What Can Bots (and Can't) Do for Your Online Store

Yashu Mittal

Chatbots are essentially programs pretending to be people that you can interact with through text or even voice.

It’s hard to talk about "conversational commerce" without mentioning chatbots.

Essentially, you can talk to these chatbots in your messaging apps, much like you would any other contact in your list, to get the day’s news or even get something done.

In the context of conversational commerce, where messaging apps become a bridge between consumers and businesses, chatbots seem to be the best answer for ecommerce business owners to manage thousands of one-to-one conversations with customers.

But for many online business owners who don’t need to manage that many customer conversations at a time, “outsourcing” customer support to a robot just isn’t worth sacrificing the quality of each individual shopper’s experience or what you as a business owner could learn from them.

These smaller online businesses are often run by one or two people who, thanks to a bit of automation, are more than capable of juggling several conversations with their customers at any given time.

Instead, ecommerce businesses should look at conversational commerce as an opportunity to couple intimacy and automation to help them deliver a more personal customer experience through messaging apps.

Conversational commerce is bringing back the business-to-customer dialogue where it’s been missing most: shopping online.

Customer Service: Where Businesses Still Need a Human Touch

While the chatbot hasn’t evolved to the point where it could completely pass for a real person yet, the messaging app has evolved to improve a part of business that never quite carried over from brick-and-mortar to the online store: Sales and customer support.

And it’s only possible now because messaging apps as a whole have experienced explosive growth compared to most social apps, offering users a more engaged and private communication channel than any social network.

Among these messaging apps, Facebook Messenger presents one of the largest opportunities right now.

Since its launch in 2011, Facebook Messenger has grown to 900 million users, far outstripping most other messaging apps. That makes it one of the best platforms for businesses looking to explore conversational commerce as a channel for selling to and supporting customers directly.

Integrating Facebook Messenger as a channel gives you a persistent line of communication that customers can access when they visit your website—creating a conversation that stays with them as they move from desktop to tablet to smartphone in a multi-device world.

In one chat with a customer, you can:

By coupling hands-on service with some degree of automation—shipping notifications and auto-responders, for example—you can manage customer relationships more easily and on a more personal level.

That’s not to say bots don’t have a place in business. Far from it—chatbots are already fulfilling their promise of creating more time for business owners, albeit in a different way.

Marketing & Operations: Where Bots Are at Their Best

While chatbot AI isn’t quite smart enough to become the “face” of your brand in a sales or customer service role, it is at a point where it can take on some of the many burdens that come with running a business—particularly when it comes to executing tasks for marketing and operations.

While many chatbots out there leave a lot to be desired, the best ones right now work because they serve a specialized function.

These bots usually offer a user experience that starts you off with a few options or yes/no questions, before branching off to ask you further questions as required or executing an action based on the information that it’s gathered.

Conversational Commerce Is Changing Ecommerce For Both Businesses and Consumers

The easiest way to think of “conversational commerce” is as a way to turn dialogue—the natural back-and-forth exchange of information—into a way for people, apps, businesses and bots to interface with each other in meaningful ways.

While the concept of building artificially intelligent chatbots isn’t new, the amount of attention, buy-in and innovation around them at present is a product of messaging apps overtaking social networks when it comes to where we actively invest our time.

Because when you think about it, the deepest and most personal form of engagement a customer can have with a business online isn’t a Like on Facebook, an email opt-in or even a purchase.

It’s a conversation.

You need a place to add the chatbot and let your visitors and users engage with them, let’s build a website for you and put chatbot in use.

Response to “What Can Bots (and Can't) Do for Your Online Store”

Stay current

Sign up for our newsletter, and we'll send you news and tutorials on business, growth, web design, coding and more!