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Article Originally Posted on smartinsights.com
I remember sitting in class one day at University, and the plucky, outspoken prof announced to our lecture that most of us would be doing jobs that don’t have names yet. As a concept, this seemed to make sense, but as a reality, I couldn’t imagine how jobs could materialize from thin air, at least with such a lack of predictability that we didn’t even know they’d be needed. Fast forward to today, and I’m fairly certain my prof would be ready with a warm-hearted ‘I told you so’, if I explained what I’ve seen develop this year.
With their breadth of available inventory and shipping infrastructure, it seems that Amazon has everyone cornered. But, there are incredible opportunities for brands and retailers to compete with Amazon – and thrive. In today’s post, we’ll focus on how to outperform the big, smiling behemoth when it comes to customer experience and engagement.
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.
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.”
While brands have scrambled to launch Facebook Messenger chatbots since the social media behemoth opened up the channel for development last year, the early results haven’t been particularly promising. Facebook is seeing a 70% failure rate among those 35,000 or so bots when it comes to understanding user requests. To combat this poor performance, Facebook is making some changes to Messenger, including adding a persistent menu that will allow users to choose from a number of requests or statements instead of using natural language and risking stumping the bot entirely.
Ecommerce consumers benefit with an improved returns process while retailers deliver a consumer-friendly, cost-efficient process.
ChatBots and AI in retail isn’t a flash in the pan that we’ll all be cringing about in 18 months. Instead, it represents a lasting shift in the retail landscape and the nature of the brand-customer relationship.