Interviews, insight & analysis on digital media & marketing

5 conversational commerce strategies to drive post-lockdown sales

Mark Jervis, UK Director at dotdigital

Customers put up with a lot when they are trying to buy something online. Sometimes they just persist.  Some give up half-way through and then have to be chased all over the web with some remarketing.  And some don’t make it at all. 

Ask anyone in the business of helping companies to get their web pages to load quicker and they will tell you that shoppers will leave a site if it’s too slow to load, meaning every second of page load delay can be significant in terms of lost potential revenue.

What this all boils down to is lost sales opportunities. And this is before we even start to talk about customers who do not convert because the product wasn’t available, or the price was wrong, or the product didn’t display right or a myriad of other reasons that all add up to explaining why online conversion is on average just 2.63%*.

Now, you may be happy with that because, during lockdown and ever since, you have been enjoying the benefits of the massive shift from stores to online that has translated to a sales uplift for some.  But what might you gain if you were able to communicate more quickly and effectively with customers who may need help at any one of multiple stages in their shopping journey?

Customers are clearly a lot less patient than they used to be when they had less choice and only one channel to shop through.  Now, they are more demanding, fickle, unpredictable and shouty than ever and that’s only going to get worse as the ecommerce market becomes even more competitive.

Our view is that, rather than relying on the largely static navigation tools embedded in your website, that more dynamic, one-to-one communications are key to converting sales and recovering lost ones.  After all, what many people need at different stages is a helping hand, some advice on what to do next – particularly at the exact moment of despair when they are about to give up.

And, assuming customers even make it to the checkout, cart abandonment rates average 70% across the ecommerce industry, based on our own research in Hitting the Mark: dotdigital’s annual ecommerce benchmark report.  Further compelling proof comes from a study, from conversational commerce provider iAdvize, which revealed that 83% of UK shoppers that abandoned a purchase did so because they felt overwhelmed by the amount of choice online. 58% of UK shoppers abandoned their basket due to lack of information online to help them decide on their purchase; while 55% said product confidence and fears of making the wrong decision were also a cause of cart abandonment.

So, here are five ways that conversational commerce strategies can drive sales and engender loyalty as lockdown eases.

  • Send a personalised, concise cart recovery email within 30 minutes of the purchase being paused.  This one is a no-brainer, even though only 40% of the companies we surveyed currently do it, meaning they are missing out on ‘low hanging fruit’
  • Use SMS to reach customers immediately and offer help, which may in turn be a link to an advice page, another product, or a call centre. These interactions should therefore be conversational not transactional or promotional. And SMS can extend to Facebook Messenger or even WhatsApp; if these are the channels that customers are using then retailers must embrace them
  • Offer live chat, ideally with a real person. Chatbots have their place for sure in terms of answering frequently asked questions, and certainly of value in industries such as banking were most enquiries are transactional. Chatbots however have no emotional context, plus cannot understand when the customer is confused or upset. Rescuing these situations demands an interaction between two people
  • Make the journey simpler and more rewarding by making it personal, and that means, as a start, adding a preference centre so that customers can tell retailers what they want, knowing that these preferences will be observed next time – through relevant products, sizing, colours, styles, and preferred delivery
  • Acknowledge what customers have done, from welcoming them in at the very start to thanking them for buying and rewarding their loyalty. This is also a great opportunity to gather data because it is the right time to ask customers what they want from the relationship with the retailer moving forwards

While these are five discrete pieces of advice, they share a common goal – to put the customer in control of their experience of your brand.  Customers are increasingly taking control anyway and brands need to turn traditional push marketing into conversational commerce.  Brands are still acting on data, but it is data about the customers’ preferences that enables them to communicate more personally.

Using these five communications techniques, which will only get richer over time as information is exchanged freely between both parties, is key to moving those core KPI dials – conversion, cart recovery, average order value and life-time value, plus marketing ROI – all in the right direction.

* Growcode, 2020: