Text-to-order: Driving better CX through conversation

Retailers can provide a better customer service with chatbots
19 July 2018

Conversational commerce can help you drive better customer experience. Source: Shutterstock

Brands are always looking for new channels to attract customers’ attention. The advent of digital assistants opened up new avenues for businesses to interact with customers directly.

Today, we are seeing banking and insurance sectors offering services for their staffs and customers via chatbots.

Increasingly, chatbots are being used in commerce. Known as conversational commerce, it allows customers to shop directly from chat platforms, while allowing businesses to provide a more personalized experience for customers.

“Consumers are looking for that deep relationship with the brands that they’re purchasing products from most frequently. That happens over a personalized conversational medium,” said Zak Normandin in an exclusive interview with TechHQ.

Normandin is a co-founder and CEO of Dirty Lemon, a beverage company that primarily interacts with customers through text messaging.

“There’s been so much focus from so many brands that consumers are tired of only interacting in in the digital space,” he explained. “It’s just overexposure.”

From chatbots to digital assistants

According to a report by MasterCard, conversational commerce started when Uber first offered users the ability to request a ride through Facebook Messenger.

That kickstarted the idea where messaging platforms can be used to interact with businesses, whether for customer support, asking questions, or getting information related to the company.

Since then, the technology behind chatbots has evolved beyond programmed functions and responses. Natural Language Processing (NLP) has allowed chatbots to understand the context in human speech, making for a more natural conversation.

Technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) enable chatbots to have a better knowledge of the customers. These robotic assistants are able to predict and anticipate what a customer wants and when they need it.

Conversational commerce takes it a step further, by allowing purchase directly from the platform. Users don’t have to go through the process of clicking on billing, shipping, and credit card information for every purchase. Bonus point, it doesn’t require you to download additional apps or login into different accounts.

More than just conversations

The benefits of conversational commerce go beyond consumers. It allows businesses to showcase new innovations and offer it quickly to consumers.

“That only happens through a direct consumer relationship,” Normandin exclaimed.

Thanks to social media, people are able to see new products much faster now than before. However, that doesn’t always translate to availability in certain countries.

This is dues to a highly inefficient distribution system. In traditional distribution channels, the process to get a product onto store shelves can sometimes take up to a year.

“The system was never established for rapid iterations of products. It was always based on very long reset schedules,” he added. “The modern consumer does not want to wait a year for new innovation.”

Chatbots allow brands to skip through the middle person, to directly market to the consumer. Companies can allow users to purchase directly from the brand without needing to install a separate app.

Brick and mortar isn’t dead

In the case of Dirty Lemon, users are only able to order the beverages via text messaging. The company has integrated payments into their backend, allowing customers to purchase directly by just texting the company. Customers can also ask the company questions and track their orders on the chat itself.

Many other retailers that are using chatbots, however, are not limited to purely online or text-based channels. In fact, beauty and fashion labels like H&M and Sephora, as well as fast food chains like TacoBell all have versions of chatbots on various platforms like Kik and Slack, while remaining a physical presence.

“The retail experience is a really exciting opportunity for brands to connect with consumers outside of the digital space and create moments for consumers to share online,” Normandin suggested.

Instead of using retail stores as a sales channel, Normandin thinks that the role of brick and mortar will change.

Taking Dirty Lemon as an example, he said, “We look at retail as a marketing channel, not as a revenue generator. It is a way to market our products to consumers.”

The future of retail will see digital as a primary channel for users to shop and transact. However, customer experience isn’t just limited to digital channels. Face to face communication remains vital and could help brands elevate the consumer experience by creating meaningful connections with consumers.