When customers go to a brick-and-mortar store or super-market, they rarely just abandon their shopping carts after filling them up and walk away. But in the online world, cart abandonment is a very common behavior. How common? Well, according to the Baymard Institute, cart abandonment rates are, on average, as high as 70%!
Needless to say, if you’re an e-commerce brand, and 7 out of 10 of your customers are abandoning their carts, that’s a massive amount of money being left on the table.
Online shoppers abandon their carts for a number of reasons. Some of the most common ones are:
- Customers only browsing and not 100% committed to making the purchase.
- High additional costs (for shipping, fees etc.), that the customer might not have been aware of.
- Complicated checkout process.
- Website is difficult to navigate.
There are a number of techniques that e-commerce brands can leverage to reduce their cart abandonment rate and thus give a healthy boost to their sales. And in the age of conversational commerce, one solution, in particular, stands out.
Remember how cart abandonment rarely happens in a physical retail outlet? That’s because there’s usually a store clerk or sales assistant on hand to assist customers with finding what they want, explaining the pricing (including any discounts or other promotional offers on certain items) and generally helping them out all through their visit to the store. So when the customer puts something in their shopping cart, there’s very little reason why that item won’t make its way to the checkout line.
That experience of a helpful store clerk guiding you through your shopping journey, and making sure that you find (and buy!) what you want is what’s traditionally been missing from e-commerce. And it’s a gap which Conversational AI now fills.
Here are some of the ways in which AI-powered chatbots or virtual assistants can help prevent cart abandonment:
Sometimes, carts are abandoned simply because customers forget about them! They might have placed items in their cart with the intent to purchase, but at some point simply been distracted by something else. A virtual assistant can simply send a reminder message or prompt to the customer, if the cart has been lying dormant for some time or if the customer exits the website/app and returns later.
Just sending the customer a message like “I’ve saved your shopping cart. You can complete your purchase anytime” or “There are items in your cart. Do you want to complete your purchase?”, can lead to an easy sale! Knowing that their carts have been saved and that they do not need to go through the navigation and selection process again also contributes to a positive customer experience.
A customer might be put off completing a purchase due to high shipping costs that they discover at the last minute. Or they may simply have been casually browsing and selecting items for their cart without a particularly strong intent to purchase. In a physical store, a sales clerk might get such a customer to make a purchase by offering them an incentive, in the form or a discount or other promotional offer.
A chatbot or virtual assistant can do the same on an e-commerce portal. If a customer’s cart has been dormant, or if they’re about to abandon their cart, the assistant can offer them an on-the-spot discount coupon, or inform them of a promotional offer that the portal is running. Given how unexpectedly high shipping costs are a common cause for cart abandonment, the assistant offering the customer a free shipping coupon could make all the difference.
Customers navigating through an e-commerce portal might have a number of questions around where to find what they want, pricing, discounts or promotional offers (if any), refunds & cancellation policy, or simply a complicated checkout process. If there’s no easy way to get these questions answered, they might choose to walk away, abandoning their carts.
But a virtual assistant is available 24/7 to answer all of the above questions and more at the point-of-sale. It can answer questions about discounts & promos (and even offer coupons), queries about the online store’s refunds & cancellations policies, or help the customer through the checkout process. The right answer at the right time is often the difference between an abandoned cart or a successful sale, and virtual assistants ensure that the customers always get those answers.
A virtual assistant can, through reminder messages and prompts, create a sense of urgency among customers whose carts are lying dormant. For e.g. it can inform the customer that there are limited stocks available for one of the items in their cart, encouraging them to return to the cart and complete the purchase immediately.
Another option is informing the customer that the discount code they are using is due to expire shortly. Or that there is a limited time promotional offer that they can take advantage of. There are a number of ways to motivate customers to swiftly return to their abandoned carts and complete their purchases, and Conversational AI is a great way to ensure to engage them with the right message in the right place and at the right time.
One of the advantages of Conversational AI is that it brings the semblance of a human touch to the previously impersonal online marketplace. AI assistants can simulate human-like conversation to a great extent, which enables them to effectively aid customers on their purchase journey as virtual sales clerks. But they can also appeal to customers on a personal level, and convince them not to abandon their carts.
It can be something simple and empathetic like “Your shopping cart is feeling lonely. Would you like to return to it?” Or you can remind them of the effort they’ve put in selecting items and filling up the cart, encouraging them to go through with the purchase, with a message like “You’ve done a great job filling up your cart. All you need to do now is take the final step and complete your purchase”.
Appeals like this provide that personal touch which just might be the last nudge that a customer needs to go through with the purchase.
According to a 2018 report by PwC, 73% of customers consider customer experience to be the most important factor in their purchase decisions. A strong brand, a wide range of products and attractive prices can bring customers to an e-commerce website or app, but great CX is what will stop them from leaving without completing their shopping journey with a purchase.
As we’ve discussed, a good brick-and-mortar store has sales clerks ‘on point’ to cater to shoppers’ needs and ensure that they do not leave empty-handed. Conversational AI plays that role in the virtual world. Through a combination of information, incentives, timely reminders and appeals, a virtual assistant can reduce cart abandonment rates by between 20 to 30%. That’s more than enough to give a healthy bump to any online retailer’s bottom-line!