You can’t ignore the growing prominence of artificial intelligence (AI) in today’s retail landscape. According to IDC, 40 percent of retailers will have developed a customer experience architecture supported by an AI layer by 2019. Will your business be one of them? Retailers that fail to incorporate an AI-backed solution into their business strategies will face myriad consequences that can severely affect their bottom line.
Conversational commerce will fundamentally transform how consumers communicate and transact with brands. While this is true across all industries, retailers in particular stand to see great gains or losses depending on their adoption of these exciting new technologies. To help you prepare for this impending reality, below are four reasons it’s imperative to implement AI-backed conversational commerce into your 2018 retail strategy:
- Conversational commerce eclipses antiquated customer relationship tools. Technology develops at a rapid clip. By now, both the web and apps are old-fashion tools that can cause friction between customer and retailer. 2018 will be the year conversational commerce takes over, adding a new layer of interactivity to online shopping. A conversational approach enables richer, more complex customer engagement, with personalized shopping assistants and concierge bots answering questions, recommending items, and handling individual transactions. This personalizes the long-homogeneous digital experience at each touchpoint of the consumer journey.
- Retailers must meet consumers where they are. The consumer’s preference for messaging is already clear in their personal lives, and it’s how they would prefer to interact with brands, too. With Amazon Alexa, Google Home and the like now ubiquitous in the home and office, coupled with consumers growing familiarity with similar technologies, people are shopping with voice-based assistants in greater numbers. AI-fueled conversational commerce lets retailers tap into the most immediate form of communications — i.e., messaging — and reach consumers in the ways most convenient for them at a scale not possible before.
- Websites don’t convert very well. In the mid-’90s, we were promised an e-commerce revolution that would sweep the globe, giving brands an all-new and more convenient channel to reach customers. However, today’s retailers aren’t any better off than they were two decades ago. The standard user interface (UI) design has favored a small number of winners; the rest have been besieged by poorly structured websites that fail consumers and don't convert sales. The traditional UI “tree structure” was originally intended to streamline the user journey. However, its multiple branches proved unnatural, incapable of handling tasks of any complexity. Today, conversion rates for websites hover below 3 percent, and app fatigue is causing usage to plateau. Meanwhile, Amazon.com continues to gobble up market share, applying downward pressure to retailers’ abilities to drive purchases.
- Conversational design is the new truly customized web design. Like human language, conversational commerce is flat. It allows brands to engage in real relationship-based commerce not usually achievable through websites and apps, which are more primitive, inefficient and hard to use. While on one hand they can handle a broad set of commands, without the technology to make them intelligent, they lack the capacity to understand complex inquiries. Adding an element of AI breaks down these barriers, and messaging solutions like chatbots can be programmed to echo a brand’s voice and deliver a personalized, more positive experience that’s unique to each customer.
Conversational commerce will rewire the way all brands do business. It can connect them with their customers more organically and create customized experiences for every individual with whom they interact. This will serve as the first universal interface, giving retailers enormous efficiency gains as well as solutions that let them better allocate their time and resources.
Rurik Bradbury is global head of conversational strategy at LivePerson, a conversational business platform for brands.