It wasn’t long ago that online merchants were doing everything they could to ensure their customers’ shopping journeys were unmemorable. An online buying experience that left an impression likely meant it was a terrible one, which was even worse than a site visit without a purchase or the dreaded cart abandonment.
Amazon built a $200 billion/year behemoth focused on being unmemorable. Search. Select. Checkout. Clear and consistent, with zero customer friction.
On the merchant side, most of the innovation around e-commerce over the last decade has been focused on removing as much human involvement as possible. Automate, baby, automate!
But as eCommerce continued to mature, it was becoming untenable for merchants to be completely disconnected from their online shoppers. Customers were beginning to demand at least some semblance of online support or a phone number to speak to a human.
Born out of that problem was chat. Chat enabled merchants to provide the illusion that they were right there, just a click away from any help the customer needed. It was innovative, and after some growing pains of functionality and, of course, more automation, it dutifully served its purpose. Still today, chatbots and live chat guided by humans – often in overseas call centers – fill a need.
Need a shipping address for a return? Chatbot! Curious about your order status? Chatbot! Have a question about the fit of a dress or need suggestions on the perfect earrings for an anniversary present? Chatb – wait a minute!
There is building pressure from customers who are demanding the ability to connect easily with someone on the merchant side that can answer their questions. Not a robot and not a call center. Consumers want an actual brand associate that knows the product inside and out. If they can’t get a frictionless engagement going, they’ll go buy it somewhere else – or just not at all.
Over the last 18 months, online shoppers, which is now essentially everybody, have become accustomed to seamless forms of digital communication outside of ecommerce. Zoom. FaceTime. Whatsapp. It’s so easy today to stay connected to friends and in the business world.
So increasingly savvy online shoppers are wondering “why can’t I do that on a brand’s website when I have a question about a product?” The Amazon search, click, and buy model works great for deodorant or toothpaste, but not so much for a $200 pair of shoes.
Over the past few years, technological advances have opened the door for brands and retailers who want to build relationships with their online shoppers. Merchants can now enable their in-store associates to service their online customers who need help during their purchase journey with shoppable chat and live video.
These new tools obviously benefit the customer by providing a personalized online shopping experience but also benefit the merchants deploying these features as well. While it’s all very new, brands and retailers utilizing live commerce clienteling tools are enjoying big lifts in conversion rates and average order values, while seeing their return rates plummet.
Ecommerce, at least for merchants of a certain stature, is quickly evolving. Humans are taking back the connection to online customers from chatbots and automation. The concept of making a human-to-human connection with online shoppers is now a reality for brands and it’s also easy and affordable.
Merchants who begin to utilize these live commerce tools will differentiate themselves in the marketplace, delight and build lasting relationships with customers driving loyalty, and thus lifetime value. The ones who don’t will fall behind and miss out on much of the opportunity this boom in eCommerce has to offer.