Article

Julien Hervouet
Julien Hervouet 23 February 2017

More Than Words: How Conversational Commerce Drives Online Sales

When people talk about eCommerce changing the shopping experience, they tend to first think about the near limitless breadth of choice it offers. Yet equally dramatic is the way shopping has been transformed into a 24/7 activity.

Shopping around the clock

Today’s connected consumers are blurring the lines between shopping online and offline, as they make purchases via the channel that’s most convenient and familiar.

eCommerce may have redefined retail by delivering the ability to find virtually anything you want and purchase at any time, but it still falls short of the traditional high-street shopping experience in one crucial way – the provision of good old-fashioned, conversational customer advice.  

In this aspect, eCommerce has proved a victim of the sheer scale of its own success. It may take little more than the flick of a thumb over your mobile device to buy anything you want, to be delivered anywhere you want it, at any time – but the idea of every online sale being accompanied by a real-time expert answer to any pre-purchase queries, still sounds like fantasy.

The inability of most retailers to support customers using their 24/7 online channels with the expert guidance and in-depth advice that often converts sales, has not gone unnoticed by physical stores, or customers themselves.

In this switched-on age, the idea of only being able to converse with a sales expert during high-street opening hours feels archaic – and if retailers can find ways to provide real-time customer support as part of their continuous online service, the competitive advantage is clear.

It’s good to talk

There’s little wonder, therefore, that solutions for addressing the shortfall between continuous product availability and accompanying levels of advice are already being implemented by the most forward-thinking retailers. 

Conversational commerce platforms are being adopted by a host of retailers looking to both reduce volumes of incoming emails and improve customer satisfaction. Established retail group House of Fraser is already using web chat and messaging channels to let online visitors seek help and information through real-time engagement with members of their expert panels.

This touchpoint has proved so popular it’s now evolved to encompass Returns & Refunds, Where’s My Order and Contact Us functionalities. While a further chat option has been extended to the Checkout Funnel and Shopping Cart, providing the last assurances before shoppers make their purchase.

Enabling retailers to have these valuable one-to-one conversations with customers at the point of highest engagement before purchase, is not only delivering immediate benefits for both parties (in the case of House of Fraser, 29% of customers who web chat via iAdvize go on to make a purchase), an equally precious resource is being established as on offshoot of this improved process.

Honesty is the best policy

Conversational commerce offers the chance to build a genuine rapport with customers and establish real brand loyalty through positive engagement. In an expanding omnichannel environment where impartial endorsements are valued just as much as expert advice, retailers are realising that networks of satisfied customers can be used as a resource to help other customers with enquiries.

These peer-to-peer advocacy networks, comprised of satisfied customers who have become brand experts and endorsers now form one of retail marketing’s most powerful, sought after and successful tools, thanks to the authenticity of the interactions they provide.

Recognising loyal customers as their most important asset has never provided retailers with more tangible benefits. Delivering customer support from networks of knowledgeable agents who are experts in their field, allows retailers and brands to grow their customer-base organically through the most trusted form of marketing – genuine peer-to-peer advice and advocacy.

Within the digital retail environment, the human touch has never been more important – yet face-to-face interactions remain of little value unless they are informed, trustworthy, impartial and sincere. And rather than a customer service team reading from a script, peer-to-peer assistance delivers the word-of-mouth insights customers truly value. 

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