It is a beautiful winter morning in a quiet suburb in Madrid, Spain.
The Jimenez household had welcomed baby boy Rafael a month ago.
Mrs. Angela Jimenez (mother) had a huge list of baby clothes ordered online. A lot of them were winter clothes. So far, all the items have arrived except for 5 pieces of cotton and woolen Onesies.
She wanted those Onesies sooner as the winter had already kicked-in. She wants her baby to stay warm and comfortable. Like any mother.
Mrs. Jimenez used the live chat on the store’s website and tried to find out the shipping status. And she was directed to write a detailed email to the customer support team.
This running-about is putting more stress on the new mother.
“Why can’t they just verify and update me? Why do I have to run around?” She asks herself.
Every ecommerce store owner would ask – how can I automate all forms of customer service touchpoints for my online store?
So, let’s look at how you can automate customer service for your online store.
4 foundational pillars to automate customer service in ecommerce
A good way to start is to look at these 4 influential pillars:
- Impact of automation in social media listening.
- Value of automating emails and newsletters.
- Importance of automating post-sale customer service elements.
- Implementing Chatbots and AI to automate first-class customer service.
1 – Listening to mentions on social media automatically
Monitoring your social media content (social listening) – mentions, comments, retweets – can help you become a more proactive brand.
Think of all your brand engagement channels accessible to your customers.
Among all the channels, your social media channels are the low hanging fruit.
Image of social media communication for an ecommerce situation
The first step to monitoring your brand’s social conversations is to understand what keywords your audience use while expressing their views on social media.
I am sure you already have a list of keywords related to your brand and products. But do pay attention to words, phrases, and hashtags used by your audience when they talk about you.
Tools for social listening: Social media automation tools like Buffer, not only allow you to publish content, but also help you monitor audience reaction on all your social media channels. Here’s a great resource to help you leverage Buffer to conduct top notch social listening. Hootsuite is another social media automation platform which has similar features to Buffer. Schedule and monitor your social channels via Hootsuite – learn more here.
- Monitoring and leveraging what your audience says about your brand and products makes you a proactive brand.
- Make a list of keywords, phrases, and hashtags your audience use to express their views about your brand or products. Constantly revise this list to stay ahead of the game.
- Buffer is one such tool which can help you not only automate posting content on social media, but also to monitor your audience reactions.
2 – Perfecting your automated transactional emails
How much is email worth to you?
How much is email worth to the ecommerce ecosystem?
Experian estimates that the average email address is worth £84.50.
This is a cross-industry average and will differ greatly, depending on the typical customer lifetime value.
Whatever the exact figure for each industry, it does underline the value of email acquisition to build a database.
But there are some corners of the business world who greatly exaggerate the death of email in ecommerce.
In fact the Econsultancy / Adestra 2019 Email Marketing Census confirms this, with 73% of respondents ranking the channel as excellent, compared to 72% for SEO and 67% for paid search.
Despite the positive stats on ROI, email attracted only 13% of company marketing spend on average in the last year, though this was attributed to 19% of sales.
Not only you got to put a lot more effort into email, but you also got to play it smart. Email automation should be the top of your email checklist.
The basic idea of email automation is to:
- automate the process of sending targeted emails at the right time.
- empowering your audience to take specific actions via those emails.
- which leads to building personalized relationships with your audience.
So, why do I need to invest in a dedicated email automation tool, you ask?
Just visualize your marketing funnel.
Visualize your audience segments.
More of each compounds your email communication challenges.
Email automation tools help you craft the perfect message to each of your customer segments and ensure that you’re sending the right emails to the right audience at the right time.
Because email automation is campaign driven, you can use the data from each of your campaigns to measure their effectiveness and see what works the best for your business.
Tools for email automation: MailChimp is a popular tool which has become a full-scale marketing platform. It has got plenty of DIY guides and templates to help you kick-start automating email communication. HubSpot is another marketing automation titan that is also an all-round tool.
- Email is still a valuable component in retaining customers and getting them to buy more from you.
- The basic structure of automated emails is to send messages at the right time, to the right audience and encourage them to take a specific action.
- Variety in customer segments compound your email communication challenges.
- So, choose the right tool to automate email responses and analyze their impact.
3 – Focusing on post-sale customer service automation
According to Marketing Metrics, if a customer has previously made a purchase from your company, there is at least a 60 percent chance that they will make at least one more purchase.
Meanwhile, if a new visitor clicks on your site, the chances of that person becoming a paying customer are only 20 percent at the most.
This is the power of customer retention. Nurturing the post-sale relationship is a great case for automation.
Setting up post-sales emails to be sent asking for a review is just the start.
With modern day marketing automation tools, you can achieve a lot more.
Email marketing is vital for post-sale customer service. Most email marketing tools have great automation systems which let you segment your customers based on what they have bought, when they bought it, order history and so on. You can then email these segments more precisely with targeted content.
Asking for reviews can be automated too. However, your post-sale nurturing should be channel aware. For example, sending a branded thank you email for purchasing a product on an ecommerce platform like Amazon wouldn’t make much sense. This tactic would work with customers who have bought goods directly from your brand website.
You also need to pay attention to post purchase customer communication, such as emails, calls, messages via social media.
Here the challenge is to collate customer messaging from all platforms and try and make sense of the context. Imagine a query has been raised over a recent purchase via LIVE CHAT. But the same customer had posted a scathing review about the issue on Twitter a week ago.
Unless you view all messaging from this customer on a single screen, you wouldn’t know the complete picture. But, there are tools to help you manage this as well.
Automating smooth product return authorization is another challenge. We understand that for most online sellers, most of your time goes into handling returns and warranty claims. The process of managing returns is repetitive.
- You receive a message from the customer asking for a return.
- An employee validates the purchase and authorizes the return.
- The same or another employee generates a shipping label for the return.
These actions follow a simple set of pre-defined rules and are a great candidate for automation.
What’s the upside? If returns are managed well, it builds trust and loyalty.
So, let’s look at some dynamic tools which can help you automate post-sale customer service.
Tools for post-sale customer service: You may begin with email marketing tools such as MailChimp or HubSpot that allow you to set up and trigger post purchase emails. Use platforms like TrustPilot, Yotpo, Reviews.io or Stamped.io to capture user generated content such as reviews, testimonials and ratings. Another fantastic tool is Autochat.io. It is a great tool to empower your support team to address post purchase inquiries at a snap. It presents all the relevant purchase history data to support executives and enable them to answer and solve queries quickly. Also, with the help of Autochat.io, you can monitor customer messages from any channel (email, chat, social media) on one platform, and make customer service a delight. Here are some return management tools verified for Shopify.
- Customer retention is cheaper and brings you more business than acquiring new customers.
- Post-purchase nurturing via email messages is just the first step.
- Use marketing and content capturing automation tools to stay connected with your customers and gradually build a long-lasting relationship.
- Get the context of all customer messaging on a single screen to better serve customers.
- Return management eats up a lot of your time and is a prime candidate for automation.
4 – Focusing on conversational customer service via chatbots and AI
The icing on the automation cake is chatbots fueled by AI.
Truth be told, chatbots on most ecommerce sites are pretty inefficient.
But site visitors still prefer to use them.
The answer is accessibility. In an era of constantly diminishing attention spans, nobody has time to write an email, dial the support number or fill out a customer service request form.
Ecommerce site visitors know where to find the chat window.
It’s right there at the bottom of every online store. It’s easy.
Here are some statistics to prove the impact of chatbots.
- 47% of users are open to purchasing items through a bot.
- 71% of users are willing to receive customer service through a messaging app.
- On average, users are willing to spend more than $55 on chatbot purchases.
Chatbots, either completely automated or partially, are still a must have tool on your site. Let’s look at both the cases.
Completely automated chatbot: here the queries are answered solely by a computer. The upside to this is that there’s no limit to the number of simultaneous customer interactions a computer can have. When more contextual data is fed to train such a chatbot, you significantly increase the pace and accuracy in solving customer queries.
Partially automated chatbot: here, only the basic queries like product search, shipping updates, etc. are addressed by the chatbot. For anything complex, the chat is transferred to a live person (your employee). Here too, gathering old communication from the customer from all messaging platforms and providing the query context to your support executive within seconds, impacts your customer service quality.
For many mid-size retailers, the low level of support coming in over chat won’t justify automation just yet. But as intelligent bots get cheaper and more customers choose to use chat for support, it’s going to be an increasingly attractive option.
Chatbot tools: there are various plug-in-and-play chatbots available. These are exclusively developed for ecommerce platforms such as Shopify or Magenta. However, you can also find chatbots for online store sites developed on CMS platforms such as WordPress or Squarespace as well. Autochat.io is a conversational shopping tool that allows you to deploy a chatbot on your site, and also offers other automation features such as a shared inbox for your support executives and an intelligent dashboard which collects all customer messaging in one window to give you a complete query context. Zendesk, Intercom, ZohosalesIQ are also great tools to deploy great chatbot features on your site.
- Ecommerce audiences find chatbots very accessible and hence it is very popular.
- The kind of chatbot your store needs depends on your ambition to automate business functions. There are tools which solely work as a chatbot on your store, and there are all-round apps that have chatbots as one of the automation features you require to run an online store worry free.
- The cost of deploying an effective chatbot on online stores is getting cheaper.
- Every ecommerce platform’s marketplace has a list of great reviewed and rated chatbot apps.
Ecommerce customer service best practices
No matter how fancy your plugins are, no matter how well-rounded your chatbot is, what determines success in ecommerce are your strategies and workflows. Tools are just a means to an end.
If you have the right set of tactics, you will always find tools to support your business management vision. So, to begin with your automation journey, here are five points that should be part of your foundational automation strategy.
#1 Speeding up your response: ‘Speeding up your response’ is a very common adage in the customer service industry. But this target should not be chased at the cost of context and accuracy. The sole purpose of any communication with your audience is to understand what they want and solve their queries. The challenge is when you try to scale customer service. The savior indeed is automation.
#2 Using social media for customer service: your audience is already there. Millennial consumers are adept at communicating through Facebook and Instagram, Generation X is profoundly comfortable to do commerce and communication on Snapchat. It is time for you to strengthen your omnichannel strategies and bring in automation to scale customer service on all channels.
#3 Providing proactive customer support: you, specifically your marketing and support teams could do their jobs in a better fashion if they are given enough context about each prospect or customer. Invest on tools that can automate repetitive tasks allowing your employees to spend more time on serving customers.
#4 Including customer self-service options: ecommerce transactions are turning more personal and conversational. Conversational not with people or processes, but with user interfaces and platforms. Shoppers are growing more independent and knowledgeable by the day. Implementing self-service features such as chatbots, virtual shopping assistants etc. is as mandatory as accepting online payments.
#5 Leveraging customer service tools: your site might run on marketplace platforms such as Shopify or on a CMS such as WordPress. An influential ecosystem of apps and plugins exists to solely help you manage your business smoothly. For an ecommerce entrepreneur, you get to stay updated on latest tools, techniques, tactics, and workflows that help you remove ambiguity from your business and give you more control and peace of mind as a business owner. What we would say is that the power of the internet is what gave birth to ecommerce, you have the choice of implementing powerful, accessible, peripheral technologies to enhance your operations business today.
We understand that formulating the right tactics that remain sustainable in 2020 and choosing the right set of automation tools among a panoply of distinguished apps and plugins – is a tough ask.
They say that a well read businessman or businesswoman is already ahead of the rest. This is what motivated us at Autochat.io to create a repository of helpful resources for ecommerce business owners around the world.
You can count on us and bookmark our blog to receive actionable tips and well researched analysis on factors that help you run your business smoothly as ever.
This innate passion and obligation to empower ecommerce entrepreneurs is what led us to create Autochat, an all-round Shopify application built to help you manage customers efficiently and boost sales through effective conversational marketing features. Visit Autochat.io to learn more.