This Season, AI is in Vogue: Conversational AI For Great Retail and eCommerce CX

Written by Amy Wallace on Sep 1, 2022
Conversational AI for retail and eCommerce CX

Back-to-school, Christmas, or simply refreshing one’s home decor for the changing season. Whatever the occasion, the holiday shopping season is fast-approaching, and for some, already underway. Yet, this season is a bit different from those of the past. For one, consumer habits have evolved – nearly 40% have switched brands or retailers during the pandemic, and more than 80% have new shopping behaviors, such as adopting “buy online and pickup in-store” services. What’s more, staffing shortages continue to pose a major challenge, as do supply chain issues.

There is a relatively simple fix, one that does not require an influx of new hires, seasonal or long-term. The solution? Conversational AI in the retail workforce, for the ultimate customer experience.

AI for retail and eCommerce CX: The classic solution that never goes out of style

Stimulate consumer spending by providing instant answers to their questions

Inflation is chiselling away at consumers’ spending power, leading them to shop strategically, prioritizing items of need (such as household essentials, groceries, pet care and baby items) over items of want (such as consumer electronics, apparel, smart home devices, and books). Amid this time of economic uncertainty, consumers are hesitant to part with their money (‘this 4K TV seems awesome, but do I really need it?’). What is needed is exceptional customer support, delivered accurately and immediately. Research from Gladly has found that 72% of shoppers are willing to spend more with a brand that provides a great customer experience, while 42% percent say they would stop purchasing from a brand altogether after just two bad service experiences (two strikes, they’re out)! It’s clear that first impressions matter, as 88% of shoppers won’t even return to a website after a poor user experience. If customers are made to jump through hoops to make returns or receive answers related to products, such poor experiences may lead to them venturing elsewhere, or not making a purchase at all.

AI-powered virtual assistants play an integral role in retail interactions that span the entire shopping journey.

Available 24/7 to get the job done
Handling the bulk of high-volume repeatable queries, such as those related to order status and account information, and escalating more complex requests to human agents, is an area where digital assistants shine. Their 24/7 nature means that brands can respond to incoming queries within seconds, and a greater volume of them, at that. When doing some late-night research, a customer has specific questions about that shiny new 4K TV, and is looking for information about a store’s inventory levels and return policy? Bring it on!

A proactive stance
Offering greater visibility into end-to-end product availability, and being fully transparent goes a long way in building and maintaining customer loyalty. For instance, will a customer’s shipment be delayed until the following week? In a move to stay one step ahead, a virtual agent proactively reaches out to inform them of the issue and how it is being resolved.

Integrating with other key systems
When integrated with back-end systems such as a CRM, virtual agents can easily access order history, so customers do not have to repeat basic details about themselves or their specific queries. This allows for ultimately personalized interactions, as human agents are then armed with the full context even prior to interacting with the customer.

retail eCommerce CX Zinus case study example

A competitive advantage, when competition is fierce

More than 90% of consumers now see two or three-day delivery as the baseline, and 30% percent expect same-day delivery. In today’s fast-paced world, perhaps customers will soon expect delivery within mere hours, which will eventually become the norm. How can brands keep up, and go above and beyond to deliver exceptional customer service? The key is planning ahead to meet these evolving expectations and likely realities. As McKinsey pointed out, “as changes accelerate in consumer behaviors and attitudes, retailers with “wait and see” approaches will only fall further behind.”

In line with a shift towards more strategic shopping, soaring inflation is driving consumers to discount retailers in search of lower prices. For instance, a decade after shuttering many of its retail locations, Canadian discount retail chain Zellers is planning to make a comeback in 2023, debuting a new eCommerce website and expanding its brick-and-mortar footprint. How can brands, both existing and emerging, rise up to stake their claim in this competitive environment, and offer their customers brand experience, service resolution and loyalty moments that matter?

AI is in the CX trends forecast

Today’s retail consumers are in a tough spot, as external factors such as inflation and rising costs impact how they spend their money. Customer retention is more important than ever, as is responding to and resolving customer issues – everything from account updates, to order status and delivery – at speed. By integrating AI and automation into their workforces, retail and eCommerce brands can prepare for this season and those to come, for customer experiences that are truly timeless.