Rethink E-commerce with Customer Conversations

It’s no secret that the retail industry has a few problems right now. It wasn’t long ago that the biggest concern for retailers was how to get into e-commerce faster and compete with Amazon. Now, e-commerce is the expectation and simply having a presence isn’t enough.

Even if you’re seeing relatively good results with traditional e-commerce, there’s no way to beat Amazon at its own game. Getting back on top in the retail industry requires a different approach—one that isn’t focused on you, but on your customers.

“Focus on the customer” might feel like a cliché or obvious mantra in business right now. But how many companies are actually structured with the customer in mind?

Customer-centric e-commerce is about more than throwing a chatbot on a website or having multiple channels available to engage with consumers. You need the right technology in place to take a real-time, conversational approach to selling.

Our own CEO, Ron Palmeri, and VP of Product at Nordstrom’s Trunk Club, Justin Hughes, sat down at MobileBeat 2017 to discuss this topic. Check out the video from their breakout session or read on for more about rethinking e-commerce with customer conversations.

Results from Traditional e-commerce Can be Deceiving

“In retrospect, everything seems so clear. But our decision to put messaging first was a bit of a meandering journey. We saw pretty good stats from traditional e-commerce, but when we started interviewing customers we found that they just weren’t sure what to put in a shopping cart. We knew we had to do something different.”—Justin Hughes, VP of Product at Trunk Club

Before implementing messaging, Trunk Club had a sales cycle of around 2 weeks and had 80% of connections made over the phone. The stylist model set Trunk Club apart from competitors, but that doesn’t mean the sales cycle was perfect.

Part of the problem with a traditional e-commerce model is the disconnect between so many customer conversation channels. Emails, phone calls, SMS messages, website visits—all of these interactions should be viewed as a single conversation.

The issue is that while many e-commerce companies talk about customer lifetime value, the friction in customer conversations limit the efficiency of the sales cycle. This is why messaging proves to be the perfect tool for engagement. Regardless of the demographic, you can close communication loops faster and increase conversions.

“We went from a 25% connection rate to almost triple that in just 48 hours after implementing messaging with Layer. With these numbers, making the case for messaging was easy—there clear profit from day one.”—Justin Hughes

Being Customer-Centric Is More than Adding New Technology

Just because you add a messaging strategy to your business doesn’t necessarily mean you’re automatically more customer-centric. Messaging makes it possible to be customer-centric, but your organization has to change to make engagement a top priority.

“Companies tend to build systems that are internally structured. When you flip it and look at things from the customer perspective, you see that consumers want to be listened to and to receive high quality service. This isn’t just adding chat to a website—it’s fundamentally rethinking the business from a customer’s point of view.”—Ron Palmeri, CEO of Layer

Whether you’re diving into the latest chatbot trend or trying to find ways to use machine learning to your advantage, everything comes back to the kind of conversation you want to have with customers. Messaging is a powerful tool, but it won’t help you if you can’t answer this question from the start.

Knowing exactly what kind of conversation you want to have will dictate which aspects of the cycle you can automate, which pieces to route to human agents, and how to augment human agents with the benefits of machine learning. Every conversational decision should come back to what’s best for the customer.

If you want to hear more about customer-centric e-commerce, hear from experts Ron Palmeri and Justin Hughes in our free, on-demand recording of their MobileBeat session.