Retail strategies have seen a lot of changes over the last decade, moving from physical stores to online and mobile, including diverse methods of engaging customers ranging from VR and AR to chatbots.

There has been a fundamental shift in user behaviour over the last few years, with a steady decline in interest in social media, being replaced by a propensity, especially in the millennial youth, to spend more time on chatting. Messaging platforms like Whatsapp, WeChat, Kik, Telegram and of course Facebook’s Messenger are increasing in popularity, leaving brands with no choice but to shift focus and include these these new networks in their retail strategies.

Facebook started allowing brands to interact directly with their fans in 2015 and a year later, they unveiled chatbots at F8, heralding a new era of conversational commerce. 

What are chatbots? A computer program, designed to imitate human conversations using data and artificial intelligence, chatbots can perform simple automated tasks and respond to straightforward queries from users. Brands across the world are launching their own chatbots as a part of their customer support services. Customers can now interact directly with “virtual assistants” through the brands messenger channel, asking questions about the products and even making purchases.

With their unique capability of storytelling, product discovery and customer service, chatbots are ideally placed to help brands engage and convert users. A very effective brand building exercise, chatbots also enable retailers to tap into and store their user data on their own servers. Brands like H&M, Sephora and Burberry are using chatbots to share information about their products with their users, driving campaigns to understand user preferences. Others like TacoBell and Deliveroo allow users to place food orders through chat. Facebook has also enabled payments through Messenger this year, paving the path for a new phase of conversational commerce. 

5 Reasons Why Retailers Should Invest In Chatbots:

  1. Social messaging apps are extremely popular with millennials. 35% of this generation is on Facebook Messenger, followed by other platforms like Whatsapp,  Skype, Wechat, Kik etc, making it a very obvious place for brands to promote their products.
  2. Millennials are spending more time chatting and texting than ever before. This shift in user behaviour mandates that retailers find new ways to communicate with their customers, i.e through chatbots.
  3. Millennials are the least engaged generation of consumers, making it a challenge for brands to convert them. Chatbots increase the possibility of engagement by providing a personalized experience that the generation expects.
  4. Brands have to diversify and think beyond apps, especially since it’s becoming increasingly difficult to convince users to download an app. But almost all users are already on Facebook, making it a viable proposition for brands to build a solution that incorporates this existing channel of communication with customers.
  5. Retailers can get deeper insights and more personalized data about their customers through the chatbot interactions, which they can then leverage to offer more personalized solutions and drive sales.

As chatbots and conversational commerce continue to grow over the next few years, retail strategies will have to include chatbots as an essential part of their campaign.

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Disclaimer: This is a personal weblog. The opinions expressed here represent my own and not those of my employer.