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Does Your Business Need a Chatbot? Getting the Options Right

The hype around chatbots has been going on for years, and for good reason: they’re getting more and more efficient and easy to develop and implement. 

As a result, the chatbot landscape has never been more diverse. However, with all the options, it can be a real challenge to see through the fog and pick the right path for your business.

But before we jump into that, here are a few numbers to put into perspective how massive the chatbot market has become:

  • Facebook alone reports over 300,000 bots on Messenger
  • People and businesses are exchanging over 8 billion messages a month on Facebook Messenger
  • 80% of adults and 91% of teens report using messaging apps on a daily basis
  • 53% of people who currently use messaging apps to interact with brands are more likely to shop with a business they can message (Source: Sumo)

Impressive, right? However, this data is not enough to jump the gun and make a decision on whether a chatbot is needed or not.

In this article, we will go over all the factors you want to consider before making an educated decision on getting a chatbot for your business. 

Beep boop, let’s take a look!

An overview of chatbots for ecommerce

Before considering what chatbots can do for your business, we must determine what type of chatbots you opt for, and where you can implement them. 

Types of chatbots

Chatbots fit into two categories:

  • Chatbots based on a fixed set of rules
  • Chatbots using machine learning and artificial intelligence. 

Let’s look at each category.

Rule-based chatbots

With rule-based chatbots, the user is invited to interact with the chatbots by selecting from a list of predetermined options. 

Services like Manychat allow you to configure these types of chatbots. What are advantages of rule-based chatbots?

  • Easy to set up: You only need to figure out the options or inquiries you want your users to select in order to get an answer
  • A smooth experience: by providing limited options, you get to structure conversations and provide precise answers in a fast-paced manner
  • Save time and resources: these chatbots are very useful to automate the answering frequently asked questions, liberating support employees from having to answer the same over and over

On the other hand, and as a direct consequence of their simplicity, rule-based chatbots also have their drawbacks:

  • Limited scope: Users are limited to the choices you give them, making for a potentially insufficient experience
  • Superficial engagement: Even the best pre-written exchange pales in comparison to an actual human interaction
  • No room for growth: Although you can learn from the answers you collect, your chatbot won't scale in its answering capabilities

hello-fresh-chatbot-exampleImage Source: Chatfuel


For these reasons, rule-based chatbots are best for businesses that dedicate significant time and resources to answer simple, frequently-asked questions that do not vary a lot over time. 

If you’re able to identify the questions your customers ask on a recurring basis rule-based chatbots can definitely help you get some weight off your shoulders.

AI-based chatbots

The second type of chatbots rely on artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) to operate. 

Instead of following a predetermined thread, AI chatbots are able to handle broader conversations and queries.

They come with advantages compared to their rule-based counterparts:

  • More engaging: For users, the ability to ask their questions in their own words is an unparalleled experience
  • Warmer conversations: Users can go back and forth with the bot and might be more likely to engage as a result
  • Constantly improving: Thanks to machine learning, these chatbots are constantly learning from the data it collects

Of course, this level of complexity comes at a price:

  • Difficult to implement: Setting up an effective AI-based chatbot often requires technical skills
  • Prone to bugs: AI bots require a huge amount of data and training before attaining operational accuracy
  • Natural language shortcomings: despite the improved capacity to answer questions, AI bots are far from perfect understanding, and an unexpected query can lead to inaccurate answers

bot-answers-hi-poncho-exampleImage Source: Mindk


While AI-based chatbots are the future, they are still in their infancy. The ability to offer customers an automated human-like conversation is, for the most part, not a reality yet. That being said, they might be worth considering if you’re looking to handle complex queries from users: think questions related to item, or case number tracking. 

How to use a chatbot to sell your products?

Now that we have the main chatbot options on the table, let’s take a look at actual implementations.

This will depend on your business model: Do you already have an online store? Are you mainly looking to leverage social media? Do you want to have a hybrid approach? Let’s dive in.

Host a chatbot on your store 

Perhaps the most logical choice for ecommerce, you can host a chatbot directly in your online store. 

Live chat platforms like Drift and Intercom have been created to improve how companies talk to their customers. You’ve probably seen them before when browsing online, as they were among the first to feature chat widgets, usually in the bottom left corner of the screen.


drift-livechat-intercom-chat-exampleImage Source:LiveAgent


These have become a mainstay online, with over 41% of customers stating live chat as their preferred choice for customer support (Source: Kayako).

 Hosting your chatbot directly on your website allows you to:

  • Deliver relevant messages: By having a live chat option on different pages of your store, you’ll be able to set up accurate messages whether users are on a product page, the home of your store, or at checkout
  • Track and measure: By observing where customers interact with your chatbot, you’ll be able to improve user experience

This solution is best suited if you have an existing store that you want to improve by adding a chatbot.

Create a chatbot directly on a messaging platform 

Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, Line, or WeChat are all popular messaging platforms that offer the possibility to create chatbots and promote your products.

By using these widely-used channels, you can benefit from their existing user base and brand experience. More than a billion users are using Facebook Messenger every month, so interacting with your customers directly on a service they use on a daily basis might make sense. 

It’s also worth noting that some of these platforms can provide information about customers such as their name and location. That data can be used to provide personalized interactions and tailored ad campaigns in the future.

Use a multi-channel approach for your chatbot

The third option is to go for a hybrid strategy.

This can require a lot of work if you choose to use different platforms simultaneously. Thankfully, platforms such as Facebook Messenger give you the option to do both, hosting your Messenger chatbot directly on your website:

chatfuel-facebook-messenger-website-exampleImage Source: Chatfuel


Of course, this approach has its drawbacks: While you can benefit from the advantages of both a Messenger chatbot and a hosted live chat tool, you might also ostracize potential customers. Some users don’t want to log in with their Facebook credentials for example.

As usual, this will depend on your preferences and what is best for your business. 

The next step is to figure out the specific chatbots and uses you can implement for your business. To make the most out of your chatbot, let’s take a look at some examples and see which could apply to your online store.

Examples of how to use chatbots in your online store  

In this section, we will show a few examples of how to use a chatbot in ecommerce. We invite you to compare them with your strategy to figure out what option makes the most sense for your business.

Engaging with customers to create awareness and provide general information

The most common use for chatbots on a website is to welcome customers, serving as a low-level or introductory assistant. By initiating a chat and providing a menu, the chatbot can help prospective customers and direct them to a specific section of the website.

During the 2017 Christmas season, the Danish toymaker Lego launched Ralph, a chatbot designed to help online shoppers pick out the perfect gift. By asking questions such as the shopper’s budget, their location, or the age of the person they’re buying for, Ralph was able to offer some product recommendations.


lego-chatbot-ralph-sumo-altImage Source: Sumo


This implementation is a great example of how a chatbot can be useful to guide customers and accelerate the sales process. It was launched during the Christmas season to address a problem that many shoppers experience at that time (picking a gift) and conveyed the brand’s personality in a fun, interactive way.

Based on an Edelman case study, this initiative has shown impressive results: With a reach of over 2.69 million and 1.2 million post engagements, Ralph generated over 50 thousand conversations with potential new customers, 25% of all in-season online sales and a 6x return on ad spend within certain markets.

Automating sales by generating bookings and orders 

Another widespread use case for chatbots is to generate sales directly. 

Some industries and products with a complex sales cycle require sellers and buyers to establish a personal relationship. But in simpler scenarios, this can be automated using chatbots.

Domino’s Pizza helps its customers order directly from Facebook Messenger by answering predefined questions to create their own pizza. 

By using the messaging app and identifying customers, the restaurant chain also gives the option to repeat past orders, track deliveries, and get in touch with customer support.


dominos-pizza-chatbot-order-exampleImage Source: Domino's Facebook Page


Here, the chatbot is used to recreate an in-store experience virtually. Not only is it freeing time from customer service representatives, but it provides customers with an easy way to access the most commonly requested information.

Initiating last-minute conversations to prevent abandoned carts at checkout 

Have you ever shopped online, only to change your mind at the last minute and leave the store without purchasing your selected items? You’re not alone: Almost 70% of online shopping carts are abandoned. 

Among the number of ways you can reduce cart abandonment rates in ecommerce, implementing a chatbot on your checkout page is one of the most effective ones.

Chatfuel’s abandoned cart feature allows you to connect the chatbot platform to your Shopify store. This way, your chatbot can automatically follow-up on Facebook Messenger with customers that have abandoned their cart in your store.

chatfuel-chatbot-abandoned-cart-exampleImage Source: Chatfuel

It has been proven that following up on abandoned carts can boost the chances to complete these missed sales. With Facebook Messenger averaging a 70-80% open rate and a 20% clickthrough rate, it’s safe to say that this strategy could make a significant difference for any online business.

Providing customer support to deliver a great experience

Customer support is another use case that comes to mind when thinking of chatbots. The repetitive nature of a majority of support requests makes them an ideal candidate for automation, and place chatbots as one of the most effective ways to automate customer service

HelloFresh is a subscription box service that delivers ingredients to its customers along with instructions to cook them. 

Faced with a high volume of customer support messages and a slow response time, the company implemented a chatbot that decreased response time by 76%.

This was made possible by letting the chatbot sort through incoming requests, dealing with frequently asked questions automatically and only requesting for a human employee to jump in when absolutely needed. 

This can be achieved directly in a chatbot platform by implementing a simple decision tree logic:

chatfuel-chatbot-building-altImage Source: Chatfuel

Gather feedback to ensure customer satisfaction

Finally, chatbots are also a great way to prompt users for feedback, after a purchase for example. By following up on their favorite chat platform or on your website after they purchase, you will be more likely to get feedback from them.

Gobots offers the possibility to request feedback from customers, gathering how they feel about their experience in an interactive way. 

User satisfaction feedback is a cornerstone for departments like customer service, and chatbots can empower you to collect these insights.

gobot-feedback-bot-altImage Source: Gobot


 Do’s and don’ts of chatbots for your online store

Because chatbots are not the perfect solution to every business problem, let’s go over some of the challenges and issues associated with using and implementing them in your online store. 

Some of the common issues and challenges faced when using chatbots include:

  • Limited possibilities: Chatbots can do a lot of things. But as of today and for the most part, they are not to have a full-on conversation with your customers
  • Lack of personality: A lot of what your chatbots can convey will depend on the quality of the copy powering up the answers. Just having a chatbot on your homepage is not enough anymore
  • Overuse: Including a chatbot on every single page of your website asking generic questions can become a bother to users, not bringing any actual value. Chatbots should be used only when relevant
  • Still require human involvement: The reality is that even the best chatbot should only be used as a complement to your team, and cannot replace the human touch

To avoid these pitfalls, we’ve come up with a list of tips on how to make the most out of your chatbots. Here are the do’s and don’ts of chatbots for ecommerce:

Do’s

  • Set up trigger-based messages: Send relevant messages based on user actions 
  • Guide your customers: Provide options to help guide the conversation smoothly 
  • Test before launch: Make sure to try your chatbot thoroughly before going live
  • Create a balance: Involve your team and establish when a human should take over

Don’ts

  • Send walls of text: Keep your chatbot conversational with short, simple messages 
  • Rely only on text: Using visuals (gifs, videos, emojis) and interactive tools (surveys) will make the experience more lively
  • Pretend your bot is human: Being transparent is the best way to avoid frustration from your users 
  • Use chatbots for everything: From processing sensitive information to complex requests, some areas should still be handled by a human representative

These best practices will help you provide a great chatbot experience to your users. 

Now that we’ve established the types of chatbots, reviewed some of the scenarios that can be implemented, and looked over some best practices, let’s dive deeper into how to automate them as much as possible.

Supercharge your chatbot with automation

Since chatbots are basically automated communications, it makes perfect sense to try and capitalize on their nature by automating them as much as possible.

Chatbot platforms offer a lot of possibilities, but automation platforms such as Integromat can pick up the slack where issues might arise. 

Take a look at these 3 common chatbots shortcomings that can be addressed with automation:

1. Create a new conversation when a shopping cart is abandoned

As we mentioned earlier in the article, cart abandonment is a major issue with ecommerce. Automation can help by detecting when a cart is left behind on your shopping platform to create a conversation on your favorite messaging app to remind customers.

Use this template to automatically create a new conversation in Drift when a shopping cart is abandoned in Shopify.

2. Incoming messages: Receive a notification to reply on time

According to Oracle, 10 hours is the average time it takes for a company to respond to a message. In the era of instant communications, this is simply unacceptable.

Chatbots can help by handling simple questions instantly, and letting you know when a human should jump in. Integrating your internal communication tool to your chatbot platform allows you to be notified on time and provide the answer your customer is expecting.

Use this template to receive a Slack notification when a new message is received in Facebook Messenger

3. Gather data across platforms to provide a personalized chatbot experience

Whether your customer data comes from your website, social media, or other sources, you want to keep tabs on it to adjust and improve your customer journey.

Automation can help by gathering relevant data from these sources in a spreadsheet. That information can then be pushed to your chatbot platform and be used to improve the quality of the answers your chatbot provides to customers.

Use this template to create a new contact in Drift from new contacts in Google Sheets spreadsheet.

These are some of the possibilities available to fully integrate chatbots into your internal processes with automation. Using an automation tool in concordance with your chatbot platform is a great way to take the best of both worlds.

Conclusion

Chatbots are a powerful tool and can be a great opportunity for your business as long as they are used correctly.

When using chatbots, try to follow the three golden rules:

  • Keep it simple: From the language you use to the options you offer customers, your chatbot should be simple and easy to interact with. 
  • Remember your limitations: Chatbots work best when used within a clear scope. Don’t try to offer too many things at once or to replace a human, it simply won’t work.
  • Be useful: Only use a chatbot when it’s valuable to your customers!

Following these guidelines along with an automation strategy will set you up for an effective chatbot in your online store.

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