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Bringing the Elements of Conversation and Assistance to Digital Channels with AI

Several aspects of life are much easier now, thanks to the existence of the internet and mass adoption of technology. People can jump between mobile, tablet, and desktop to search for vital information. They can read blogs, listen to podcasts, stream their favorite TV shows and keep in touch with people they care about via social media. And it lets people shop, anytime and anywhere.

Digital technologies have transformed the way customers and brands communicate and interact. Consumers are putting their trust in brands to provide them with a personal shopping experience  that can appear to understand individual human needs and nature in exchange for copious amounts of data and insights, in fact, 74% of consumers have admitted that feeling understood is a key driver in making a purchase.

Trust is imperative in this digital age. It has led brands to invest heavily in influencers, social media marketing, gamification, and AR as a means of building relationships, loyalty and reputation with their customer base…but is it enough?

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Almost 20% of all sales in the UK are made online, and this has been steadily increasing in recent years. As technology continues to drive innovation in making customer experiences more personal and convenient, it’s easy to see how the future of eCommerce is evolving – but how do you get ahead of the competition? Brands and retailers need to focus on powerful, personalized communication with online customers, that mimics the ease and simplicity of the in-store experience.

Solve The Choice Overload Problem

As more digitally native start-up brands enter the market and incumbent brands expand their online offering to increase their market share, consumers are given more and more options. Whenever a consumer becomes overwhelmed by the number of options available, they become uncertain and hesitant about making a buying decision. Without education and guidance, customers become confused and abandon their shopping altogether or purchase products that are not right for them, meaning they’re unlikely to return. In fact, our own research found that 42% of consumers reported abandoning a planned purchase because of too many options and 54% have abandoned a particular site because it was too difficult to find the right product.

This is particularly acute in areas such as health and beauty, consumer electronics and DIY categories where customers crave human interaction, assistance, and support when choosing the right products. Because there is less ‘personal touch’ on digital channels, shopping for products online instantly becomes a more sensitive and emotional purchase process for the consumer, who is resigned to making a decision all on their own. Brands now face the risk of losing loyal customers to companies that do a better job of addressing consumer wants and needs. The answer is not in delivering fewer options but delivering a digital experience that guides shoppers to the perfect products and bundles, based on their unique needs and preferences.

A Digital CX with a Human Touch

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In order to do this, brands have to deliver meaningful experiences that are founded on trust and that feel real and human. In fact, there’s hardly any industry where consumers don’t expect a two-way conversation with their preferred brand to some extent. This means that businesses need to listen to every individuals’ wants and needs and then engage with them across a multitude of touchpoints throughout the customer lifecycle, providing an individualized and adaptive experience.

At this cross-section of technology and human interaction is the digital assistant, which combines Artificial Intelligence (AI) with human-like engagement to help bridge the gap between the in-store and online experiences. AI-powered digital assistants address the human need for conversational engagement and individual understanding – across all channels. Thus allowing brands to engage with customers wherever they may be searching, to provide them with educational, consultative experiences. Instead of customers being left on their own with overwhelming choice overload, brands can deliver the same level of assistance, support, and helpfulness that they would deliver in-store, before and after a purchase.

Just as an in-store assistant would guide a customer to a specific product, a digital assistant analyses a customer’s input in real-time and recommends the most suitable options available. Additionally, the digital consultant provides unique educational content and product highlights for every recommendation to help expand the customer’s knowledge and increase their buying confidence.

When consumers shop for specialist goods, they want to be absolutely sure they are making properly informed decisions, and that the product they choose is the best to suit their needs. For leading bicycle manufacturer, Trek, there was a noticeable pattern emerging that revealed novice cyclists were struggling to choose from its vast array of options, which was hindering the company’s e-commerce potential. The brand implemented a digital assistant, which helped to lead customers to the right product for their needs, and doubled its online conversion rate. Now, instead of seeing pages and pages of bikes, customers can go through a conversational sales process that mimics the same experience they would receive in-store with the digital assistant showing the best recommendations based on carefully selected questions, that apply to both novice and experienced cyclists.

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Innovative Engagement

The speed at which technology is advancing is disrupting the industry to its core. While it may seem contradictory, to use technology and AI to appeal to our most human nature and feel understood, technology is here to stay and embracing it is the only way to grow your business at scale.

Today’s consumer prioritizes convenience. In a fast-paced, convenience-driven Omnichannel world, never before has the expectation for the seamless transition between online and in-store experience been in higher demand. By taking the conversational, guided approach online as well as in-store, businesses are providing support to customers, thereby reducing friction, choice overload and decision anxiety. Tailoring each transaction through conversational commerce and digital assistant strategies, brands can be sure that potential customers are receiving the necessary guidance to actually end up making a purchase and avoid missing out on the final step: conversion.

Read More: AI Does Not Have to Be a Zero-Sum Game

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