respond to a hundred queries across your website and social media channels—it’s not possible to keep up. That’s where ecommerce chatbots come in handy.
The technology is equipped to handle most of your customer support queries, leveraging the data already available on your website. This keeps the conversation going, and the consumer engaged with your brand—and, hence, more likely to make the purchase during the assisted session.
3. Your customers are everywhere
Customers shop from many different channels nowadays. In a 2022 Salsify report, respondents from the US, the UK, Germany, and France reported they engage on at least 11 different touchpoints.
Simply put, your customers are everywhere. They can choose to engage with you on your online store, Facebook, Instagram, or even WhatsApp to get a query answered.
Multichannel sales is the only way for ecommerce businesses to keep up with consumers and meet their demands on a platform of their choice. Now imagine having to keep up with customer conversations across all these channels—that’s exactly why businesses are using ecommerce chatbots.
4. Your live agents costs can get out of control fast
Traditionally, businesses hired live agents to tackle customer queries across various departments.
But think about the number of people you’d require to stay on top of all customer conversations, across platforms.
While the relevancy of “human” conversations still remains, the need for instant replies is where it gets tough for live agents to handle the new-age consumer. Hiring more live agents is no longer an option if you’re someone optimizing for costs to keep budgets streamlined and focused on marketing and advertising.
That’s where chatbots come in.
Comparisons found that chatbots are easy to scale, handling thousands of queries a day, at a much lesser cost than hiring as many live agents to do the same. The Tidio study also found that the total cost savings from deploying chatbots reached around $11 billion in 2022, and can save businesses up to 30% on customer support costs alone.
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What are the different types of chatbots?
To be able to offer the above benefits, chatbot technology is continually evolving. While there’s still a lot of work happening on the automation front with the help of artificial technology and machine learning, chatbots can be broadly categorized into three types.
While we’re not going to get into the technical aspects of each, here’s a brief overview on three types:
1. Simple chatbots
Simple chatbots are the most basic form of chatbots, and come with limited capabilities. They are also called rule-based bots and are extremely task-specific, making them ideal for straightforward dialogues only.
This means that the chatbot is set up in such a way that it poses questions based on predetermined options. The consumer can then choose from the options in your knowledge base until they get an answer to their query.
In this case, the chatbot does not draw up any context or inference from previous conversations or interactions. Every response given is based on the input from the customer and taken on face value.
For example, ordering a pizza. To order a pizza, this type of chatbot will walk you through a series of questions around the size, crust, and toppings you’d like to add. It will walk you through the process of creating your own pizza up until you add a delivery address and make the payment.
Another example is that of chatbots being used for order status. A simple chatbot will ask you for the order number and provide you with an order status update or a tracking URL based on the option you choose.
2. Smart chatbots
Smart chatbots are one step ahead of the logical chatbots above. They’re designed using technologies such as conversational AI to understand human interactions and intent better before responding to them. They’re able to imitate human-like, free-flowing conversations, learning from past interactions and predefined parameters while building the bot.
For example, shopping assistants on online stores.
A consumer can converse with these chatbots more seamlessly, choosing their own way of interaction. If they’re looking for products around skin brightening, they get to drop a message on the same. The chatbot is able to read, process and understand the message, replying with product recommendations from the store that address the particular concern.
If you’ve been using Siri, smart chatbots are pretty much similar to it. No matter how you pose a question, it’s able to find you a relevant answer.
3. Hybrid chatbots
Typically, a hybrid chatbot is a combination of simple and smart chatbots, built to simplify complex use cases. They are set up with some rule-based tasks, but can also understand the intent and context behind a message to deliver a more human-like response.
Let’s go back to the pizza example.
A hybrid chatbot would walk you through the same series of questions around the size, crust, and toppings. But additionally, it can also ask questions like “How would you like your pizza (sweet, bland, spicy, very spicy)” and use the consumer input to make topping recommendations.
The two things each of these chatbots have in common is their ability to be customized based on the use case you intend to address.
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Ecommerce chatbot use cases
There are a number of ways ecommerce companies are using chatbot solutions. Here are how some of the best ecommerce chatbots operate:
1. Collect customer information
Chatbots are a great way to capture visitor intent and use the data to personalize your lead generation campaigns.
For example, when someone lands on your website, you can use a welcome bot to initiate a conversation with them. As you talk to this visitor, you can capture information around the products they’re looking for, how they’d like to be notified of new products and deals, and so on.
2. Offer shopping assistance/customer support
No matter how in-depth your product description and media gallery is, an online shopper is bound to have questions before reaching the checkout page.
You can use a chatbot to answer queries around sizing guides, product variants, pricing, and ongoing discounts they can redeem, or even make product recommendations based on what they’re looking for.
3. Upsell and cross-sell to buyers
You walk into a store to buy a pair of jeans, but often walk out with a shirt to go along with them. That’s because the salesperson did a good job at not just upselling you a better pair of jeans, but cross-selling from another category of products available.
A chatbot can help you do this online and in real time. Based on what a consumer is looking for or the page they are looking at, a chatbot can start a conversation that helps them discover other options available to them that may be better than what the consumer had in mind.
Similarly, using the intent of the buyer, the chatbot can also recommend products that go with the product they came looking for. Think of this as product recommendations, but more conversational like a chat with the salesperson you met.
4. Prevent and recover abandoned carts
There could be a number of reasons why an online shopper chooses to abandon a purchase. With chatbots in place, you can actually stop them from leaving the cart behind or bring them back if they already have.
For example, if you see a visitor abandoning the cart and exiting your website, or taking too long to move to the next step, a chatbot can be used to trigger a conversation to ask if they need any help. Be it calculating shipping costs, offering a discount on the cart total, or simply sharing return/exchange policies to ease their anxiety, a chatbot can handle it all to prevent cart abandonment.
Similarly, if the visitor has abandoned the cart, a chatbot on social media can be used to remind them of the products they left behind. The conversation can be used to either bring them back to the store to complete the purchase or understand why they abandoned the cart in the first place.
5. Keep customers engaged
If you have been sending email newsletters to keep customers engaged, it’s time to add another strategy to the mix.
Chatbots are actually great at keeping customers engaged. The two-way conversation contrary to the one-way push of information and updates is much more effective and gives you many more opportunities to get to know them better, or sell to them.
For example, once a customer has made a purchase from your store, you can use chatbots to send them product how-tos, or introduce them to other products that suit their interests. You can use their responses to nurture them further and lead them back to your store for more!
6. Collect customer feedback and reviews
Chatbots are also extremely effective at collecting customer feedback.
Think about the traditional emails requesting product feedback.
Now think about walking into a store and being asked about your shopping experience before leaving.
You’re more likely to share feedback in the second case because it’s conversational, and people love to talk.
With the help of chatbots, you can collect customer feedback proactively across various channels, or even request product reviews and ratings. Additionally, chatbots give you the ability to gauge negative feedback before it goes online, so you can resolve a customer issue before it gets posted about.
7. Offer easy order tracking and updates
Another great use case of a chatbot is order tracking.
While most ecommerce businesses have automated order status alerts set up, a lot of consumers choose to take things into their own hands.
Now instead of increasing the number of messages and phone calls you receive to track orders, you can tackle the queries with a chatbot.
A chatbot can pull data from your logistics service provider and store back end to update the customer about the order status. It can also offer the customer a tracking URL they can use themselves to keep track of the order, or change the delivery address/date to a time that suits them best.
Simply put, an ecommerce bot simplifies a customer’s buying journey with a brand by bringing conversations into the digital world.
And the good thing is that ecommerce chatbots can be implemented across all the popular digital touchpoints consumers make use of today.
Where can you use ecommerce chatbots?
The good thing about ecommerce chatbots is that the technology can be implemented across various platforms, giving businesses an opportunity to leverage its features and use cases more proactively.
Some of the popular channels where we see ecommerce chatbots shine, include:
1. Live chat (on your store)
According to data from Zendesk, customer satisfaction ratings for live chat (85%) are second only to phone support (91%). The very first place you should consider implementing a chatbot is your own online store. This will help you welcome new visitors, guide their buying journey, offer shopping assistance before, during, and after a purchase, and prevent cart abandonment.
Chatbots have also showm to improve customer satisfaction and increase sales by keeping visitors meaningfully engaged.
Here’s an example of what a chatbot on live chat looks like through Shopify Inbox:
Consumers choose to interact with brands on the social platform to get more information about products, deals, and discounts. That’s why implementing a Facebook Messenger bot is important.
With a Facebook Messenger chatbot you can nurture consumers that discover you through Facebook shops, groups, or your own marketing campaigns. The chatbot can be used to direct them to your website or introduce them to ongoing deals and discounts they’d find there.
Platforms like ManyChat and ChatFuel let you build conversation flows easily. Here’s an example of a Facebook chatbot via ManyChat.
Traditionally, businesses reply to DMs manually. But as the business grows, managing DMs and staying on top of conversations (some of which are repetitive) can become all too overwhelming. This is where Instagram chatbots can help.
You can use them in a similar fashion as Facebook chatbots. A hybrid chatbot can collect customer information, provide product suggestions, or direct shoppers to your site based on what they’re looking for.
WhatsApp has more than 2.4 billion users worldwide, and with the WhatsApp Business API, ecommerce businesses now have an opportunity to tap into this user base for marketing.
As of today, there are more than five million businesses on WhatsApp, and the numbers are only increasing to meet the need of conversational commerce. But imagine responding to customer queries over a chat app at scale—impossible to keep up with!
WhatsApp chatbots can help businesses streamline communication on the messaging app, driving better engagement on their broadcast campaigns. You can use these chatbots to offer better customer support, recover abandoned carts, request customer feedback, and much more.
Telegram is another messaging app online businesses use for marketing and customer support.
Similar to WhatsApp, you can set up ecommerce chatbots on the messaging platform to tackle customer queries and keep them engaged, driving more store visits and conversions.
But before you jump the gun and implement chatbots across all channels, let’s take a quick look at some of the best practices to follow.
Best practices for using chatbots in ecommerce
A chatbot is meant to remove the barrier between you and your customers by enabling seamless and proactive conversations. But to make the most of them, you should:
- Identify the goals you want to achieve. Before you implement a chatbot, make sure you have your use cases and goals clearly identified and documented in a strategy.
- Identify your most-used channels. Next, look into your analytics to identify your top traffic sources, then prioritize chatbot implementation accordingly. Start only with the absolute must-haves.
- Keep your chatbot flow simple and intuitive. Don’t complicate the process of communicating with your brand. Think consumer-first when implementing a flow to keep things simple.
- Keep your FAQs ready. Most consumers reaching out to businesses have repetitive and common questions; take note of them all and create an extensive FAQ library that you can add to your chatbot flow for ease of information.
- Leverage the chatbot across a buyer’s journey. Don’t restrict the use case of chatbots; learn more about how you can use conversations to improve a buyer’s journey before, during and after a purchase.
- Ensure hand-offs. There will be moments when a chatbot is not capable of addressing a consumer query; make sure there is a way to notify you and hand-off the conversation in a timely manner.
- Integrate with your CRM. A chatbot collects a lot of customer data during the conversation. In times when personalization is the need of the hour, make sure you’re recording all the data in a systematic manner. This is where integration with your CRM can come in handy!
- Monitor and optimize. Don’t set up chatbots and forget all about them. Continually learn from how people engage with it and what you can do to improve the customer experience; implemented well, a chatbot can help increase conversion rates and drive sales.
Now that you know why chatbots are important, and how you can use them and where, there’s no reason to ever miss another conversation—it’s time for you to set up an ecommerce chatbot!
Finding the best ecommerce chatbot platform for you
There are a number of ecommerce businesses that build chatbots from scratch. But that means added time and resources to implement a chatbot on each channel before you actually begin using it.
If you’re a store on Shopify, setting up a chatbot for your business is easy—no matter what channel you want to use it on.
There are a number of apps in our App Store that help you set up a chatbot on live chat, social media platforms or messaging apps like WhatsApp, in no time. All you need to do is evaluate which of the apps suits your needs the best, the integrations it has to offer, and the ease of set up.
If you’re just getting started with ecommerce chatbots, we recommend exploring Shopify Inbox.
The chatbot functionality is built to help you streamline and manage on-site customer queries with ease by setting up quick replies, FAQs, and order status automations.
But if you’re looking at implementing social media and messaging app chatbots as well, you can explore all our apps.
Ecommerce chatbots FAQ
What is an ecommerce chatbot?
Powered by artificial intelligence, an ecommerce chatbot is implemented by online retailers as a virtual shopping assistant to engage customers at every stage of their buying journey.
How do I use ecommerce chatbots?
There are a number of ways to use ecommerce chatbots. You can use chatbots to welcome first-time visitors and collect contact information, offer customer support, enable shopping assistance, gather customer feedback, and much more, across all your digital touchpoints including your website, SMS, social media pages and messaging apps.
What is the best chatbot for ecommerce?
The best ecommerce chatbot platforms are:
- Shopify Inbox
Does Shopify have chatbots?
Shopify offers Shopify Inbox to ecommerce businesses hosted on the platform. The app helps you create automated messages on live chat and makes it simple to manage customer conversations. But for social media chatbots, you’ll need to explore Shopify apps.