You’ve probably read the hype about how conversations are the future of ecommerce marketing.
That may well be the case, but conversations alone won’t guarantee success.
Yes, conversations are important and yes, your customers do want them. But simply adding a chatbox to your site isn’t enough to save a dying store or generate additional millions in sales.
Conversations are the start, but it’s how you implement them that matters.
You need a conversation-specific strategy to unleash the full potential of conversational solutions.
In this post, we’re going to take a look at the four principles to base your conversational strategy on. And then some practical tips to implement your strategy.
Why you need a conversational marketing strategy
There’s huge potential in using automation and personalization within conversations. When implemented well, they offer 1-on-1 conversations with customers at scale without breaking the bank.
But it’s not enough to just add a chatbot to your site and let it run.
Adding a live chat element at scale without a strategy will lead to:
- Inconsistent responses
- Long wait times
- Unsatisfied visitors
Customers’ expectations are high when it comes to conversational interactions. According to a recent survey of 18-60 year old US online shoppers, 52% expect helpful answers to their simple questions and 52% expect instant responses from chatbots.
So if your team isn’t unified behind a coherent strategy, to put it bluntly, it will be a mess.
The principles of a conversational strategy
Offering personalized conversations at scale means getting things organized as a whole. I’ve identified four key principles that all need to be present. Together these form the backbone of your conversational strategy.
Personalization is the key to recreating the kind of 1-on-1 interactions that commerce was founded on. And the stats back this up:
- 80% of shoppers are more likely to buy from a company that offers personalized experiences.
- On average 71% of consumers express some level of frustration when their shopping experience is impersonal.
- 44% of consumers say that they will likely become repeat buyers after a personalized shopping experience with a particular company.
- 59% of customers say that personalization influences their shopping decision.
Delivering personalization at scale means using a strong CRM to keep accurate and up-to-date customer data. And using that data across all communication channels consistently.
The customer feels like they are remembered and valued, increasing engagement and brand loyalty.
I’ll be talking about personalization a lot as it runs through every other concept we are going to talk about. It’s foundational to a good conversational strategy.
Leverage all the customer data you have to make sure conversations are personalized to the individual.
As important as personalization is, it’s nothing if it’s not standardized across the company. It’s no good if live agent John remembers a customer’s name, then the call gets transferred to Tracy who asks the same thing again.
Think about the worst customer service calls you’ve had. They pass you around from department to department and every time you have to explain the situation again to a new person.
A good conversation with a bot should be like talking to someone who knows everything about you.
For example, if a bot is helping you make a restaurant reservation, it should remember and adapt to your answers.
It will remember that two messages ago, you said you wanted a table overlooking the kitchen rather than asking you that very question again.
You likely have a ton of data on your best customers. And you will have access to metadata of site visitors. Use this to build flows that are personal and you will see engagement sky-rocket.
But it’s not just customer information that needs to be consistently delivered. Information about the company itself, its products and pricing, its returns policies and procedures etc. need to be conveyed consistently by team member – or bot – who interacts with a customer.
Making sure communication is consistent across the board builds a foundation of trust with the customer and makes conversations more efficient and effective.
Conversations aren’t just about chatbots and automated flows. The channel you choose for communication should depend on the situation.
One of the most important factors in choosing the right channel is determining the amount of time someone is willing to wait after a conversational turn before they start to lose patience.
So it describes the red line for each channel that you should aim never to cross.
For example, you wouldn’t expect to wait 20 minutes for a reply when talking on the phone. Whereas by email, that would be a quick turnaround.
Here’s a breakdown of typical for common channels:
- Live chat: 1 – 2 minutes
- Email: 24 – 48 hours
- Social Media: 1 – 4 hours
- Phone: 5 – 10 seconds
In an ideal world, you would deal with everything query instantly but in the real world, these figures can help you prioritize queries and choose the right channel.
Chatbots can help to direct queries to the appropriate channels. Ensuring that customers get a fast initial response time. And that subsequent communication is also delivered in an acceptable time frame.
This all ties in with personalization too.
Say you have a loyal customer who needs to return an item. They start a conversation via the live chat box on your landing page and have been waiting for two minutes.
You also have a new customer who is asking questions about a product, who has been waiting for two minutes.
The new customer seems ready to buy and represents a good opportunity. While the loyal customer will be happy as long as they feel they’re refund is being processed.
It makes sense to send the loyal customer over to email where they can be helped with 48 hours and engage the new customer in live chat instantly to close the sale.
Using at chatbot to make this decision is a great example of how conversations can be personalized and optimized at scale to the individual.
With automation it’s easy to treat people as numbers on an analytics dashboard and forget that they are people. The final piece in the puzzle is to remember to include empathy in your framework.
Again, this ties in with personalization. At the start of a conversation, you should be able to gauge how the person is feeling and respond appropriately.
This is understandably difficult to deliver at scale but the better you can do it, the better engaged and happier your customers will be.
Even bots can ask questions to gauge how a customer is feeling, or use keyword recognition to understand whether they are angry or happy.
You could do this by automatically routing customers who have a complaint to a live agent so they can deal with it sensitively. Or asking for feedback after a purchase. Here’s how that might look in the Jumper dashboard.
How to use conversations the right way
Now we’ve established the principles you need to keep in mind, let’s take look at how to put your strategy into practice. Here are some practical ways to improve your conversations with customers.
Start with the conversations your customer wants
By now, you’ll know your customers’ pain points, you know the questions they always ask, and the conversations they want to have.
This is the starting point. From here, you can build conversational flows that help them get what they want, fast. Map out the beginning and end points of the conversations you know your customers want to have with your brand.
Identify the most logical responses for each stage and focus on creating messages that lead customers from unaware to ready to buy.
Don’t attempt the hard sell when it’s inappropriate, but by the same token, don’t miss out on an opportunity for a quick and painless checkout, if that’s what they want.
This is all about leveraging the data you have to personalize conversations to your customers needs and using empathy to deliver the right conversations in the right tone.
Takeaway: Listen to your customers and personalize conversations to give them what they want.
Map out the conversations
Whether the end result is getting a question answered, scheduling a product demo or making a direct purchase, the aim of the bot is to narrow down exactly what the customer wants while keeping them engaged.
This means starting with leading questions with a wide scope before narrowing down the options. Each answer informs the next question, which means the user sticks around with the belief that they will get what they want at the end.
Offering a limited number of options also improves engagement. No one likes being overwhelmed with too many options. This is one of the biggest benefits of the conversational approach.
It drip feeds information, only asking for small decisions each turn.
This saves users from wading through pages and pages of information to find what they’re looking for.
Here’s a good visual representation of a conversational framework from HubSpot.
Each question moves the user closer to the desired outcome and it is achieved within five steps. Any more than about 20 and a conversational interface may not be the right choice.
This is where optimization comes in. If the customer was looking for longer, more detailed answers, would it be more appropriate to move the conversation to email?
But for this interchange may only take around 30 seconds so it’s a very efficient way of getting the desired outcome.
Takeaway: Optimize conversations by mapping them out to help the user find what they need. Offer information in short, easily digested messages to keep the user engaged.
Your conversations need to be targeted at specific problems and pain points. They need to address these and offer the solution, quickly.
This is even more important with conversations than it is in static content. You have their attention so it’s super important you keep them engaged and move them to the solution as soon as possible.
You already know your customers’ sticking points and common queries. Each conversation should focus on one outcome. The only aim is to make that conversation as useful as possible.
Takeaway: Make it a priority to specifically solve one problem per conversation.
Streamline the path to purchase
When you reach the point of closing the sale, you want to make the path to purchase as easy and smooth as possible for the visitor. Especially if your store aims for a high volume of transactions on relatively low-value products.
Every step additional step is another potential drop-off point and cart abandonment stands at around 79%. A conversational checkout flow takes the hassle out of the process and ensures you get the maximum conversions possible.
The aim is to keep the user within the chat window throughout the process. And move them towards the sale as efficiently as possible.
Here’s a great example of what I’m talking about with Jumper.
Here’s the view from the Jumper dashboard. The chat agent has multiple chats going but a chatbot is taking this customer through checkout within Facebook Messenger.
The payment is taken via Paypal in this case and the order confirmation is given, all within the chat. The customer has not had to navigate to a checkout page to pay, or to their email inbox to check for confirmation. Both of which could have easily distracted them and lost the sale.
Takeaway: Optimize interactions to minimize drop-off by making the checkout process efficient, engaging and fast.
Use a mix of automated flows and live agents
It’s wise to always give the option of escalating the conversation to a live agent.
Even if you’re dealing with dozens of chats at once, if most of them are automated, it may only take a couple of staff members to be ready to take on the chat.
By employing remote agents in different timezones, you can offer truly 24/7 support, for the most part automated, but backed up by live agents. Until your system is perfect (it never will be), this has got to be the best option.
Takeaway: Automate with custom flows but also offer a live chat option.
Test and refine
Although it’s vitally important that conversations are thoroughly tested and deliver exactly what the user wants. Remember that testing and refining is part of the process of building the bot.
And this could take years.
The competition will be fierce so you must get ahead of the game and start giving your bot real conversations to feed off.
The more conversations it is involved in, the better it becomes, so sometimes it just about getting started.
Constant testing and refining is the way to better conversations.
Takeaway: Get started ASAP to give your bot a head start.
Use conversations as the foundation for your strategy
Rather than thinking of conversations as an add-on to your marketing machine, they should be the foundation upon which it is built. This means your strategy must adapt to put conversations at the heart.
Only then can the technology reach its potential and provide meaningful, personalized interactions at scale.
Your focus should be on providing the customer with the best experience possible, whether that’s through:
- personalizing conversations at the individual level.
- providing the visitor with all the information they need to make their buying decision.
- streamlining the path to checkout.
Ultimately you’ll see improved engagement, a reduction in drop-off at key stages of the buyer journey, and more importantly, a huge increase in sales and customer satisfaction.
To find out which conversation solution is right for your brand, read our in-depth post which breaks down the most popular ecommerce business models, and shows how to implement the best conversational solutions for each.