Consumers love to shop, and they love to chat via their favorite apps with friends and family. Those two forces combined make retail and chat a winning combination.
While chat in retail is still in its early stages, it is quickly picking up momentum, especially in the U.S. A full 42% of Americans say it is important for retailers to offer live chat, according to new research from Forrester Research. That’s up from 27% in just two years!
Some of this growth can be attributed to the at-home orders sparked by the pandemic and the surge in online shopping that accompanied it. Almost 72% of executives recently surveyed are using or piloting chat on mobile websites or apps, and almost 48% are doing so on third-party platforms, like Google Chat, Apple iMessage, Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp. But the growth in chat in retail is also due to the popularity of chat in the U.S. and the ease and convenience of communicating with businesses through a new channel that promises an ultra-fast response.
Indeed, the potential for chat in business is huge. Worldwide, there are 3.6 billion smartphone users, 2 billion WhatsApp users and 1.3 billion Facebook Messenger users. That means a huge portion of consumers have devices that leverage chat, and they frequently use it. In the U.S., almost one-third of consumers use mobile chat apps daily, Forrester data shows.
Younger consumers are especially prone to chat, and to do business via chat. Almost one quarter of 18-to 34-year-olds prefer chat to communicate with a business over other communication channels, Forrester notes.
Retail Leads in Chat Adoption
For retailers, the growth in chat and the growth in online commerce creates a big opportunity.
Retail is leading all industries in terms of offering chat, with 93% of retailers surveyed are already offering a chat experience on at least one platform, often Facebook Messenger.
Yet it is still early for chat in retail and much of the use is experimental. So far, the main role of chat in retail is to influence purchases. Walmart, for instance, enables consumers to message it via a third-party platform. Domino’s Pizza enables consumers to message it via the company’s Facebook page.
But retailers clearly see the benefits of chat. With chat more readily accessible to consumers, they can now ask retailers for what they want, which simplifies the shopping experience. Retailers can now respond more quickly to consumers via chat with information such as store hours and product inventory. Also, chat will better enable brands to tailor recommendations to consumers and deliver that recommendation in a personalized chat.
Adding Value Through the Retail Experience
The interactions with retailers and consumers in chat will exist throughout the retail experience, including:
- Marketing. This is mostly pre-purchase. With chat, brands can get promotions in front of customers, or suggest products. With click-to-chat on third-party apps, retailers can increase the number of connections with consumers.
- Purchase. There are two elements to purchase, the influence before buying phase, and the transaction phase. To influence, consumers may chat with retailers to see if stores have a product in stock. If so, there’s a connection that might influence the shopper to complete a purchase. Not many retailers have deployed chat during the purchasing event. A few, including eyeglass seller Warby Parker and beauty product provider Sephora, already use mobile chat to enable checkouts.
- Post Purchase. During the post-purchase phase, this is primarily focused on customer service, which is the most common use of chat among retailers today. This includes order tracking, estimated delivery times, and how to process returns and exchanges. A full 83% of online adults say being able to access estimated time of arrival is important.
Chat Technology in Retail Today, Tomorrow
For now, retailers deploy live chat, chatbots and a hybrid of both. Today’s chatbots can respond to easy questions, such as store hours, location, FAQs, and live chat is for more complicated contextual questions. As chatbot technology improves, conversations between humans and chatbots will become more natural. Conversational interfaces will be more widely embedded in more multimodal experiences. Even in noisy environments, say a busy store, speech will get accurately translated, making chatbots more indistinguishable from humans.
As chat conversations become more contextual, retailers will know more quickly what the consumer wants. Chat conversations will be shorter and less tedious. In the future, brands will use chat to proactively reach out to consumers and personalize well-timed offers. Look for brands to chat with consumers as much via third-party apps, such as Apple iMessage, Google Chat, WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, as often as branded apps. This will put retail brands in the same apps as consumers use to talk to friends and family, building even closer connections.
Eventually, brands will know their customers so well that they will proactively suggest what consumers may want, even before consumers realize it. Already, 42% of U.S. online adults want retailers to offer recommendations based on their past shopping or browsing histories, Forrester research shows.
The technology is moving quickly, as is consumer readiness to do business via chat. But retail and chat are still in the early innings. Brands that are early adopters will better serve their consumers.
Get Started Quickly and Easily with Clickatell’s Chat Commerce Platform
Clickatell’s Chat Commerce Platform will enable your business to connect, engage, and transact with your customers in the chat channel of choice. Your customers can easily learn about your products, place orders, make purchases, return, and track deliveries, engage with live agents, resolve issues, and provide feedback in a seamless process, anytime, anywhere.
Clickatell’s Chat Commerce Platform also provides innovative retailers like you with technologies to provide contactless service.
- Securely accept payments from consumers in chat apps like WhatsApp, Apple iMessage, Google’s Business Messages, Facebook Messenger, and others through SMS notifications, 2-Way SMS, Chat to Pay, and QR code scanning.
- Provide your customers with QR codes – enabling them to point, scan, and chat to obtain product information or an offer to drive customer convenience and adoption of your products or service.
- Enable the convenience and security of Chat to Pay for your customers to shop online or in-store and pay for their purchase by sending a text or message.
To learn more about how to incorporate chat into your retail experience, contact us and we will show you the way!