How Chatbots are Making Life Easier for Online Sellers

By Patrick Foster
30 Nov 2018

Image credit: Unsplash

Chatbots have reached the mainstream in recent years due to technological advances that have made them practically useful. Today, many ecommerce businesses are using them to improve their customer experiences and increase sales.

Ecommerce is one industry where chatbots are having a particularly big impact. Here are some of the ways chatbots are being used by online sellers to improve customer experience, save time, and boost sales — making their lives easier in the process.

Reducing Abandoned Shopping Carts

Abandoned shopping carts are hugely frustrating for ecommerce store owners, affecting businesses of all sizes. And while it isn’t possible to get rid of them completely —- there will always be customers that change their minds at the last second — chatbots can make them less frequent.

Often, a shopper will abandon their cart because they are unsure about something. This may be the price, the materials, the shipping information, or the returns procedure. By building a chatbot into the process, the seller can ensure that the customer has the crucial information they need to complete their order.

It could ask questions to lead the shopper through the process, or answer questions about their order, much like giving them a personal helper. If prospective customers don’t find the answers they’re looking for, they may end up leaving. A chatbot can be the perfect way to prevent this from happening.

It won’t work every time, of course — but even when it doesn’t produce a conversion, the transcript of the exchange can provide useful information about the concerns shoppers develop at different points, information that can be used to further improve the checkout.

Chatbots can also be used for abandoned cart recovery. Usually, emails are sent out to the shoppers to remind them about the products they left in their carts, but it’s possible to use a chatbot for the same purpose. Done through a popular channel like Facebook Messenger, it could actually prove to be more effective than sending emails.

Providing Delivery Information

Once a customer makes a purchase, they’ll want to be kept informed so they can track their product on its journey. Sometimes they will ask for updates to find out more information, and chatbots can provide this information easily.

A seller can simply create a list of the most frequent questions regarding shipping, and define the answers for their chatbot to provide when needed. Or they could set up their chatbot with real-time tracking. That way, the customer could enter their tracking number (or numbers) and get detailed updates about progress.

This 24/7 service is exactly the sort of thing that shoppers love, but it wouldn’t be possible to provide it through support staff alone. With a chatbot, it’s not a problem.

Gathering Customer Data

Smart sellers have always used tools to gather and analyze data on their customers, including Google Analytics and A/B-tested landing pages, and now they can also use chatbots to gather useful information on customer behavior.

A chatbot can gather information on the questions asked by customers, uncovering the issues that they likely wouldn’t bother mentioning to support staff. Think of it as a combination of an internal search function and a live chat service: it can pick up search strings, queries, complaints, and anything else the customer feels like saying.

By keeping a close eye on that data, a seller can identify potential improvements to their store, refining it to convert more consistently and make the customers happier.

Improving Testing

Great ecommerce is about constant testing, finding out what works, improving processes, and getting more sales — but testing is time-consuming. To carry out effective A/B testing, a seller may need to update their website very frequently, requiring a lot of effort.

Changing a chatbot’s script is a lot quicker and easier. All a seller needs to do is adjust the responses and triggers, then make the changes live and see what happens to their conversion rate. They can also review the transcripts to get some much-needed context.

Cross-Selling

Cross-selling is something that most ecommerce stores do, and it can be very effective. By providing shoppers with ideas for other items that complement the products they are considering buying (or have bought), they drive more sales.

A chatbot can improve this process by providing more personal suggestions. Rather than just showing a product and an image, a chatbot can offer a natural-language explanation of why the shopper might like the product.

Chatbots can also upsell product features, which can be helpful for driving profits when there are more expensive product tiers that customers can switch to.

Upgrading FAQ Information

Most website owners know the value of a good FAQ section, and it’s particularly important for ecommerce because shoppers tend to have lots of questions about products, returns, shipping, and more. Using a chatbot, a seller can provide all the FAQ information in a more convenient way that’s accessible from any page.

The chatbot can also provide ideas for follow-up questions. If the customer asks whether the store sells necklaces, the chatbot can suggest follow-up questions such as “How can I choose the right necklace size?” or “What necklaces are available?”. These questions can lead to extra customer engagement, which can end up driving more sales.

Automating Store Updates

Chatbots don’t always have to address shoppers. Kit is a virtual employee that makes it possible for a Shopify store owner to do various admin tasks (such as updating their inventory, running ads, or changing product descriptions) from Facebook Messenger. This saves time and makes it easier to maintain a store on the road.

Sellers running their stores on Shopify’s popular extendable store creator can try it immediately — otherwise, they can get a feel for it through a secondary store to see if it’s worth changing CMS. If it isn’t to their liking, they can keep going with their regular CMS.

In Conclusion

Chatbots have become integral for ecommerce, and customers have become accustomed to seeing them on the stores they visit. In fact, though they haven’t been in mainstream use for that long, there are already ecommerce store owners that couldn’t do without them.

The fact is that customers enjoy using chatbots and find them useful, which makes them tremendously helpful for sellers. As well as improving customer experience, they help sellers to save time, address customer concerns around the clock, and learn more about how shoppers make decisions — ultimately producing store growth.

So think about the ways that you could use chatbots in your ecommerce store, then take advantage of this new technology however you can. It’s a fundamental part of a practical Unified Communications strategy.


Patrick Foster is a writer and ecommerce expert for Ecommerce Tips. He’s really interested to see how technology affects the online retail world in the next decade. Visit the blog, and check out the latest news on Twitter @myecommercetips.