When you’re selling products online, your customers don’t have shop attendants to rely on for questions about how your product works. They don’t have the chance to demo products in-person, or go into a fitting room to try on apparel to make sure it fits properly. This highlights a gap in ecommerce versus in-person shopping that can be mitigated through chatbots.

Buying online is much more convenient for customers than driving to a physical location, and exponentially safer during the COVID-19 era. That said, there are elements of the customer experience that can’t easily be replicated online. 

Ecommerce customers may make purchases without having a clear idea of what they’re actually buying – and that can lead to a much higher return rate. While about 9% of in-store products are returned, that number is more than double for online-only merchants, with about 20% of products ending up as returns.

However, today’s merchants are embracing new strategies for delivering a better online customer experience that provides more comprehensive support and reduces returns. Some are using augmented reality technology to showcase what products look like in a real-world environment, while others are incorporating more user-generated product photos and size-inclusive models to showcase what apparel products look like on a range of body types. 

In order to help a customer feel confident about making a purchase they’ll be satisfied with, it’s important to give them access to as much information as possible before they commit to their decision.

While it’s helpful to have live support agents available for specific questions, it’s difficult to scale live customer support, especially during peak buying times. That’s why we recommend you consider supplementing your live support with chatbots.

Chatbots can help you streamline customer support, provide more product information to customers, and facilitate a better returns process when they do take place. 

6 ways to use chatbots in your ecommerce store 

Here’s a look at some of the ways you can use chatbots to provide a better customer experience throughout the buyer’s journey.

Guide customers to your FAQ page

When customers are considering a purchase, they often have the same questions, but don’t take the time to navigate to your FAQ to find the answers. You can use a chatbot to automatically showcase your most commonly asked questions and provide links to the relevant sections of your knowledge base. 

For instance, your chatbot can guide customers to your return policy, so they can understand how long they have to return products that don’t work for them and if there are any exclusions on what can be returned.

It can also answer commonly asked questions about your products. If you enter a query about sheets into Brooklinen’s chatbot, for example, it will respond with a snippet of information in response to the query, “do your sheets wrinkle?,” with a link to the complete article in their knowledge base. 

If you have an artificial intelligence (AI) chatbot that uses natural language processing (NLP), you can encourage customers to enter a search term as they would on Google, and pull up relevant snippets from your knowledge base. This provides an easy way to encourage customers to seek out the information they’re looking for, with options for routing them towards personalized support if more assistance is needed.

Capture customer profile information

Rather than sending customers to a form, you can encourage them to fill out profile information directly within a chat window. By asking a series of questions, you can capture data like name, address, email address, and style preferences which you can use to facilitate better recommendations and personalized communications going forward.

Offer product recommendations

You can use chatbots to guide customers to specific products that would be a good fit for them. For instance, an apparel brand might use a chatbot as a personal style assistant: the customer can answer questions about other brands they like, or even click on specific images to show which styles they like best. The chatbot can then respond with a personalized list of recommended products from your store’s inventory, making it simple for the customer to add the choices to their cart from there, or even make the purchase directly within the chat window.

For example, Sephora uses a chatbot to ask customers personalized questions about what qualities they’re looking for in a cosmetics product so they can offer personalized recommendations. Sephora’s chatbot also offers a Color Match tool that enables customers to hold their phone’s camera up to a photograph or ad to identify the product shades a model is wearing, so that the chatbot can recommend products of similar shades. 

Check on order status

Rather than using your live support agents for repetitive questions like order delivery date, you can enable chatbots that can answer your customers’ delivery and shipping-related questions, such as “when will my order ship?” or “update my shipping address.” If your customer has a more complicated question that needs to be escalated to a live agent, they can do that through the chat window as well.

Troubleshoot a product

Once a customer has received their product, they may have questions about how to use it or concerns about its quality.

This is especially true of high-value products, such as a new mattress. The ecommerce mattress company Casper has a dropdown menu within its chat window that guides customers to the right channel to address their concerns, including a “product quality bot” that links customers to questions such as “I’m worried that my mattress hasn’t fully expanded,” or “I’m worried about my new mattress’ scent.” The chatbot will respond with reassuring answers to those questions that will hopefully alleviate customers’ concerns, with the option to be transferred to a support specialist in the event that the questions aren’t fully addressed.

Automate the exchange and returns process

In the event that a customer does need to complete a return, you can use chatbots to streamline and automate the returns process, and even encourage them to make an exchange instead. By using a tool that gives customers a drop-down menu asking them to share the reason for their return (“too big,” “too small,” “wrong color,” etc.), your solution can automatically pull from your real-time inventory to recommend an exchange option that they might prefer instead. 

If they still want to make a return, you can provide step-by-step instructions within the chatbot to guide them through the returns process, with a printable form they can use to send back their item.

The benefits of chatbots

Chatbot technology is easy for any ecommerce store to implement and it has many important benefits for your brand.

  • Save time and money Juniper Research found that chatbots will bring in $11 billion in savings across the retail, healthcare, and banking industries by 2023. Chatbots enable companies to reduce time spent on customer service calls, chats, and other support channels, helping them to scale faster without paying for additional manual labor.
  • Provide 24/7 customer support Not all brands offer live customer support around the clock, and if your team is off-duty, you don’t want to end up with frustrated customers. Chatbots can help customers navigate your support channels and provide answers to common questions, or even look up order status – even if it’s the middle of the night.
  • Streamline your customer journey By using chatbots to provide a personalized customer experience, you can help customers find the products they’re looking for and answer questions about various options they’re considering. That will help customers be more confident in their purchases as they make the right choices the first time around.
  • Reduce returns Chatbots can help you reduce the number of product returns at the start of the customer journey, when customers have the chance to gather more information about your products to ensure that they’re making the right decision about what to buy. But in the event that a customer does want to send back an item, automated returns management solutions like Loop can encourage your customers to choose a new item for a product exchange instead of returning the item for a refund. Optimizing for exchanges can help you retain more revenue in the immediate transaction, but it also helps you extend the longevity of the customer relationship. 

Using chatbots and other forms of automated workflow technology, supplemented with live chat support when needed, can help you provide an optimized customer journey through every step of the process; from first touch to the post-purchase experience. 

Want to learn more about how Loop can help you optimize your customer returns? Contact our team.