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Chatbots Akin to Real-Life Customer Service

Retailers find chatbots influence purchases, too

Retailers adding online chat and mobile messaging options to their customer service arsenal are likely to be rewarded. According to December 2016 research, roughly 30% of consumers favor these types of digital alternatives when they have questions about potential purchases.

US Internet Users' Preferred Method of Contact with a Digital Retailer While Making a Purchase, Sep 2016 (% of respondents)

When customer experience company [24]7 surveyed adult US internet users in September 2016 about their preferred method of contacting digital retailers, 29% of respondents said they preferred to connect with an internet retailer via online chat (26%) or messaging apps (3%) like Facebook Messenger or WhatsApp while making a purchase. That response put chat-based methods on par with voice-only phone and email options for contacting retailers mid-decision.

The survey found chat and messaging options placed third, mentioned by 21% of respondents, as a preferred means of contacting digital retailers to resolve post-purchase issues, too. But for that activity phone calls remained the leading option by a wider margin, chosen by 40% of respondents.

The retail industry has been ramping up discussions on emerging chat-focused customer service options. There’s certainly a variety of types to get a handle on from pure-play messaging apps and hybrid versions to even those with added options like stickers, games and chatbots, particularly.

Recommendations that US Internet Users Would Like to Receive from Chatbots, Nov 2016 (% of respondents)

This past holiday season the Mall of America rolled out a Facebook Messenger bot with the help of IBM Watson to help personalize the customer experience, according to Forbes, alongside many other retailers that have tapped into Facebook’s “conversational commerce” moves in the past year.

When looking more specifically at chatbots as purchase influencers, a November 2016 study by DigitasLBi and The Harris Poll found that product referrals from retail stores, and hotel and travel tips would garner more interest from adult US internet users than would pharmacy or fashion-related recommendations.

—Danielle Drolet

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