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Retail: How to Leverage Chatbots to Improve the Customer Journey


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Thanks to rapid growth in the ease and popularity of online shopping, any brand’s audience now has the potential to be larger than ever. It’s expected that in 2021, e-commerce will account for 17.5% of the total global retail sales, vs 13.7% now. However, these developments mean that retail competition is tougher than ever, too. The key to staying ahead and consistently improving your sales as a retailer in 2019 and beyond lies in technology. 

One new type of tech with the ability to greatly impact the bottom line of any online retailer is the Facebook Messenger chatbot. Bots are simply pieces of software that can converse with your prospects and customers right within Facebook Messenger. Though they’re not designed to completely replace human agents, they can streamline tasks and processes using a humanlike conversational style. Your retail business needs a chatbot, and here are the top five reasons why.

#1. A bot can save you time and money.

Chatbots are designed to follow a question-and-answer pattern that mimics the back-and-forth of real human conversation. That’s why they’re perfect for answering frequently asked questions from your prospects and customers. Whether it’s inquiries about product features, shipping costs, returns, or order tracking, bots can be equipped to provide helpful information in a conversational style. As a result, your agents will have more time and energy to focus on complex inquiries rather than wasting time repeating the same answers to FAQs.

It’s important to remember, however, that any chatbot for the retail industry should offer users the opportunity to request a conversation with a human agent instead if needed. That transition can be done smoothly by using a customer engagement platform. The last thing you want to do is frustrate or offend a customer by having your bot provide irrelevant, automated responses to a more complex question or issue they may have.

#2. A bot can improve the customer experience

Retail bots are available to assist users 24/7, and will always represent your brand well by providing consistently friendly, helpful customer service. Depending on how you design your bot, they can answer product questions, offer recommendations, place orders, or provide support—all at any time of day or night. A bot’s constant availability also shows customers that your business has their convenience and their experience in mind, because interacting with a bot is easy and pleasant, and there’s no waiting involved. 

Plus, if your bot ever encounters an inquiry it’s not equipped to handle, you can have it transfer the conversation to a human agent. If an agent isn’t available at the time, the bot can inform the user about customer-service opening hours instead. Whether it resolves the customer’s issue itself or connects them to a human who can help, a bot is an indispensable tool for improving the speed and quality of e-commerce customer service interactions.

#3. A bot can help increase sales.

The great service a bot offers can turn users into repeat customers—not just because it can answer questions engagingly, but also because it can provide a fully personalized shopping experience. Chatbots for retail businesses are great at offering customized product recommendations. You can design your chatbot to ask users a few questions to gauge their needs or preferences, and then show a selection of specific products that they might like. From there, customers are more likely to buy, and a bot can facilitate this too. It can allow customers to place orders and submit payment immediately through Stripe or PayPal.

You can also use your bot to send messages to re-engage your subscribers. Within certain parameters, you can utilize this feature to send things like new product notifications, or updates about your latest sales or coupons. Messages from a bot have 80% open rates compared to email’s 25%, plus 10x higher click-through rates. This means that any updates you send via your bot are likely to get traction, and therefore likely to help boost sales. Plus, a bot stores information about all users that interact with it, which you can use to fine-tune future marketing efforts—just another way that a chatbot for retail can help your brand boost sales.

#4. A bot can set you apart from competitors.

With the astonishing rates at which the retail world is growing, your brand gains new competitors worldwide every day. To be successful, you need to do everything you can to set your company apart from others like it—and a Facebook Messenger bot is the perfect solution.

Although there are some major retailers using chatbots, they’re still a relatively new technology to the industry. That’s why adopting one now will put you ahead of the pack. Bots provide a helpful, fun, and unique experience for customers, from when they’re browsing products, to when they make a purchase, to when they receive support. A bot will streamline their encounter with your brand and make it memorable, so they’ll be more likely to choose you in the future over one of your competitors.

#5. A bot can be fully customized for your business.

Bots are an extremely versatile technology. With the right tools, they can be customized to ideally fit the needs of your specific retail business, your niche in the industry, and your particular audience.

There are plenty of features you can add on to your bot not only to make it suit your brand but to make it stand out and be more effective, too. Consider making it multilingual, so that you can reach new customers around the globe. Add it to your website to increase conversions there as well.  Make your bot react to the questions in the comments of your post, and make your customer service more proactive or set it up to gather new users from comments on your brand’s Facebook Page. Whether you keep your bot simple or equip it with extra features and abilities, you can be sure that your retail business will reap the benefits.

Chatbots are an efficient way to take advantage of the increasingly major role of AI in customer service. With the right approach and implementation in the customer journey, a chatbot can provide instant answers 24/7, and free up time for your agents. To learn more about this topic, you can also read our article on the benefits of chatbots for customer care.

Originally published Sep 06, 2019, updated Jan 17, 2024

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