Category Archives: eCommerce & Retail

How AI & Automation are Powering Retail Customer Experience

2017 was a year that defined a whole new wave of evolution for user experience in the retail and eCommerce industry. AI and automation are true drivers of change in this new era of forward-thinking customer experience, and retailers and online businesses are having to change their approaches to keep up with this standard.

Gartner predicts that by 2020 85% of customer interactions will be managed by AIwhich doesn’t leave a lot of time for brands to embrace AI and automation, and iron out any challenges associated with the technology. Additionally, Forrester expects that AI will drive faster business decisions in marketing, eCommerce, product management, and other areas of the business by helping close the gap from insights to action.

Automated systems and AI, while different inherently, serve similar and complementary functions for eCommerce businesses. With the retail trends for 2018 and beyond leaning more and more toward streamlined user experiences, simple product selection, and easy-to-access customer service, AI and automation can be put in place to better optimize, satisfy, and convert customers.

The Effects of AI & Automation Within eCommerce

Internet Retailing recently found that seven in ten consumers want artificial intelligence to transform their experiences. Additionally, 67% of businesses believe that using AI technology is a priority. Here are a few specific examples of how AI is being used in eCommerce today:

  • Improving the Accessibility of Data

There are two forms of data that retailers have easy access to – behavioral and personal. Shoppers are fueling this accessibility when they use email addresses or social media accounts to log in, communicate across other platforms about the related products or engage with an article that might have some influence on product knowledge. This is the degree of interest to cope with as a business in real-time or at an individual level.

  • Mimicking AI for Brick-and-Mortar

While the use of artificial intelligence itself is increasing in popularity, so too is the use of retail business functions and automations that can mimic AI in person. By mimicking the use of AI in eCommerce pure-plays, brick-and-mortars can implement similar levels of personalization. AI can be used to provide personalized websites, tailored product recommendations, more relevant product search results, as well as immediate and useful customer service.

  • Generating Reviews with Bots

A famous benefit of marketing new products is known in the form of generating fictional feedback to boost their ratings. This contributes to a growing number of reviews on websites which result in a higher overall number of interactions, along with more sales. The term “crowdturfing” has been created due to the high level of reviews that can be made on product profiles.

Currently, AI is powering leads, sales assistance, personalization, all the way up to payment services and returns. For example, the platform Conversica is a sales assistant software that allows automation to enhance the sales process by conversing with other internet leads which have already been identified. They already claim an average engagement rate of 35%, due to a customizable software which can also be used to re-engage or cross-sell.

 

Automation is equally being used in eCommerce, as a method of personalization, fast-response, self-help, and product selection, which contributes to the overall experience of any shopper. Here are a few specific examples of how automation is being used in eCommerce today:

  • Simplifying Product Finders

The journey to success is being able to guide a customer to the point of purchase. While strategies will vary, automation has features that will assist this guidance. Introducing guided decision trees that are embedded directly in an eCommerce website is a proven automation for improving the journey from discovery to purchase. Allowing customers to quickly navigate and find what they want or need is critical to a positive customer experience. 

Phoenix Bats is one such company that has integrated these custom product finders, helping them to streamline the product-selection process and cut back on the product or inventory-related support questions.

  • Providing Interactive Knowledge Bases

Interactive knowledge bases are the very foundation of support that allows customers to troubleshoot quickly, solve any type of issue, and find the answer to any question. Armed with guided instructions that are compacted into smaller, more digestible pieces, interactive knowledge bases save eCommerce and retail businesses a ton of time, money, and expended energy on support-related tasks. With the trends leaning more and more toward customers wanting self-service support, it’s an ideal solution. 

  • Personalizing and Streamlining Experiences

As standards are continuing to increase across customer experiences, it’s critical to have a personalized and streamlined error-free experience open to your customers; it’s the best possible way to improve both sales and conversion ratesNowadays there is a greater demand for businesses to operate at higher standards while also personalizing the experience in a user-friendly way. Decision trees are an essential tool for streamlining the kinds of experiences that customers have previously gotten hung up with – everything from product selection to questions about sizing or pricing.

The focus of AI and automation has become a necessity for the retail industry, and eCommerce companies are looking more deeply into expanding their uses of powerful technology in order to have a more competitive edge. These automated and AI-driven processes are making more positive customer experiences, helping to collect more valuable purchasing behavior data, and improving sales and conversion rates.

Zingtree‘s decision tree toolkit was designed with both the business and the customer in mind. A platform for creating, customizing, publishing, and managing interactive decision trees, Zingtree is able to deliver answers at the click of a button. Want to see how it works? Explore our Gallery to showcase plenty of examples and inspiration for your business.

The Top 5 eCommerce Trends for 2018 You Need to Know

eCommerce as an industry has plenty of room to grow, evolve, and become an even more powerful tool for driving all types of markets forward. Technology and the Internet have advanced to where the possibilities of achieving success as an online business are seemingly endless.

We know many valuable learnings through online shopping data, including that more than 50% of adults today are purchasing items from clothes to sporting goods to household items. As we near the end of 2017, it’s important to reflect on all of the studies that can help us improve. Here are some of the other more important eCommerce findings over the past year:

Now that we can apply these trends (and many, many more) from the past year, experts can better identify what’ll be next. Here are 5 eCommerce trends to keep a close watch on in 2018:

1. Streamlining the Online Experience

Making your eCommerce site as streamlined, user-friendly and simple to use is hands down the best way to improve both sales and conversion rates. Jessica Thiele of VL, Inc. says that “At minimum, [a streamlined retail experience] must be error-free and smooth, otherwise your customers will notice. And most of the time, they won’t say anything about it — they’ll just shop somewhere else next time around.” This couldn’t be truer in the coming years. eCommerce businesses in 2018 should be looking to make their websites easier and more interactive, products more simple to find and purchase, and support easier to get to.

2. Optimizing for Voice Search

It’s been projected that up to 50% of all search will be done through voice by the year 2020. For those in the eCommerce industry, every percentage point that goes up will greatly affect the performance of online retail stores. With advancements in speech and voice technology on smartphones, consumers are trending toward speaking into their devices to locate things rather than putting in the manual effort – another nod to the need for streamlining experiences.

To make the most of the rise in voice search, experts have recommended that eCommerce stores optimize their Google My Business listings to ensure that local pages have unique URLs and are indexed properly to include your name, address, phone numbers, and other relevant content.

3. Providing Frictionless Customer Support

Customer support can either be a great experience or a terrible one for consumers; promoting a positive support experience will always leave the customer satisfied, informed, and better connected to your brand.

Self-service support options are becoming widespread in the age of eCommerce and digital consumption, and are a favorite among millennials and online buyers of all ages. Interactive decision trees can transform any lengthy FAQ, tutorial, or troubleshooting article into an easy click-click-click experience, allowing customers to more easily self-solve and stay happy. eCommerce businesses using Zendesk or other CRM tools can also integrate them easily within their current support workflow.

4. Using Augmented Reality

While Augmented Reality (AR) hasn’t quite hit the mainstream yet, it’s well on its way. Brands are already finding ways to use AR to engage with their customers and reach new audiences, as it’s an incredibly easy way to interact. Social media platforms are making moves into introducing AR experiences to allow users to project themselves virtually through an app, which are leading the way for eCommerce to make its steps as an industry.

Prominent eCommerce giants like IKEA have already begun, using AR to project their home furnishings and other products directly into the homes of consumers using their “Place” app. This “try before you buy” mentality will certainly pick up, making it critical for online retailers to consider their own options.

5. Humanizing the Brand

It’s long been understood that the more a customer trusts your brand, the more loyal they will be in the long-term. What many eCommerce businesses are finally picking up is that truly personalizing and humanizing a brand is a wholly differentiating factor with incredible potential impact.

Operating online, “humanizing” a brand involves making some very important changes. For some, this could mean interacting in social media real-time with customers and audiences, for others, it could mean imagining your brand as a fictional character with some personified qualities, or sharing photos from the behind-the-scenes at the office. Technology today is amazing and it’ll only continue to get better in 2018 – use it to your advantage and work some more personalization into your eCommerce journeys and post-purchase follow-ups.

 

2018 promises to be an incredible year for eCommerce business, and these trends are sure to help you on your way. For more information about conquering eCommerce in 2018 or how to get started with better self-service customer support, please feel free to reach out to our team.