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Why Virtual Shopping Assistants bring more value to online retailers than ever before

By 2040, 95% of purchases will happen on e-commerce platforms. But with greater popularity, comes greater expectations. Customers have more online shopping options than ever to choose from, meaning e-commerce brands that want to earn their business need to create an experience that sets them apart. To achieve that, many are taking inspiration from their brick-and-mortar counterparts and looking to create a customer service experience that stands out.

Picture the best shopping experience you’ve ever had.

If it was really a cut above, you likely still remember it. It probably involved a sales clerk who went the extra mile — offering just the right level of attentiveness to suit the situation.

Maybe they stepped back while you looked through the merchandise, but stayed ready when you had a question to ask. Taking their cues from you the entire time, they offered suggestions on products you might not have noticed but ended up buying anyway, because their recommendations aligned so perfectly with your own personal tastes.

As a shopper, that experience may be the yardstick to measure every shopping trip you’ve made since. But if you’re a digital marketer or e-commerce brand, you probably see something else as well: an opportunity to offer something similar on your own site. The question is, how do you repeat that type of personalized experience in a digital environment?

A Virtual Shopping Assistant helps you achieve exactly that. Keep reading to learn how — and to find out how e-commerce brands are integrating virtual assistants into their own experiences and accomplishing significant results.

What is a Virtual Shopping Assistant?

By 2040, 95% of purchases will happen on e-commerce platforms. But with greater popularity, comes greater expectations. Customers have more online shopping options than ever to choose from, meaning e-commerce brands that want to earn their business need to create an experience that sets them apart. To achieve that, many are taking inspiration from their brick-and-mortar counterparts and looking to create a customer service experience that stands out.

A Virtual Shopping Assistant helps you do that, taking on the role of that diligent sales associate, ready to help customers at every stage of the buying journey. It greets them and guides them through their experience, providing any knowledge or support they need to ultimately convert and continue to grow into loyal customers. Powered by artificial intelligence (AI), it connects with your customers at every step, providing immediate 24/7 customer support, promoting ongoing engagement, and helping customers navigate your site no matter where they start their experience.

To accomplish that, Virtual Shopping Assistants draw on several tools:

Chatbots: With technology getting better and better, chatbots are becoming more critical to the virtual shopping experience. They’re not only able to answer buyers’ most common questions and help them navigate large product catalogues in a way that’s not overwhelming, but can also provide the high level of assistance consumers are used to — all in the timely way they’ve learned to expect.

Personalised & triggered messages: With these tools, you can personalise the customer experience, making product recommendations based on buyers’ onsite behavior or offering customised promotions or content - all of which give visitors more reason to buy. Just look at Helly Hansen, who increased their conversion rate by 12% and average order value (AOV) by 25% after just one month.

Omnichannel interactions: Omnichannel interactions extend beyond your website, to mediums like email, push notifications, and messenger platforms such as Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp. By following up on an abandoned cart or letting customers know about new products or offers, they allow you to build customer engagement well past an initial website visit.

Together, that combined technology removes obstacles from the buying journey and personalises the experience just like your favorite in-person shop assistant might — adding value for customers while helping retailers build new revenue and engagement opportunities.

How does a Virtual Shopping Assistant impact the shopping experience?

For e-commerce brands, having a website that customers like and trust is critical to building customer engagement. In fact, 30% of online consumers say a “preferred website” as the most important attribute when deciding where to buy.

By making customers feel taken care of and like they’re personally being spoken to, a Virtual Shopping Assistant helps e-commerce shops create a stronger, more distinctive website experience. And by customizing their offerings and personalizing their interactions, it allows them to further build their one-to-one relationships with buyers — increasing engagement and enhancing loyalty by providing the same experience (or as close as possible) customers look for when shopping in person.

So how exactly does a Virtual Shopping Assistant accomplish all of that?

What does Virtual Shopping Assistant help online retailers with?

A virtual store assistant can take on a wide range of tasks, and every e-commerce retailer will use theirs a little differently depending on their brand and audience. But some of the most popular uses include:

1. Answering your most common questions

Visitors on your website have many of the same questions — meaning your customer service team gets a lot of repeats every day. A Virtual Shopping Assistant can take on up to 80% of those most common questions, putting your best answers in front of customers quickly and efficiently. Better yet, answers are available day and night — and since 58% of consumers choose online shops over physical stores because of their 24/7 access, that level of convenience shouldn’t be overlooked.

2. Making product recommendations

By following the behavior of your onsite visitors and getting a sense of their preferences, Virtual Shopping Assistants can begin to learn what your customers like and make personalised product recommendations based on those behaviors. And that’s something buyers today are looking for: a survey of French consumers found that 54% saw relevant product recommendations as “a plus” while a full 33% deemed them “essential.”

3. Providing users with their order details

If a visitor does make a purchase, your Virtual Shopping Assistant can follow up by delivering that buyer’s order details, either directly on your website or promptly through a message or email after (or both). It can even help them track their order and show them when it’s going to be delivered. This isn’t just an efficient and quick way to provide buyers with the information they want, but demonstrates that you’re on top of their needs — giving them every reason to want to come back again.

4. Serving up relevant coupons, promos, and discounts

Whether it’s a first-time buyer discount, a seasonal offer, or a coupon tied to a specific product they’ve looked at, a Virtual Shopping Assistant is able to curate the discounts and offers it serves up to your buyers based on their preferences. That also means it can read a buyer’s intent to exit and offer an incentive that gets them to stay, or send them a promo code once they’ve already left to draw them back again - all of which give them reason to remain engaged and active on your site.

5. Reminding visitors of an abandoned shopping cart

Almost 70% of customers will abandon their online shopping cart, leaving possible business on the table. A Virtual Shopping Assistant can help by letting them know there are still purchases they want to make before they even leave your site. Or it can follow up after by sending a text or email to remind them there’s something waiting. Those follow-ups are effective too: 45% of cart abandonment emails are opened, 21% earn click-throughs, and 50% of those who click ultimately end up buying.

Why online retailers and brands should use a Virtual Shopping Assistants

All of that added functionality helps e-commerce retailers better meet their business goals. A Virtual Shopping Assistant not only lets you build a better relationship with your customers — creating more personalized, one-on-one engagement and a smoother buyer’s journey — but has also both revenue-building and money-saving potential. Here are a few ways a virtual store assistant achieves that:

1. It reduces repetitive, manual tasks

By answering the most frequent queries, a Virtual Shopping Assistant lets you focus your customer-facing team on the more complicated questions visitors might have. And freed of those manual, repetitive tasks, your customer service specialists are able to spend more time with those customers, providing custom solutions to their problems and offering a better, more personal, experience while they do. The entire level of customer service you offer rises as a result — keeping your customers happy and your customer service team more engaged with their jobs. Since 58% of customers aren’t afraid to cut ties with a company because of a poor customer experience, that’s a plus for any e-commerce brand.

2. It keeps visitors on your site

While a customer entering a physical store will always come in through the front door, visitors to your online store access it from all directions, not just the home page. That means they may need help getting to where they want to go, especially if they’ve never been there before. By pointing them in the right direction, a Virtual Shopping Assistant removes potential frustrations from the buyer’s journey that could cause them to cut their visit short, obliterating possible obstacles in the way and getting them where they want to go quicker. Personalised product recommendations and promos add to that experience, inspiring them to stick around and browse.

3. It encourages customers to come back and buy more

Personalised product recommendations alone can significantly increase AOV — for proof, just look at Amazon, which generates 35% of its revenue from recommendations. But a Virtual Shopping Assistant takes that one step further, providing shoppers with an experience they’re more likely to be satisfied with overall. And not only are satisfied customers more likely to come back, but returning customers spend more. They add 65% more items to their carts compared to first-time visitors and spend 16% more per transaction. On the other hand, 91% of unsatisfied customers won’t return for repeat business at all. There’s something else to consider too: since attracting a new customer costs 5 times as much as nurturing an existing customer, those loyal customers don’t just spend more but cost less as well.

4. It gives you more data to work with

If a shopper spends more time on your site and buys more while they’re there, you’re able to find out more about their behaviors and tastes. That includes information on their buying journey and how they got to their final sale — information you can use to improve your website experience for everyone. But it also means data on their buying habits, which your virtual assistant can use to further personalise recommendations and offers. Some brands take their virtual shop software a step further, asking questions that help them get to know the customer better, or asking for email addresses in exchange for a promo code or coupon — giving you a way to reach out with future offers, cart abandonment emails, and more.

5. It sets you apart from the competition

If your competitors don’t have one, a Virtual Shopping Assistant sets your website experience apart from theirs by adding to your brand value for buyers. But Virtual Shopping Assistants can also be an excellent way to customise your entire shopping and website experience. By offering a sense of personality through design, voice, and the user experience you provide, you have the opportunity to reinforce your brand and identity with buyers. You can then extend that same voice and brand experience through a cohesive omnichannel experience focused specifically on your target audience. That’s the type of one-to-one engagement that creates a direct relationship with customers — and keeps them coming back for more.

5 brands that nailed customer satisfaction and conversion rates with a Virtual Shopping Assistant

As the technology advances, Virtual Shopping Assistants are becoming a more and more common part of the online shopping experience, and for good reason — they offer significant results. Find out how these five companies use virtual shop software to build on their customer experience — and how it’s helped their businesses thrive.

Thon Hotels

Looking to provide a seamless customer experience, Thon Hotels — a hotel chain with locations in Norway, Brussels, and Rotterdam — introduced a chatbot to their site. They wanted to be able to answer their customers’ most commonly asked questions in real time, 24 hours a day.

Thon Hotels Buyer Guide

“Requests that were previously handled by phone or e-mail can now be answered directly by our chatbot,” says Morten Thorvaldsen, Executive Vice President for Thon Hotels. “We still have employees working in customer service, but our guests can receive real-time solutions to queries by using the chatbot on our website.”

The initiative has reduced calls and emails to their customer contact center by 30%. What’s more, Thon’s support staff have reported higher job satisfaction and requested less sick leave since the chatbot was launched.

Varner Group

As the company behind brands like Cubus, Dressmann, Bik Bok, Volt, and more, Varner Group is one of the largest fashion retailers in Scandinavia, with 1,400 stores across six countries. And with the goal of becoming the leading data and technology-driven fashion company in Scandinavia, they’re not afraid to try something new.

Dressmann Buyer Guide

With that in mind, the company A/B tested onsite messaging personalised to their users. They achieved a 34% increase in time spent on site and an average of one additional product added to their buyers’ carts. On top of that, they also saw a 17% increase in AOV and a 9% higher conversion rate.

Helthjem

A Norwegian shipping and logistics company, Helthjem delivers packages, magazines, and newspapers directly to the consumer — as well as freshly baked goods through its sister company Morgenlevering. Customers are at the center of their business, which makes customer care paramount. Technology helps them provide that.

When questions on their website increased during the COVID-19 pandemic, they introduced an onsite chatbot to help answer them. They also made it possible to track packages on their site. “People want to know the exact moment that their package will arrive,” says Anette Onshuus, Business Developer for Helthjem. “A chatbot answers those questions without requiring members of the team to manually look for that information.”

Helthjem Buyer Guide

The new chatbot provides detailed answers and real-time data, all in plain, easy-to-understand language. Powered by machine learning, it can give qualified answers to questions asked at every stage of the buying process. Not long after launch, Helthjem saw a 30% reduction in queries routed to customer service agents related to the question “I do not understand the tracking information.” This means that one in three follow-up questions asking for more details on the tracking information could be resolved by the chatbot.

Kahoot!

Norwegian game-based learning platform Kahoot! has seen massive growth around the world, with two billion players joining since they launched. But that rapid growth has come with challenges as well: namely, how to answer users' questions in real time when they’re located in different time zones across the globe. To solve the problem, Kahoot! introduced three separate chatbots — two focused on questions around features and price plans for both schools and businesses, and one to support their subscription plan.

Kahoot Buyer Guide

Today, they continue to evolve the chatbot offerings to meet more and more of their customers’ needs. “We’re just tweaking,” says Evelien Jacobs, Social Media & Community Specialist for Kahoot!. “And if this doesn’t work, then we can go back to other things. Just trying everything to see what works best.”

Conrad Electronic

Global online electronics and technology shop Conrad Electronic sells about 450,000 unique products on their websites and ships around the globe. Their customer service is one of the things that sets them apart, with 24/7 helpdesk access. To add to that, they introduced personalized onsite messaging to 10 of their European sites — increasing their conversion rates by 6% and their AOV by 17%.

Conrad Buyer Guide

Find out how a Virtual Shopping Assistant can help you

By creating a smoother, more personalized buying journey both on your site and off, Virtual Shopping Assistants help you build a more cohesive, customised shopping experience for your users. And in today’s e-commerce ecosystem, that can be the difference between a customer choosing your virtual store versus the array of other online shopping options available — and for creating loyal customers that keep coming back.

Find out how a Virtual Shopping Assistant can help your business grow

By creating a smoother, more personalized buying journey both on your site and off, Virtual Shopping Assistants help you build a more cohesive, customised shopping experience for your users. And in today’s e-commerce ecosystem, that can be the difference between a customer choosing your virtual store versus the array of other online shopping options available — and for creating loyal customers that keep coming back.