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The cross-section of technology and human interaction: Creating the ultimate online shopping experience

Chris Baldwin, VP Marketing at Zoovu, discusses how blending AI with marketing experience can deliver an improved online shopping experience

Several aspects of life are much easier now thanks to the existence of the internet and mass adoption of technology. People jump between mobile, tablet, and desktop devices to read blogs, listen to podcasts, stream their favourite TV shows and keep in touch with people they care about. But, one of the most fundamental shifts in internet history (pun intended) has been the rise of transactional search – aka people shopping online – and it shows no signs of slowing down.

While the global eCommerce market is worth over $29 trillion, the experience we all face when searching for products is outdated and inefficient. The expectation that consumers should self navigate through thousands of SKus online using keywords based on spec-driven catalog data is ignorant to the expectations of consumers today.

It’s also driving fundamental shifts in consumer behaviour with more than two-thirds of consumers turning to Amazon when it comes to searching for new products rather than Google. While the convenience of finding everything you need on Amazon’s vast marketplace may be seen as a strength, most consumers are turned off by hundreds of thousands of options – and ultimately suffer from a bad case of ‘choice overload’.

What is choice overload?

Consumers have an overabundance of choice and information at their fingertips. And while choice is good…too much choice is bad. So much so, 42% of consumers have admitted to feeling overwhelmed with the amount of choice available to them on a retailer or brand website. And, 54% have abandoned because the way to search and navigate the products on offer was too difficult.

Have you ever searched for cameras on Amazon or Walmart? Over 100,000 products! How about a coffee maker? More than 2,000 models! Adhesive tape? 50,000 offers. Seriously, go take a look! Then try to narrow down choice using the filters on offer. Most consumers can’t make sense of features like ‘Optical Zoom Rate’, ‘Brewer Capacity’ or ‘FSA Eligibility’ (all real life examples).

No matter what your business sells, choice overload not only affect your sales, it lowers Customer Lifetime Value (CLV) and Net Promoter Score (NPS), repeatedly hitting your bottom line.

Consumers need help translating the feature data that feeds traditional search experiences into a language they can understand and engage with – something which resonates to their lives, usage and benefits. And, the easiest way to engage with consumers is simply…by having a conversation. So, how do you replicate the the old adage of ‘How can I help you?’ at scale, across all digital channels?

How to bring the human touch to digital channels

Delivering a search experience which replicates the best elements of human interaction across your digital channels is no easy feat. Especially, when you consider how immense product catalogs are online, the variance in SKUs and the rate of new products entering the market – where do you even start?

Numerous brands and retailers have wasted millions of pounds and months of development work trying to find a way to navigate this cross-section of technology and human interaction.

But, the solution already exists – transform your search experience from keywords to intent, with AI Conversational Search. Continuously learning, powered by machine learning, natural language processing (NLP) and the ingestion of 15M pieces of customer interaction data every day – you can make every conversation convert, no matter which stage of the buying journey your customer is in, or where they are shopping.

By understanding and acting upon buyer intent (not key words), you can respond to your customers to help them find what they’re looking for and simplify the search experience. How does it look?

Imagine if someone you were shopping for a laptop, and typed it into a retailers search bar. Rather than being thousands of options and you being expected to self-navigate using features like ‘CPU, RAM, Memory’, the search bar responded, asking you questions related to your lifestyle and needs, like ‘What will you mainly use your device for? Is battery life important to you? Will you be travelling with your device?’. Suddenly you’re presented with a shortlist of perfectly curated products that meet your needs and make sense of all that catalog data.

Deep Insights & Business Critical Insights

Not only does providing a conversational search experience helps businesses sell more – it also allows offers deep insights behind sales performance to uncover consumer preferences, personas and product preferences to uncover why people buy, don’t buy and what they care about . This information can be injected into CRM systems to create hyper-personalized marketing campaigns, but can also inform global strategic initiatives like NPD and R&D. And, unlike an in-store assistants, this technology never forgets what it is told and becomes increasingly intelligent over time. Cue, shortened paths to purchase, purchase decision simplification for every customer and a proven 211% increase in sales.

Outlook

The speed of technological advancement, coupled with the increasing choice available to consumers is driving a growing need for companies to deliver digital experiences that feel inherently human.

Consumers today demand convenience and guidance from brands when they’re shopping online – 88% to be exact, according to the latest independent research from Researchscape and Zoovu. And, they won’t expect anything less than the personal and conversational experience that they receive in-store. In a world where online conversion is 7x lower than in brick-and-mortar stores, embracing conversational search is the fastest way for companies to increase sales.

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