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Chatbots are poised to revolutionize retail

July 27, 2020

Chatbots are poised to revolutionize retail
Service-heavy industries have been using customer service chatbots and AI-driven voice assistants for years now. While the technology wasn’t initially the most effective and created negative experiences for some customers, things have improved dramatically. As a result, website and call center chatbots are now being widely adopted. One industry that stands to benefit is retail.

How retail is incorporating chatbots
As AI-driven chatbots continue to improve, such technology must become part of every retailers’ omnichannel initiative. Here are a few ways retail will leverage this technology.

  1. Basic customer service chatbots on a retailer’s website—Every retailer has a list of common questions asked by customers (e.g., What are your store hours? What is your return policy?). Questions like these along with their answers can be taught to a chatbot to act as a first level of customer support.
  2. Online clienteling—The benefits of clienteling in brick-and-mortar retail are clear. Unfortunately, such white-glove treatment is usually reserved for luxury brands or customers who spend a lot. Chatbots are allowing retailers to give every online customer the same white-glove treatment. With chatbots, customers can receive personalized recommendations based on past purchases and post-sale follow-ups that create overall positive experiences and foster repeat business.
  3. Book appointments—Chatbots can be used to help customers book appointments with in-store sales associates, make reservations and more. 
  4. Lead generation—Online chatbots can pass information from chat sessions as leads to humans for in-person sale follow-ups.
  5. Speak with customers in their native tongues—Some chatbots can be trained to speak to customers in a different language depending on the location of the online query or the customers’ preferences. This added personalization adds to the overall shopping experience.
  6. Interact with customers wherever they are—Some brands are using social media and messaging app integrations to have chatbots communicate with customers away from their website. While it’s impossible to have a live person monitoring every corner of the internet, chatbots can cover a wide area very affordably.
  7. Internal communication—Not all chatbots are customer-facing. Some retail HR departments use SMS-based chatbots to allow employees to check schedules, schedule leave and more.
Capture online purchases from voice assistants
Late last year, survey data from the Capgemini Research Institute showed that consumers increasingly prefer to interact with bots rather than humans, especially when it comes to researching products, learning about new services or following up on post-purchase customer service queries. In fact, according to the poll, nearly 70% say that over the next three years they will increasingly replace visits to a store with their voice assistant.

With this change in behavior, make sure your retailers have e-commerce sites optimized for voice search, using the long-tail phrases people naturally use. Finally, take action to optimize for popular search assistants such as Amazon Alexa, Apple Siri, Google Assistant and Microsoft Cortana.

For human assistance on chatbots and related retail technologies, contact Angela Lawrence, Ingram Micro’s DCPOS expert.