The customer-centric blog of Linc Global
Life used to be pretty easy for well-established CPG brands. As long as they had a handle on their supply chain, manufacturing and distribution, their operations would run smoothly. Competition was centered on securing prime shelf space and fending off brand or product line extensions from other CPGs or the private label offerings of supermarkets or big-box retailers. Magazine and TV ads, along with retail coupons, would remind consumers why they preferred this brand of household name toothpaste or breakfast cereal over another. Maybe if you wanted to be seen as particularly cutting-edge, you tried your hand at a light-hearted branded Twitter account. And then things changed quickly and dramatically. What was once smooth sailing got a whole lot rougher.
This is a guest blog post from CPG and Amazon expert, Melissa Burdick. Melissa has over 12 years of experience in ecommerce, and works with brands to help them develop ecommerce strategies and win online. She previously helped launch the CPG retail business on Amazon.com, and was at Amazon Media Group at its inception. For a long time, CPG brands didn't need to be overly concerned with ecommerce. US CPG manufacturers sleepily watched other categories (like consumer electronics) and markets (like UK and China) increase in ecommerce maturity while still focusing on their bread & butter brick & mortar businesses. However, as shifting consumer preferences, low barriers to entry online giving rise to niche incumbent brands, and declining brick & mortar sales, an ecommerce strategy has suddenly gone from nice to have to critical and required immediately. According to a new Nielsen study, brick and mortar sales for fast-moving CPGs have declined, while online sales of these same goods have grown by a massive 32% over the last year. The study stated that nearly nine of out of 10 dollars of FMCG retail growth came from online last year.
Today, you can’t talk about creating an amazing customer experience without bringing emerging AI-powered chat and voice platforms into the discussion. They’re rapidly becoming essential channels via which to connect with customers. Indeed, real-time text is the preferred method of communication with brands for Millennials, trumping email and 1-800 numbers and shoppers of all ages are becoming more accustomed to communicating with customer care chatbots. While AI-based voice assistance isn't as established as chat and text, it's also growing quickly. Voice accounts for 20% of search and by the end of 2017, 40M households in the US will have voice-enabled devices like Google Home and Amazon Echo. And people aren’t just using these devices to check the weather or find out movie showtimes–at least a third of Echo owners have made a purchase via Alexa. So, how can a smart retailer leverage chat and voice platforms to create the kind of customer experience that drives ecommerce competitiveness and increases revenue? There are five key areas to focus on.
Growing lifestyle retailer Pura Vida selects Linc to improve customer care automation and utilize their customizable artificial intelligence platform SUNNYVALE, Calif.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Linc Global, the customer care automation platform that powers the digital experiences that strengthen brand-to-shopper relationships, today announced its partnership with lifestyle retailer Pura Vida Bracelets to improve its customer service offerings through automation and artificial intelligence. Pura Vida will utilize Linc’s solution to provide a personalized customer care experience to ensure timely updates to customers, suggest product recommendations based on recent purchases and strengthen customer relationships. “We’re excited to partner with Linc to enhance our customer care platform. The majority of our sales are direct-to-consumer online so it’s important we have a platform that not only provides a quick solution to customer questions but is customizable to match our branding,” said Griffin Thall, CEO and co-founder, Pura Vida. “Linc enables us to directly interact with our customers via Facebook messenger which is exciting for us as a brand that actively engages with our audience on social media.”
Retailers have their eye on AI as a force that will reshape their customer care over the next 24 months, but most aren’t leveraging it today or are merely experimenting with it. Research we conducted with Brand Garage found that while almost 87% of retail executives planned to increase their usage of customer care AI in 24 months, less than 42% were currently using it, with most of them reporting they were only doing so on a trial or pilot basis. This future intention vs. current action gap is troubling for a number of reasons.
I’m surprised to be taking fingers to the keyboard on this topic, but my frustration has boiled over. Barely a week goes by, it seems, that I don’t get to read yet another headline or breaking report that warns customer loyalty has had its day. ‘Millennials shop around’ I see, ‘people choose price over brand’, ‘loyalty is no longer valued culturally’ (that’s a broad brush). Armed with the proof points, the survey results and the anecdotes that add just enough color to make it all cohesive, you’d be forgiven for thinking this is what is actually the reality of today. But it’s not.
Linc delivers chat and voice capabilities to Shopify Plus customers via Messenger, WhatsApp, Google Home, Amazon Alexa, and other digital channels.
While many brands are considering chatbots, and some are experimenting, leaders are already making plans for how to improve the chatbots that have been providing their shoppers with automated solutions and service. One piece of the puzzle is how to analyze conversations - it is impractical to read every single chat log, but the real-world interactions are where the insights come from. Enter Chatbase, Google’s new analytics tool, which is in early access right now for some developers. We’ve gotten a chance to test it and we’re very excited about it.
It’s not easy to give customers what they want in places and mediums that are most familiar to the retail industry, let alone on emerging channels like chat and voice. When 1–800-Flowers.com launched its chatbot, it was hailed as an example of capturing commerce interactions on a new channel and giving customers the convenience they crave. As Forrester has since identified, however, the chatbot “forgets users’ information if they try to return to their task the next day — despite displaying the previously entered data earlier in the Messenger conversation.”
Retail as we know it is back to the wild west. Over the past 12-18 months, and even moreso over the last 6, tech giants such as Facebook, Google, and Amazon have made significant strides to revamp the E-Commerce world that we know. There has been a huge paradigm shift; from Facebook Messenger opening up their API’s for developers to build chatbots that shoppers can use to directly message with retailers, to devices like Google Home and Amazon Alexa bringing voice assistants into your shoppers’ day-to-day lives. We are finally seeing the reality behind what has been referenced for years now as “Conversational Commerce” come to life.