Think about the best offline shopping experiences you’ve had.
You’re probably recalling a positive interaction that at some point involved a friendly, helpful salesperson.
Whether it’s a basic greeting, guidance while browsing, or simply a hassle-free checkout, we’ve come to expect certain service elements in our offline shopping.
Until recently, these were services that ecommerce businesses simply couldn’t provide.
Not any more.
The development of sophisticated chatbots and Facebook’s business tools have armed ecommerce brands with the ability to fill that customer service gap – and more.
In this article, we’ll explore several specific ways a chatbot can impact your ecommerce business’ performance. But first let’s look at the changing landscape of ecommerce and mobile shopping and why these are permanent shifts rather than fads.
Why you should be using Facebook and chatbots for ecommerce
Facebook is the world’s largest social media site, with over 2.23 billion monthly active users. It’s also the most engaging – Facebook users spend an average of 35 minutes per day on the platform.
While these numbers are impressive, it’s really Facebook’s business tools that separate it from competing social media sites.
Facebook Ads and Facebook Insights allow brands to closely track their performance analytics and learn an unprecedented amount about their audiences.
Facebook fan pages can act as a brand’s central connection hub with its fans, and Facebook Messenger adds another, more direct communication channel.
Virtually any business can build a powerful, multi-layered presence using these tools. But since Facebook Stores were introduced, ecommerce brands have been handed a particularly powerful opportunity.
Remember those leading engagement stats? Enabling ecommerce directly on Facebook fan pages allows brands the ability to monetize their audience without asking them to visit external sites.
These Facebook tools are powerful, but they’re also relatively one-way. In the last few years, though, chatbots are transforming that dynamic into a live, two-way experience.
Increasing adoption + acceptance
Although FB chatbots are still relatively young, we’ve been using automated services for a long time. Conversational systems have supported customer service, booking confirmations, and many other phone-based services for years.
Even Microsoft Word had an automated assistant way back in the 1990s – remember Clippy?
This general exposure to and familiarity with automated help has carried over online. A Mindshare survey found that 63% of respondents would consider messaging an online chatbot to get in touch with a business or brand.
When Facebook introduced its chatbot development platform in 2016, there was a flood of bot building. As of mid-2017 there were 100,000 chatbots on the Facebook platform and millions of interactions had taken place.
While those numbers are impressive, they wouldn’t mean much if chatbots weren’t being adopted by significant businesses. But take a look around at the biggest brands you deal with, and you’ll probably be surprised at how widespread chatbots have become.
KLM features its chatbot, BB, prominently across all media channels and even created a dedicated advertisement around it.
While KLM’s BB is mostly a booking service, other companies are using chatbots to engage with their audiences in creative ways. Casper, a leading mattress company, uses its bot to entertain people who can’t sleep.
In addition to customer service and engagement, leading brands are also using chatbots for sales. Domino’s Pizza, for example, prominently features its ordering bot on its homepage.
While chatbots are being quickly adopted across many different industries, ecommerce businesses should be paying especially close attention.
According to this study, 71% of consumers are likely to make a purchase based on social media referrals, and 37% are willing to purchase through a chatbot.
And according to Statista, online retail is the most receptive industry when it comes to chatbots.
We’ve already outlined a few of the services chatbots can perform, from 24/7 customer service to reviews and sales.
When they were first introduced, it wasn’t clear how these different services would affect businesses.
After several years of evidence, though, it’s clear that the effect has been dramatic. Brands are reporting triple-digit ROI in their chatbot investments and incredible engagement and conversion stats.
Mobile internet trends
While chatbots are getting more sophisticated and becoming more widely adopted, it’s important to consider how internet use is evolving and what people expect from online experiences.
Mobile is now the leading source of internet traffic, and it’s growing quickly. It’s also notable that along with people using Mobile more often, they’re also spending more time on the sites they visit on their devices.
According to a study by Drift, most of the most pressing issues and frustrations users report come back to two themes – navigability and quick, relevant responsiveness.
People want online experiences that are clear, simple, and above all, quick. Salesforce reports that 64% of consumers and 80% of business buyers expect immediate responses and live interactions.
Think about how we use our mobile devices. Whether its for information, direction, or social media, the experiences are all about speed and convenience. If you need an answer to a question and it’s not immediately obvious on a site, you’ll quickly head elsewhere.
4 ways chatbots can impact your business
Now that we’ve set the scene, let’s look at the specific ways a chatbot can impact your ecommerce business.
1. Trust and Responsiveness:
This article started with a reference to the salespeople who staff the shops around us in our everyday lives. Most retail stores follow the same formula – greet the customers when they walk in, then offer help with browsing and eventually buying.
That’s why you’re welcomed warmly at everything from big-box retail stores to your local Starbucks, and then periodically supported while you browse. It’s how a business can establish rapport while acknowledging the customer. It’s also an expected norm, and it opens up the chance to help the customer along to a purchase.
Until recently, online shoppers didn’t have access to the same sort of friendly, live assistance.
Ecommerce brands could do a lot to make their buyers’ experiences good. A great website, clear copy, and attractive product photography help, but the buyers are still on their own. Shoppers could get personal help through email or Messenger support, but that almost always involves a wait time.
That’s where chatbots have changed the game.
Since they’re automated and installable across a brand’s site and Facebook page, businesses can now offer immediate, 24/7 support to their online users. It’s particularly powerful for ecommerce brands because it means filling that “missing” role of a (virtual) sales assistant.
As covered above, response times are critical to any online business – ecommerce in particular. Brands with Facebook pages should pay extra attention to this because their response times are prominently displayed to their fans.
Response times are a critical factor in building trust with your audience and driving sales. If your competition “responds immediately”, can you afford not to?
In the images above, you can see the effectiveness of Nike’s messenger strategy versus that of Diadora. Nike’s chatbot pops up immediately and engages directly with its audience, with a response time in minutes. Diadora, meanwhile, doesn’t make its chat readily available and averages a day before responding.
Chatbots solve two major communication problems by making your page immediately responsive and available at all times to all people.
2. Engagement and acquisition
This isn’t just theory – the results are in the numbers. All sorts of brands in different industries are seeing significant conversion rate improvements across a variety of goals. Here are a few examples:
- OHRA, an insurance company, saw a 35% improvement in conversion rate after employing a chatbot. Those numbers rose to 100% while their TV ads were aired.
- Kia’s chatbot converts at 3X the rate of the company website.
- Amtrak’s chatbot drove a 25% rise in bookings and answers over 5 million questions annually.
These results aren’t outliers. So why are chatbots having such a great effect on conversion rates?
Firstly, they’re solving the 24/7 availability and responsiveness issue covered above. Chatbots can handle high traffic, maintain simultaneous conversations, and never take time off.
But there’s another reason chatbots are so effective, especially for a Facebook-based marketing strategy: Messenger converts better than email.
Email conversion rates are often in the low single digits. In an industry-by-industry breakdown, this Smart Insights study reported ecommerce email open rates of 16.75% and a click-through rate of just 2.32%.
On the other hand, it’s not uncommon to see Messenger campaigns with high double digits for both opens and click-throughs.
3. Direct Sales
Higher engagement is a great goal for any business. But for ecommerce brands, that’s just the first step in a potentially lucrative process.
The combination of Facebook Stores and ecommerce-enabled chatbots means a customer can be greeted, walked through a sale, and checked out in one smooth interaction. Sort of like what would happen with a sales assistant in a physical store.
Bots like jumper.ai do exactly that. Here’s an example:
It’s a simple process. Let’s say you’re an ecommerce business owner with a Facebook fan page. jumper enables you to make your content responsive to receptive fans.
The sales sequence pictured above can be triggered by a hashtag comment or a single click on a boosted post, making it easy for a shopper to signal interest in a specific item and quickly complete a purchase.
It goes back to that awesome shopping experience of having an attentive assistant help you make the right decision. You’re not able to physically help out every single person individually, but chatbots can present the image that you are doing exactly that.
4. An online store alternative
Prior to Facebook Stores and sales-focused chatbots, prospective shoppers would have to click through a product post on Facebook and onto an external online store. With chatbots like jumper, the customer can buy the product in fewer clicks.
It’s a quicker, smoother experience for the buyer, and a simpler, higher converting system for the seller.
Sales chatbots like jumper can also eliminate the need to even have an external online store. Everything can be run through a brand’s Facebook page and managed by the chatbot. Your social media presence can be your new online storefront.
But it doesn’t have to be either-or. Ecommerce businesses can run their bots on their Facebook fan pages, on an external site, or on both.
All customer-facing communication channels offer the chance for business owners to test their messaging. Chatbots are no exception. Applied AI has a great guide to A/B testing for chatbots.
Let’s say your main goal is to drive sales directly through your Facebook fan page, using a chatbot like jumper.
Your testing should cover both the content you publish and how the chatbot communicates with your audience.
Starting with content, you should be testing performance along two lines: visual and text.
Does your audience respond better to classic product shots or pictures of the product in use? How about short videos? When it comes to visual content testing, you’d do well to study successful brands in your niche and on other platforms like Instagram.
The same concept applies to how you’re presenting your products with words. Does your audience respond to story-based selling or does a one-liner resonate more? What’s the tone of your brand, and does it translate to sales? Is your chatbot ready to talk in the same way?
The good news is that Facebook’s suite of business tools may soon include A/B testing for fan page posts. If you’re selling on Facebook, you should be excited.
In addition to content testing, you can also experiment with the messaging and tone of your chatbot. Keep in mind, though, 48% of people find it creepy if a chatbot tries too hard to sound human.
Marketing to existing customers is a must for any ecommerce business. In the US, returning customers make up just 8% of visitors but account for 40% of ecom revenue.
Those are powerful numbers, but chatbot-based loyalty may prove to be even stronger. The Adidas Women UK chatbot experienced 80% repeat use and 60% retention.
Because of the high potential for chatbot-driven loyalty, business owners should actively test their follow up sequences. Assuming you’ve already developed effective tone in your messaging, you can test frequency. How often do your buyers like to be contacted? How long after a purchase should you wait to follow up?
Chatbots are the future – are you ready?
Developments in chatbot sophistication, Facebook ecommerce tools, and larger mobile internet trends are dovetailing powerfully.
Chatbots have the potential to solve several of the most common online frustrations and boost business. With 24/7 immediate responsiveness, chatbots can help engage your audience in a way that’s scalable and provides real value.
Ecommerce businesses can take things a step further with sales-enabled chatbots like jumper. Used the right way, these chatbots can act as virtual sales assistants and provide an experience that until now was only accessible offline.
They’re the bridge between the shopping experience people want and tell their friends about, and the convenience of online shopping.
Online consumers can now get the guided shopping experience previously only offered in store, but they’re able to receive it whilst sat on their sofa browsing your products on their phone.