Today’s increasingly sophisticated online buyers expect speed and efficiency. Sean O’Connell (pictured), Director of Marketing, Talisma, highlights how “virtual sales assistants” can help retailers maximise the effectiveness of their online marketing, delivering real ROI back to the business.
Buying online should be quick, simple and intuitive. So why are conversion rates so frequently in single digits, with almost 60 per cent of customers who actually manage to put goods in the shopping basket abandoning the trip before they checkout?
The answer is that buying online is not as easy as it should be. Many UK online retailers do not offer search functionality on their websites and we’ve all experienced confusing web order forms.
If we can’t work out how to make an online purchase we want to be able to speak to someone who can help us, quickly and easily. But how often have our emails for help gone unanswered?
It sometimes takes real determination to cross these barriers and today’s sophisticated online buyers are becoming less tolerant of a website’s shortcomings. According to independent research carried out by Andersen’s, 83 per cent of internet buyers will abandon a website because they can’t find what they’re looking for.
Stickiness: keeping the buyer online
If online retailers are to improve conversion rates, promote loyalty and build profitable sales, then it is vital to maintain stickiness.
In a real world store, sales staff are encouraged to engage would-be customers in conversation, keep them browsing, identify the sort of goods they are searching for and close the sale. Such staff can also be quick to spot the confused or lost buyer and offer much needed assistance.
Customer Interaction Management (CIM) technology can help retailers move this experience online by creating virtual sales assistants who are empowered through “live chat”.
With chat, buyers can click into a dialogue box and ask questions of a remote advisor while they browse the site.
This type of proactive assistance is particularly important for high value, high involvement products where buyers want to review options or need reassurance when handing over their card details at the checkout.
Retailers can also use this live environment to leverage direct marketing opportunities and deliver personalised offers to a browser while they are on the website, based on the pages they have visited or past purchases.
For example, if a customer is at the online checkout with £85 worth of goods in their basket, the agent might send a proactive chat pop-up to the customer with a special offer if they spend £100.
Proactive assistance chat can be set up either automatically to detect distress in a buyer or so that a remote customer service assistant can intervene in the web session.Results can be impressive. Chat can increase sales by as much as 30-40 per cent and failures in transactions can be reduced by 50 per cent.
‘Click-to-talk’ technology is also worth considering, as it allows website visitors to click a link and immediately connect, via the internet, to a contact centre agent or after hours support line, helping retailers provide fast and accurate responses to customer’s questions.
Getting noticed – reaching out through proactive email marketing
By combining new online techniques with today’s powerful campaign management technologies retailers can also improve the effectiveness of email campaigns, in order to increase sales, grow the brand’s visibility or reinforce loyalty by keeping listed customers up to date via alerts, notifications and e-newsletters.
Through a real-time view of a customer’s profile and interaction history, virtual sales assistants can instantly push tailored, relevant up-sell and cross-sell promotions via email to listed customers, based on their latest online behaviour or purchasing patterns.
They can also educate, alert and inform customers about product updates, billing notifications, and profile updates. This might be, for example, a contract or subscription which may be due for renewal.
Keeping up with the sophisticated shopper
Today’s buyers are sophisticated, demanding and IT savvy. Personalised, real-time marketing coupled with the latest customer service technology can be a powerful weapon in a retail marketing professional’s armory.
To be truly effective, marketers must plan beyond merely driving traffic to a website. They must ensure that they can take hold of, and positively drive, the whole customer experience.
Providing proactive virtual sales assistants that can deliver a personalised, accurate and rewarding experience across multiple channels is the key to future online success.
If your website leads to frustration and distress then that customer is likely to be lost to you forever.
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