Facebook Messenger chatbots can help e-commerce startups sell more products profitably while providing cost-effective and reliable customer service
E-commerce brands are in one of the most fiercely fought sectors of the economy right now.
The competition in this space, dominated by a behemoth like Amazon, is intense. Profit margins are razor thin, and customer acquisition cost
And because barriers to entry are so low (it takes under $100 dollars and an afternoon to spin up a fully functional e-commerce store that can start selling, thanks to Shopify and dropshipping), e-commerce brands can’t afford to compete on price or inventory.
They have to be able to compete on customer experience, which is where chatbots provide an interesting, and cost-efficient alternative.
The promise of chatbots for e-commerce
Chatbots are not a new thing, but over the past couple of years they have become mainstream thanks to Facebook Messenger chatbots.
How mainstream? Just check out these stats:
- 4 in 5 businesses will use a chatbot by 2020
- 63% of consumers want businesses to have chatbots
- Open rates on Messenger have gone up to 84% (as opposed to ~15% for emails)
- 55% of consumers want to use chatbots to connect to a business
Oh, and people seem to really, really like to text instead of using emails or calling someone.
For an e-commerce brand, Messenger chatbots can have several use cases:
- Get higher ROI from your Facebook campaigns
If you are already running Facebook ad campaigns, you can get a higher return on your ad spend by sending ad traffic to your Messenger chatbot instead of sending it to your product page.
Facebook likes it because you are keeping the user in its own ecosystem. The user likes it because she doesn’t have to click over to another website to complete the transaction.
- Create your entire checkout experience inside the chatbot
Messenger chatbots are optimized for mobile (which is the device of choice for most e-commerce customers).
You can replicate your entire store inside your Messenger chatbot, including upsells, downsells, cross-sells or special offers/coupon codes. And once the transaction is complete, you can also send receipts and shipment notifications and alerts through Messenger.
- Deliver quality customer service through a chatbot
The vast majority of customer service queries relate to issues around returns, refunds, shipping information and so on. It’s only a small minority that requires human intervention.
You can drastically improve customer satisfaction with your brand by training your chatbot to answer routine queries which involve looking up data and allocating more complex service requests to your support team.
This is a win for everyone: chatbots don’t have working hours, and customers will get a prompt response no matter when. Employees will be less burdened with answering routine queries and they can be more productive and happy.
- Deliver new experiences through Augmented Reality
Facebook chatbots can be integrated with AR, allowing users to do things like try and buy.
This innovation is being used by brands in the beauty, fashion, luxury, and home furnishing niches to display how their product will look like in the real world.
Judicious use of AR can make the customer get over her hesitation, and also reduce returns and refunds.
- Retain customers with targeted offers
Customer retention, and building a cohort of loyal consumers, is the #1 concern of e-commerce brands.
Thanks to their higher open rates and mobile native experience, chatbots are more efficient than other channels like email/SMS at sending targeted and personalized offers and follow up promotions to customers.
A note of caution here: Facebook has a strict policy against sending promotional messages, and you cannot do an email like promotion on chatbot unless you want it to be banned.
What chatbots can’t do
Chatbots are still maturing, and there are a whole bunch of things that they can’t do.
For instance, the vast majority of chatbots are dumb, and they will not be able to have a natural conversation with a human.
Compared to websites, chatbots also have a lower tolerance for failure because ill designed conversational flows can make them confusing for users.
This graphic is a great summation of chatbot expectation vs reality as far as customer service is concerned.
There is also the small matter of testing and training the chatbot, and constantly updating it in order to reflect minute changes in user behaviour. Without this investment, even the most chatbot will eventually stop working.
Rise of the chatbots
You might think of chatbots as a fad, but your customers don’t seem to think so.
With advances in artificial intelligence and natural language processing, chatbots will get smarter, and while they will never be able to completely replace humans, they can be a make or break channel for growing your e-commerce brand, in the age of mobile and social.
Like it or not, chatbots will be the new website. Are you going to be on board?
Bhaskar Sarma is an independent growth marketer who has worked with e-commerce brands to build Facebook Messenger chatbots.