How retail companies are using conversational AI to improve customer experience?
How retail companies are using conversational AI to improve customer experience?

Today, it is almost impossible for businesses to imagine operating without a digital presence. The retail space, in particular, has witnessed an e-commerce boom over the last few years and the rise of emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence has further boosted this transformation. With AI, retailers can get deeper insights, make accurate forecasts and target millions of consumers at an instant, significantly strengthening capabilities beyond that of traditional methods.

However, that is not all. With the growing competition in the market, businesses require greater bandwidth to stand out from the crowd and create a unique consumer experience. This is where conversational AI steps in as virtual ‘brand personalities’. Let us explore the ways conversational AI is revolutionising consumer engagement in the retail space.

Instant interaction, anywhere and anytime:

With the number of customers that retailers have to deal with daily, they need to be able to address queries and identify opportunities at any given time. In today’s digital age, the possibilities of putting a mechanism in place for this are endless, but conversational AI is coming in handy even outside of office hours and within a single integrated platform. This, in turn, is minimising the need for 1000s of agents to be employed for the same, helping companies across the globe to cut-down operational costs while gleaning valuable data from interactions in real-time.

AI-powered chat and voicebots, equipped with machine learning (NLP), can hold human-like conversations with consumers and become more intelligent with every interaction. Given their automated nature, these tools are available 24x7, helping retail businesses address customer queries about products and services round the clock and eliminating, or greatly minimising wait-times.

As per an end-user survey conducted by Usabilla, 54% of the participants stated that they would always choose to interact with a bot over a human customer service representative, if it meant they could save 10 minutes of their time. With such factors in play, retailers are realising the benefits of implementing bots as the first point of contact for customers.

Merging online and offline retail experiences:

While e-commerce platforms are on the rise, the fact remains that even today’s digital-savvy consumers often still prefer visiting a physical store to be able to identify products or experience it before they buy. Therefore, both online and offline channels are crucial for the retail space. The role that Conversational AI can play, here, is that of merging the two experiences for customers.

For instance, Future Group has employed conversational AI in its Future Pay wallet with a Quiz bot and a Shopping list bot. The quiz bot presents GK quizzes to consumers every day, with the incentive of winning a big prize if they make it to the top of the leaderboard by answering correctly. The novelty of the chat-based format for the game is fun and engaging, incentivising them to come back for more. The Shopping list bot targets the purchase experience by helping users intuitively maintain a shopping list and setting reminders to go shop for supplies, in effect, guiding them towards making a purchase from the offline stores.

Therefore, consumers are led to retail stores by interacting with chatbots online to browse through the products and associated offers. In this way, bots are driving higher user engagement while proactively familiarising consumers with products and promotions, thereby encouraging repeat visits both online and in-store.

Higher engagement with interactive content:

Given the ever-rising consumption of content via smartphones, retailers are also becoming more and more dependent on innovative digital content to increase their brand and product mindshare amongst consumers. This is where chatbots are coming in handy.

Recently, Haptik, one of the world’s leading conversational AI specialists to come out of India, made a chatbot for Aashirvaad, India’s biggest wheat flour manufacturers. The bot solves various queries of users regarding different quality choices, prices, nearest delivery points etc. The fact that even sellers of necessities such as Aashirvaad, with such a huge brand legacy, invests in chatbot implementation shows its essential role in customer engagement of tomorrow.

Internationally, even Whole Foods has developed a chatbot for users on Facebook Messenger platform. The chatbot adds a unique interactive element by giving users the choice to use emojis as they would in a conversation with a friend. For instance, if they want a recipe for a cake, they can simply use a ‘cake’ emoji in the chat as a shortcut for the bot to send them link recommendations. Therefore, by utilising the chatbots on the world’s leading social media platform, Whole Foods is able to drive more traffic to their website than they would with just direct visits.

Recently, chatbots with multi-lingual conversational abilities are being developed, which are extremely useful for a linguistically diverse country such as India. According to a 2017 KPMG-Google report, the number of Indian language internet users will be 536 million by 2021, far out-stripping the estimated 199 million English language internet users in India. To cater to this growing and most important next-generation target audience, retailers need to have vernacular enabled, mass personalization engagement solutions in place, which is most aptly offered by chatbots.

As with all businesses today, the retail space works with hundreds of data-points every single day, be it through customer queries, feedback, and purchases. Each one of these provides valuable information about consumer behaviour and preferences. By using bots, enterprises can expedite this process and streamline the data collection to unearth valuable, actionable insights in real-time. With this, retailers can implement customised targeting strategies, personalising them for every consumer segment, bringing the human touch even to online retail, leading to higher engagement, positive conversion and retention for the long run.

The article has been penned down by Aakrit Vaish, CEO and Co-founder, Haptik.

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