Chatbots in Retail: 5 Uses and Their Benefits

People have long been fascinated with robots. Granted, talking to a social media chatbot isn't quite like talking to C-3PO or Optimus Prime, but it is one step closer to the sci-fi dream. In particular, chatbots in retail can greatly improve the customer experience by providing efficient, personalized service.

A chatbot in retail helps a customer complete a transaction
Using chatbots in retail can make life easier for customers and lead to more sales.

In a recent survey, the National Retail Federation asked 3,172 shoppers which experiences are most important when they decide where to shop. The top three answers:

  • Ability to find what I want quickly and easily — 58%

  • Quality customer service — 44%

  • Speedy or simple checkout — 42%

The latest social chatbot APIs can help with all of these needs, and so much more.

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As CRM continues to evolve, technologies such as chatbots and Unified Communications will go from being nice to have to pure necessity.

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5 Ways Customers Benefit from Chatbots in Retail

As chatbot APIs become more advanced and more easily integrable, they're capable of more than regurgitating basic information. They can also:

1. Narrow the Search

Sarah is looking to buy a new laptop. She does some research and asks her Facebook friends for advice. She settles on a brand, but has no idea how much she needs for CPU, GHz, and all the other acronyms. It's after business hours — too late to call the local store, but not too late to chat with a bot.

She's already logged into Facebook, so she messages the retailer and gets an immediate response from a chatbot. It asks her questions about how she will use the laptop to determine exactly what she needs and then makes specific product recommendations. No muss, no fuss, and no waiting until morning.

2. Personalize the Experience

Darius is an avid golfer, and he needs to buy more golf balls. Rather than visiting the brand's website or mobile app to search for what he needs, he simply messages his favorite sporting goods store. The chatbot that lives on his messaging app remembers him and his previous purchases, so when Darius types, "Order four packs of golf balls," it knows exactly which brand he wants and immediately adds them to his cart.

Before initiating checkout, the chatbot goes for the cross-sell by asking, "I see you bought a new putter last month. Would you like to purchase the matching driver? It's on sale this week." Darius agrees and tells the chatbot to "complete purchase with my card on file." Done!

3. Guide Self-Checkout

Maria is an expectant mother. While on Instagram, she sees a friend's post about a new line of maternity clothes. Maria checks out the brand's Instagram page and likes what she sees, but she doesn't feel like filling out a long customer profile form.

Suddenly, she receives a message from a chatbot offering assistance. After helping her find items that fit her style and budget, it takes credit card and shipping information and immediately processes the purchase. There are no boxes to check or unnecessary questions to answer, and her shopping experience is faster as a result.

4. Assist with In-Store Shopping

Mike is taking his daughter to a friend's birthday party. They're running late and still need to buy a gift, so they stop at a local toy store. It's Saturday, and the place is packed. Mike doesn't have time to wait for a store associate to help him find the toy his daughter wants to buy her friend, and he's not sure where to look.

So, he opens the Messenger app on his phone and asks the retailer's chatbot. The chatbot API has been integrated with the store's inventory, which includes in-store location data for each product, so the chatbot can tell Mike whether the product is in stock and which aisle to check.

Guess where Mike will be doing his last-minute shopping next time?

5. Send Mobile Alerts and Updates

Stacey ordered a new refrigerator online and is waiting for it to arrive. She needs to be home to sign for it, but she can't take the day off work. Thankfully, her office is only 10 minutes from her home, so with enough warning, she can schedule her lunch break around the truck's arrival.

On delivery day, she gets a Facebook message from the retailer with a rough time estimate, which pops right up on her work computer. Then, when the truck is only 30 minutes away, she gets a second message. Stacey clocks out, goes home to meet the truck, and still has time to eat lunch.

As mobile messaging apps continue to gain popularity around the world and across generations, chatbots have arrived just in the nick of time.

Bring on the Bots

As mobile messaging apps continue to gain popularity around the world and across generations, chatbots have arrived just in the nick of time. Facebook predicts that by the end of 2018, 78 percent of the world's smartphone users will message every month, and by 2021, the global user base for mobile messaging apps will have risen another 23 percent.

Simply put, instant messaging has the potential to help retailers shore up gaps in the customer journey and earn customer trust, but only if the brand is equipped to respond thoroughly and quickly. Humans can't always meet that demand, and especially not around the clock. But their trusty chatbot colleagues can.

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