Customers shouldn’t have to explain intent. Businesses should monitor what they are up to, so that customers can expect the same personalised attention from online shopkeepers as they get when visiting their favourite farmers’ market.

Put simply, the online marketplace is fundamentally different to the physical marketplace. As customers, we’re often alone online and need to find the products or services we’d like to purchase. We’re also impatient. If we can’t find what we want, we simply navigate away without a trace.

Conversion Rates Stagnate Without AI

This is one reason why online marketing suffers from lacklustre conversion rates. Businesses spend more than $US200 billion per year on digital marketing, yet the average conversion rate hovers around 2.9 per cent — and it’s been going down for years. The explosion of digital touchpoints, use of several unintegrated software tools, and operating silos all cause this low-conversion problem — and these factors also make it extremely difficult to ensure the completion of the buyer’s journey.

Customers abandon their journeys for a number of reasons: bad site navigation, complicated checkout procedures, or lack of real-time support, among others. Leave a customer alone, confused or idle, and you’re leaving money on the virtual table.

Chat pop-ups were once considered a good idea for always-on engagement, but they don’t have the context or know what each customer is doing. Proactive chat with no context at the wrong time not only annoys customers, but it’s also not helpful.

Carl Jones, Predictive Engagement Lead ANZ at Genesys, said everyone has had the experience of walking into a store unable to find what they want and hoping for a shop assistant to help make a purchase.

He said this is not ideal, because the store is taking the risk that consumers will get frustrated and take their business elsewhere. However, this is different for online marketplaces.

“For online the assistance is generally only available when we ask for it, or it’s offered to us as a pop-up after a period of time. The timed pop-up is the online equivalent of a shop assistant watching you with a stopwatch from behind some shelves and jumping out from behind a stack of washing powder asking ‘can I help you’.”

He said the online alternative is to use AI, machine learning and analytics to proactively offer assistance to customers only when they need it most.

“Genesys Prospect Conversion uses machine learning and analytics to keep an eye on the customer and jump in at the optimal moment.

“This is the online equivalent of a shop assistant who knows where the customer came from, knows exactly what they are looking for, and only offers proactive assistance when the customer looks as if they are going to buy something, but really needs the help to complete the purchase.”

AI Teams With Consultative Super Agents

Older support organisations often are enabled for only very simple interactions — such as customers who know what they want to buy or need links or easy resolutions. But when conversations get more complex — and for higher-value purchases — customers don’t want to jump around to multiple agents or repeat the details from the previous conversations.

These types of obstacles to a seamless customer experience contribute to low conversion rates. And when you consider high-value products, it can get very costly.

AI-powered commercial sites can figure out most customer queries and use bots to support buyers. But as soon as a human is needed, these sites can connect the buyer seamlessly to a live agent who can help.

Today’s online customers expect the same type of service they receive from good brick-and-mortar shops. An AI-enabled customer experience platform enables sharing of context and history between bot and human.

This ensures that agents are fully engaged in consultative sales transactions when it makes sense, and that converting the prospect to a customer is a seamless experience. Human support is expensive for these super agents — although it’s not as expensive as losing high-value product sales.

Build Your Customers’ Confidence in You

Successful businesses sell the value of confidence, not just products. Engagement that’s intent-driven — when customers have already shown what they want to purchase — makes it much easier to take action and support customers’ purchasing journeys by using AI technology.

Customers want support in real time when they need it, and not necessarily proactive support. But when they do engage with sales and support, it should be an integrated experience across all channels and include services like co-browsing.

In addition, when you engage with customers, consider showing them how to self-serve — so that when they engage the next time it’s faster for them and more cost-effective for you. And when self-service isn’t enough, sometimes a five-minute conversation with a knowledgeable agent can make the sale and build long-term customer loyalty.

About this author

Tibor Vass is the global director of solution strategy business automation at Genesys who is a member of the Which-50 Digital Intelligence Unit. Members provide their insights and expertise for the benefit of the Which-50 community. Membership fees apply.

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