How innovative chatbots stand to revolutionise retail and eCommerce industries

How innovative chatbots stand to revolutionise retail and eCommerce industries

Considering that the retail industry is so competitive, a retailer’s (in)ability to automate is often an indicator of their success or failure.

And even though retailers realise the importance of providing a seamless self-help experience and that it should be a top priority, getting it right still seems to present a challenge for some retailers.

In certain cases, retailers exhibit a lack of awareness in how they deploy chatbots by either devoting too much time to repetitive, laborious tasks (such as returns and answering customer queries), or leaving the customer without a solution, which requires them to go through more steps to contact their support team.

Ensuring a frictionless shopping or engagement experience is critical in the retail and eCommerce sectors, and chatbots are one of the easiest and most cost-effective tools to deploy in these contexts. This technology is particularly relevant and presents retail brands with exciting mobile-driven opportunities. Plus, the industry is on the rise. Recently, it was reported that the global chatbot market was expected to grow at a compounded rate of 29.7% each year.

Here are some of the ways chatbots can be used to boost business and automate time-consuming tasks…

Acquisition chatbot

An acquisition chatbot can exist on any number of channels and can interact with customers who aren’t inclined to talk to a real person. You might use an acquisition chatbot to start an initial conversation with new visitors, or to share useful information and production suggestions with existing customers. Either way, an acquisition chatbot must offer users value over and above a traditional transactional relationship.

Because this part of the process is about the acquisition, it’s important to ensure initial interactions with customers are about building brand equity and providing information rather than delivering the ‘hard sell’. And remember, context is king. Make sure your interactions are appropriately targeted for new and returning customers. Consider offering discounts and suggested products to those that have bought from you in the past.

Collections chatbot

Making payments simple and easy is key to converting eCommerce customers quickly and efficiently, with minimal cart abandonment. Collections chatbots provide a one-platform solution to collecting payments from customers and can be set up to accept a wide variety of payment methods.

Collections chatbots can also be used to convince delinquent account holders to pay up promptly. If you’re struggling with credit control, a collections chatbot might be what you need get customers’ payments back on track. By making it a seamless journey from message to payment, you’re more likely to collect from busy customers who are easily side-tracked or put off by complex payment journeys.

Returns chatbot

Returns are about making the best of a bad situation. No one is making money from the returns process, except your logistics service, but it’s important to make sure the customer comes away from the process with a positive impression of your company. After all, the ideal situation after any returns process is that the customer comes back the following week and spends twice as much. 

Keeping this process simple is key. A chatbot that can handle the full returns process – including logistics, tracking, and refunds – by interrogating your back-end systems for information is ideal. This will save customer service teams valuable time and allow them to focus their efforts on more important tasks. 

Where Is My Order (WISMO) chatbot

When it comes to logistics, customer expectations are higher than ever. Buyers want to know where their order is from the moment they complete a purchase. Manually tracking individual orders over chat, email, or phone would be an enormous drain on customer service teams. Fortunately, there’s a chatbot solution for that. A Where Is My Order (WISMO) chatbot can communicate with your data storage or third-party courier systems to track down orders quickly, then return the information on a map or in text form, if that’s what your customers prefer.

Customer Service chatbot

Customer service tasks can involve an awful lot of repetition. Chances are, many customers will be asking identical questions day-in and day-out. Automating this process can save customer service teams countless hours and enable them to deliver a better, more consistent experience for your customers. A chatbot can automatically respond to frequently asked questions, scrape your website for information to answer tricky questions, and even use AI to create its own answers to customers for a more conversational experience. 

Internal Knowledge Base

In the retail industry, customer service teams tend to have a high rate of churn. Training new team members and equipping them with the knowledge they need to do their job can take time. A more efficient option is to build a knowledge base that allows new and existing staff to find important information at the press of a button. This means new employees can be put ‘into the field’ much sooner and helps reduce the line management and training time required. 

While chatbot technology is rapidly evolving to make things easier for merchants, implementing new technology requires money and resources. It’s therefore crucial that brands are certain it’s worth the investment. Evidence suggests that conversational tools adoption is taking effect across the globe, which is why conversational software providers should be encouraging all businesses – and specifically those in retail and eCommerce – to realise the potential of this technology.

 By James Bayhack, Sub-Saharan Africa Director at