Conversational commerce: AI with a human face
The human face is a powerful tool. In its simplest form, it’s the most time-tested interface that’s ever existed. The vast majority of people know how to use it to have a conversation, using speech and non-verbal cues. Digital humans are no different, using their voice, tone and facial expressions to convey a range of emotions that prove to be essential to real interactions.
In its more complex form, speaking with someone face to face empowers interpersonal trust, emotional connection, and the feeling of being valued. Digital humans don’t pretend to be human; yet studies show people are more than willing to form real connections with machines, especially when the machines show a little humanity in return.
That being said, digital humans (or any technology for that matter) will not replace the human touch. Rather it allows retail brands to scale it as necessary. Conversational AI in this way adds to the decades’ long drive towards making retail more convenient, but also puts back a dash of the human shopping experience that’s been lost.
Your conversational AI can handle the routine experiences, your staff are more available to those who need hands-on help; and yet at every touchpoint, there’s the face of the retailer’s brand providing support across any channel.
Building better customer experience (CX) in the retail industry with AI
Great customer experiences lead to shoppers spending 140% more, having 33% lower cost-to-serve and remaining customers for an average five years longer, according to Deloitte.
What makes a great customer experience in retail? Well, the votes are in and people know exactly what they like and don’t like.
For one, the boom in online shopping has left consumers forced to serve their own needs and find their own products or services through eCommerce websites or apps. Put bluntly, self-service is an experience that wouldn’t work if people had an alternative.
Because of self-service, 50% of online purchases are lost because consumers can’t find what they’re looking for, research from Forrester shows. If an in-store shopper couldn’t find what they wanted, they’d simply ask for help. At which point the store assistant would guide them to the product or something similar they might like. In eCommerce environments, that option doesn’t exist because a conversation has never started.
Conversational AI in retail chatbots, virtual assistants and digital humans open that dialogue again.
Other CX opportunities exist too. Accenture found that almost half of consumers believe the best thing retailers can do to improve their CX is to better integrate their in-store, online and mobile shopping channels. But how can they provide this seamless omnichannel retail experience – a Holy Grail for many stores?
Part of the solution will require retailers to focus on making seamless, consistent and consistently excellent touchpoints across their customer journeys. In less jargony words, make shopping in store, on website, via an app or through social media feel like the same excellent experience. Without harping on this, that’s simply not possible when the human experience is only available through one of those touchpoints.
And lastly, a great customer experience is personal. Almost all marketers say personalization helps improve their customer relationships, according to Evergage. Overall, 89% of them have delivered better customer experiences, 61% have seen an increase in consumer loyalty and 59% note a measurable lift in return on investment (ROI).
Personalization of eCommerce, then, should be a priority for any retailer with CX in mind. That means knowing the customer, perhaps even using their name, solving their specific problems, and showing empathy and warmth through real-time communication and interaction. All of these things are possible from an in-person and digital human AI solution. In fact, they’re the only two means of delivering a truly personalized shopping experience today.
Retail chatbots are just a part of the conversational commerce equation
So, the answer is automated digital retail solutions, like chatbots – right? Well, in part. Retail chatbots are a great channel. GGS research found that 29% of people prefer to turn to chat to get their quick and non-complex questions answered digitally. That’s potentially a lot of simple questions being routed away from a retail brand’s exceptional staff, automating it so these real people can focus on more valuable work.
But chatbot fatigue is an issue. The same research found that 71% of consumers are unlikely to use a brand if there was no option of human support available. Meanwhile, PwC found that 82% of people prefer the human touch with brands, especially as automation continues to grow.
Digital humans are the bridge between the automated retail chatbots and virtual assistants we see expanding into the market, and the human staff that customers love in the retail experience.