The Challenges of the Hybrid Shopping Paradigm
Retail headlines were grim these past few years, from supply chain woes and unfilled jobs to mounting inflation and spiking demands for faster delivery. However, as the adage goes, these hard times may make stronger retailers — many have already taken an honest assessment and made efforts to innovate their legacy systems and strategies. Perhaps the most dramatic change retail companies have had to adapt to is the rise of digital shopping and people's comfort level with online channels — namely, conversational commerce. Coined by Uber's Chris Messina in 2015, conversational commerce refers to consumers using natural voice technology such as Amazon's Echo or messaging functions like Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, and WeChat during the purchase process.
Despite the ingenuity of conversational commerce, the larger bifurcation of the shopping experience emphasizes the need for brands to support hybrid models which treat traditional patterns and omnichannel fulfillment activities as one experience rather than isolated bubbles. Nevertheless, retail businesses continue to have issues improving the customer experience and promoting engagement, especially over multiple channels. Retailers can overcome these hurdles by upgrading their technology via communications platform as a service (CPaaS), a single omnichannel communications platform that can unify the fragmented customer shopping experience.
CPaaS Technology Solutions That Streamline Conversational Commerce
The two fundamentals of conversational commerce are voice and messaging, both of which CPaaS platforms deliver in a unified form, solving the challenges of the hybrid shopping experience. Many CPaaS providers utilize cloud-based call routing, which directs calls based on the location of the caller, time of day and subject, increasing cross-sell and upsell opportunities and making it invaluable for larger retailers with multiple dispersed stores. Similarly, cloud-based call routing acts as a reliable means of ensuring business continuity, preventing calls from going unanswered even if there's a site outage.
Messaging, the other cornerstone of conversational commerce, gets streamlined through CPaaS, as it gives businesses automation capabilities, enhancing the customer experience and enabling staff optimization. SMS is the preferred form of communication for consumers compared to voice, and CPaaS empowers retailers to leverage it accordingly. For example, companies can use CPaaS to automate abandon cart notifications or even auto-dial after a set time to remind customers to complete their orders. Additionally, retailers can send automated SMS messages and alerts for coupons, appointment reminders, loyalty program information, company updates and surveys which will boost engagement, lower appointment cancellation rates, and increase response rates.
Beyond improving the voice and messaging aspects of conversational commerce, CPaaS also helps retailers understand how their customers are interacting with their brand through data analytics. These data analytics features can track many trends, including call topics, survey results, who clicks on coupon information, and the most popular time of day for calls and frequency across locations. Having this information, and adjusting and allocating resources appropriately, will create higher customer satisfaction and retention.
Continuously Meeting Customer Needs in an Omnichannel Environment
Many factors — from the recent pandemic to the oncoming recession — have forced the retail industry to undergo a much-needed evolution, which may make those that endure more profitable than before. Only time will tell. Still, there are undoubtedly significant trials ahead as consumers continue to embrace omnichannel. More voice and messaging services will get incorporated into the shopper's routine, highlighting the necessity of a single omnichannel communications platform like CPaaS. Moreover, retailers will constantly need to work to meet consumer needs, especially when delivering convenient and time-saving experiences.
Ujjval Karihaloo is responsible for the global leadership of IntelePeer’s product management strategy, focused on growing the Company's CPaaS portfolio and solutions.
A seasoned technology executive, Ujjval Karihaloo has more than 20 years of experience in technology and software, with extensive cloud expertise and a track record of developing highly innovative products and spearheading a results-driven culture. Ujjval is responsible for the global leadership of IntelePeer’s product management strategy, focused on growing the Company's CPaaS portfolio and solutions. With emphasis on IntelePeer’s partners and customers, Ujjval is committed to driving growth by delivering communications workflow automation solutions that empower customers to advance their business objectives by focusing on business outcomes. Under Ujjval’s leadership, IntelePeer delivers innovation to customers using its platform APIs, no-code/low-code Apps and Conversational Commerce solutions that enable businesses to perform better, connect easier and in turn help enhance their customer experiences. This is more important than ever in an increasingly digital world where consumers expect to engage with businesses on their own terms and communicate using channels of their choice.