In a survey of the online chat experience across 200+ retailers, Forrester found that more than half of the companies were using only human agents. Only close to a quarter of retailers had a hybrid model involving human agents and chatbots. A hybrid strategy involving human agents and Artificial Intelligence (AI)-driven chatbots is essential not only for delivering optimal Customer Experience (CX), but for scaling chat-led sales interactions and reducing costs. To scale and optimize chat-led sales, it is essential that chatbots are able to resolve 90 percent of the queries before escalating conversations to human agents. But to reach that stage in chat-led sales, retailers need to first improve their CX with chatbots.

For example, according to one survey, 36 percent of users see a pressing need for further improvement in technology as far as chatbot accuracy is concerned. Also, 43 percent perceive limitations in a chatbot’s ability to properly understand queries as a barrier to streamlined interactions for seamless chat-driven sales. So, how can retailers take their chat-led sales strategy to the next level?

Driving Hyper-personalized Conversations

A typical retail chatbot lacks the ability to conduct advanced intelligent conversations that rely on customer-buying histories or the contexts of their interactions on other channels. To develop an intelligent, hyper-personalized chat-led sales strategy, retailers should:

  • Leverage contextual information across channels and devices: To deliver true value, AI-driven chat, as a norm, should leverage contextual information across channels and devices while managing deeper and intelligent conversations before any human intervention happens. Integrating data from Interactive Voice Responses (IVRs), digital self-service channels and social media in a unified framework, and applying hyperautomation and AI-driven sentiment analytics helps retailers identify a customer’s exact feelings to positively impact buying decisions

  • Make chat transaction-friendly: Chat should move beyond merely facilitating purchase decisions to managing transactions across the board. A few retailers have already implemented payments on chat

Real value addition happens when retailers can use chat to generate additional sales. For example, certain segments of customers prefer less expensive, but high margin private label goods. Hence, when retailers use chat to up-sell private labels, it becomes a win-win situation for both retailers and customers.

Implementing an Intelligent Chat Strategy

To develop an intelligent chat-led sales strategy in retail, it is essential to first get the CX strategy right. It is imperative to prioritize moments that generate the most benefits for both customers and businesses in the customer journey. Thereafter, retailers can map the messages, solutions and features that serve the customers in those moments to the technology and channels required to deliver them. If sales-focused chat interactions on mobile devices are the favorite with customers and they generate the most value for businesses, then that is where companies should focus their technology investments and content-building efforts.

The ultimate evolution of chat as the primary preference of customers for sales interactions depends upon how the conversational CX mimics the in-store experience of trying out a product while consulting a sales executive. As they evolve, AI-led conversational interfaces in retail are expected to have the ability to ‘see’ what is happening around them and understand a customer’s emotional state to make the chat even more natural and hyper-personalized. Conversational interfaces that provide natural control over information, similar to the manner in which web searches do, are also another milestone in the evolution of chat in retail. AI-led chat is poised to garner higher share of sales interactions and volumes in the near future. That’s why retail companies should step up their focus on an AI-driven, chat-led sales strategy right away.

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