Adapt quickly to the changing purchasing habits!
We gotta be honest, this article started as every other article, we had a clear content idea in mind. We simply wanted to provide some really concrete and instantly usable chat examples and use cases for retail stores. We wanted to help in building a successful conversational experience.
Then the whole world turned upside down within a matter of a few days, coronavirus, social distancing, self quarantines, cancelled events, closed schools, new regulations and limited shop opening times took over our lives. This is a really difficult time that will not only put its mark on our private life but it will also have a huge impact on businesses all around the globe.
Given the current situation, quick, clear and trustworthy online communication have never been so important ever before.
Our purchasing habits have changed overnight and retail stores are in the frontline of facing with that change so we have drifted the direction of the article a bit and pulled together a list of opportunities and options that can help adapting to the current situation and potentially save your business.
Set up automated chat channels
There will be many many repeating questions about opening hours, shop policies, availability..etc. and answering those will just put an extra overhead on your already stressed out staff. These questions can be easily answered by a chatbot, most of them are predictable and don’t need sophisticated background information. Also, having an easily accessible channel where people can contact you online, ask questions from their homes and get an instant reply has never been so important before. Setting up a bot agent in a webchat window on your website or Facebook page doesn’t take long, in fact it can be done in a few hours but the extra value it brings for your customers is really hard to beat. Even if you only have 20 of the most frequent questions covered, you already gave an easy alternative to 80% percent of the people contacting you. The chat can be fully automated and runs 0-24h without any staff assistance so it is no brainer.
Broadcast frequent updates to your follower base
In such rapidly changing times, it is crucial to share updates frequently. It is also important to avoid misinformation and misunderstandings. Chat messages are an ideal way of sending out quick updates real-time and they have the advantage of providing two-way communication so your audience can instantly ask back if there is a question. Your already existing Facebook page can be a trustworthy information source and you can use that channel to contact your entire follower base or just a segmented part of it through Facebook Messenger.
Introduce home delivery
I don’t think the necessity of delivery needs any explanation but if you don’t yet have a home delivery option, setting the necessary infrastructure up can be a complicated task. Luckily there are a few third party and partnering options that you can implement. However, even if you outsource delivery completely, the surrounding communication and questions from clients will surely fall back on you so having an online chat channel where people can ask about delivery will be a must. You already have a website and you already have a Facebook page for sure, you might also have a dedicated webshop. Lets start on these fronts and implement chat options for your clients. As in the previous point, most of the generic question can be taken care by a chatbot agent reducing the workload but it will be useful to have a Live Chat option as well in case people get stuck or want to talk to a human. Once people have placed their orders, they would like to keep a tab on it so sending Messenger updates about order confirmation, shipping info, progress and exact delivery times provides the best customer experience for them. We strongly recommend to introduce a “contactless delivery” option where your delivery guy can leave the package at the front door and send a chat message or push notification to confirm the successful delivery.
Build Messenger Shopping
Creating a dedicated app for your online shoppers can be a really costly and equally lengthy project which might or might not return your investment (especially these days). Also, convincing consumers to download yet another app to their phones is getting extremely difficult. Instead of that, we recommend building a complete shopping experience on Facebook Messenger. Almost everyone has it already installed on their phones, the chat aspect enables you to have automated or real sales staff to boost your business, instant payment options are getting available and it is still something unique that can catch people’s attention. Chat engines working in the background can be highly integrated through APIs so it can actually be a really advanced and sophisticated system, capable of providing up to date info about product availability, delivery times, returns.. etc. An added bonus is that you can send out campaign messages and updates when your customers don’t use Messenger for actual shopping.
Have an in-store guide
My last experience in the local big chain retail store nearby was surrounded by empty shelves and customers stopping the shop assistants and staff every other minute with questions. They had the very same questions about where they can find this or that, when the missing item will be available again, is the item they are looking for in stock just still in the warehouse and if there is a substitute they can buy instead. These questions are really easy to group and list and some of them are even easy to answer but they were so frequent they actually stopped the staff from doing their daily routine and they were already working on a reduced capacity. This could be easily handled by a dedicated “in-store” chatbot. Customers could ask questions on their phones, the bot could guide them to the given product showing a map, it could give up to date information about availability and recommend another product if the original one is no longer in stock.
Move customer support to Live Chat
Live Chat is still a safe way for your staff and customers to interact, it can provide the same personal experience but it clearly doesn’t have the risk of a traditional support or information desk where people could transfer the virus. An added bonus is that chat can be automated so the FAQ type questions can be handled by a bot agent filtering out more complicated cases that actually need human attention. This can be a huge time saver and can reduce the workload greatly.
There is an added bonus, the chat format can really help newly hired staff as they can use previously prepared template or “canned” responses and also look through the internal knowledgebase. Let’s admit, both of these would look a bit awkward in person.
Product availability and substitute products
This was already mentioned before but it definitely deserves its own dedicated spot. Advanced integration options are available, connection between your internal stock, warehouse, inventory management system and chat channels can be easily built. This enables an automated chat channel to be much more intelligent and useful, it actually provides data for building a product recommendation and availability checker flow that needs no human interaction on your end but can still fully satisfy the needs of your customers. They can ask over webchat, Messenger, Viber or Discord at any time of the day and get an instant response. It can also guide them to the nearest store that carries the item they are looking for.
Use chat internally
The above ideas of using the chat are not only helpful for your customers, you can use them internally as well for supporting your hiring process, announcing updates in policies, answering frequent questions coming from your staff. We know it from first hand that hiring takes up an enormous amount of our time so the more it can be automated the better it is for the team. Introducing an automated chat for hiring can save you an awful lot of time by answering repeating questions, setting up interview times automatically in your calendar, providing all necessary basic info for the applicants.
Also, you will need to roll out changes in policies really quickly and the chat doesn’t require your staff to be connected to an internal system all the time, they can receive the updates at home as well.