Today’s retailers know they need to deliver a quality customer experience (CX) across touchpoints. And many marketing decision-makers affirm that CX is one of their top priorities.
Why is CX a top-of-mind issue for business leaders? Research has found that companies that excel at CX can achieve higher profits and stock prices. The link between CX and financial results is undeniable.
But many brands and retailers aren’t quite there yet. In fact, a study of more than 110,000 U.S. consumers by Forrester Research found that very few companies deliver an exceptional experience–and just 15% deliver good CX. And this isn’t a U.S.-only problem. CX around the world appears to be stagnating.
It’s time for retailers to take CX to the next level. Doing so requires a new way of connecting with customers. Instead of traditional one-way broadcasting of a brand’s message, companies must engage customers in two-way dialogs. And they must address customers’ needs for personalization and appreciate their humanity and emotions.
Conversational marketing is the breakthrough approach brands and retailers need.
We joined Forrester recently for a webinar to discuss current trends in conversational CX and to review a total economic impact (TEI) study of an iAdvize customer. Read on for highlights and watch the full webinar.
How to Differentiate Based on Customer Experience
Retailers today have the unprecedented opportunity to differentiate themselves based on the experiences they deliver. According to Forrester Research, success in CX depends on three factors, called the “Three Es:”
Effectiveness: Businesses must make sure that customers gain value from their products and services.
Easiness: Companies have to make it easy for customers to do business with them
Emotion: Businesses must understand what makes customers feel engaged and how to create positive and memorable experiences.
The first two factors are table stakes. Brands need to do both to deliver an adequate or good experience to customers.
But the third factor–emotion–is what sets true CX leaders apart from the rest. When a brand can connect with customers on an emotional level, they can humanize the relationship and earn greater trust and loyalty.
Delivering emotional experiences in an online retail environment isn’t always easy. While digital interaction tools–like chatbots–meet customers’ desire for real-time communication, they can feel off-putting. And many brand websites with a direct to consumer focus–while rich in information–lack a human touch. They feel transactional instead of personal.
Think about how it feels walking into a retail boutique–one where the store owner knows your name and remembers what you purchased before. Now think about visiting the website for a brand you like. You can find information, but the intimacy and relationship are lost.
Companies must create a sense of intimacy in digital spaces and direct to consumer experiences. To achieve this, they need to think beyond interfaces, user experiences, and chatbots–and start to think about conversations.
Conversational Marketing Is the Heart of the Marketing Function
According to Forrester Research, conversational marketing is the heart of the marketing function. Conversation is all about getting to know customers in a genuine and meaningful way. Through conversations, companies can ask critical questions and get to know customers’ authentic needs.
In retail, companies must focus on activating customer emotions. But too many companies have forged ahead with chatbots and depersonalized digital interactions. While chatbots are an enabler of a conversational strategy, they are only one piece of the puzzle.
Today’s innovators don’t view conversation as a technology or as another contact channel. They view it as a persistent dialog across touch-points. And they know the main aim of conversations is solving customers’ problems. Instead of assuming every customer wants to talk, they use technology to assess a customer’s readiness for conversation.
Retailers that are leading the way treat CX as a strategic business discipline that drives growth and profits. For those companies, conversational CX can deliver a clear and measurable business impact.
How One Retailer Succeeded with Conversational Marketing: A Total Economic Impact Study from Forrester Research
To quantify the value of conversational CX, Forrester performed a total economic impact (TEI) study of a fast-growing retailer. The results show clear uplifts in projected revenue and profitability, along with reductions in service-related costs.
Before implementing conversational marketing, the retailer had a small team responsible for customer service. Scaling to align with growth was a challenge, as was increasing online conversion rates.
The retailer turned to conversational marketing from iAdvize to guide customers through purchase journeys. To identify conversational readiness, the retailer used proactive behavioral targeting. Highly-qualified, knowledgeable product experts engaged with identified customers via chat to answer customer questions and remove friction in the buying process.
With this approach, the retailer achieved four measurable benefits:
Increased Conversion Rates: Customers who engaged in chat were 3.25 times more likely to make a purchase. The projected incremental, three-year profit was $5.8 million.
Higher Order Value: When engaging with product experts, customers spent an average of 12% more per transaction. This represents an additional expected profit of $1 million over a three year period.
More Repeat Purchases: Customers who chatted with product experts were 2.2 times more likely to make a repeat purchase. The total expected profit from these repeat purchases was $780,000 over three years.
Decreased Customer Support Costs: An estimated 20 to 30 percent of chats prevented customer calls and emails to customer service. The estimated cost reduction is $880,000 over three years.
Forrester projected the retailer to achieve a 64% ROI for their conversational marketing investment. Also, Forrester found the retailer achieved a payback on their investment within six months. The Net Present Value (NPV)–or sum of all benefits minus costs–was $3.3 million.
According to Forrester’s analysis, the retailer gained tangible benefits from their investment in conversational marketing. Other brands and retailers can achieve similar results.
How to Operationalize Conversations in Your Business
What can your company do to access the power of conversational marketing?
First, you must recognize that chatbots aren’t the only components of a conversational strategy. Chatbots let you scale interactions and offer 24/7 availability–but they can’t replicate authentic human connection.
But routing every customer query to a contact center isn’t the right answer either, especially for pre-sales questions. Your support team is likely not equipped to handle all the in-depth product discovery questions that your customers may have.
Instead, you need a passionate and knowledgeable pool of brand experts available on-demand. These experts aren’t hard to find. They already exist within your customer community. With the right messaging tools, your brand aficionados can become advocates that can help customers on their buying journey.
Successful conversations have a transformative impact on a customer’s relationship with a brand. These types of transformative conversations feature five core elements. They are:
Proactive: You can’t assume that customers will reach out to you. And you can’t bury the opportunity for conversation on your “contact us” page or aim to talk to every web visitor. Instead, you need to use technology to identify the right moments of engagement.
Authentic: Consumers have grown suspicious of advertising–and know some brands will say anything to make a sale. That’s why many customers rely on personal stories from real people who have used products in the past when making buying decisions.
Emotions-Rich: Emotion is a significant driver of the customer experience in retail. In fact, the work of a recent Nobel Prize winner in economics, Robert Thaler, has proven that most consumers don’t make rational buying decisions. Instead, they let emotions guide their choices.
Helpful: Online shoppers don’t want conversations for the sake of conversation. But they do appreciate dialogs that provide meaningful advice. Companies need to segment online customers throughout the buying journey and connect them to experts who can answer their questions.
Real-Time: Customers often spend a brief time on your website. If they do reach out, you have less than 30 seconds to respond to them. If you don’t, they are likely to leave your site to continue their research–and may end up buying from a competitor.
With the right technology and a pool of passionate human product experts, you can meet all these requirements. And that will help you deliver a standout customer experience.
Humanize the Customer Experience with Conversational Marketing
Brands and retailers are on the edge of a new era. Instead of viewing their online presence as a way to speed transactions, companies can offer personalized experiences and conversations to visitors. They can catch shoppers earlier in the buying journey and deliver meaningful conversations that foster trust.
Today’s CX leaders recognize that there is a human being on the other side of every interaction. And they know those humans appreciate genuine connection and recognition of their feelings and value.
In a brick-and-mortar environment, retailers can deliver the human and emotion-rich experiences that customers crave. But digital is a different world. It’s easy to take a transactional approach and neglect the interpersonal element. While chatbot technology can manage some support questions, it’s not the only answer.
Smart retailers and brands are turning to conversations to add a human touch to their websites. And conversational marketing technology offers proven ROI–and more conversions, higher order value, and increased repeat purchases.
But even when visitors don’t make a purchase having a conversation still has meaning. Visitors can walk away with a positive feeling of connection and increased trust in the company.
When that happens, visitors can start to view your online shop as more than just another place to buy items. They’ll start to view you as a trusted source of information and answers.
You can shift the focus of your e-shop from transactional to conversational. When you do, your site will become an online destination of choice–a place that adds value to the digital shopping experience. And that will win the hearts and loyalty of your customers.
Want more conversational cx insights from Forrester? Watch our full webinar, “How Conversation Can Transform Your E-shop into a Destination.”
Forrester: The Total Economic Impact of a Conversational CX
iAdvize & Forrester Webinar: How conversation can transform your e-shop into a destination
Webinar slides available on SlideShare