Chatbots and voice shopping

The End of Omnichannel

This morning my friend Celine said in a meeting, “There will be no omnichannel, we’ll stop differentiating all the media we use and then it will just be retailing again.”

A smart observation and one that provides a good backdrop to discuss voice shopping.

A little bit of context

Personal interactions between shoppers and store associates defined retail for hundreds of years. In the 50’s self-service became the norm and from there ecommerce websites and apps have moved in to make the process of buying more efficient. But as these efficiencies have increased, personal interactions and the resulting conversations have disappeared, and as a result, a customer’s personal connection to a business has become less and less. This is important as business try to build relationships with their customers.

      Key Takeaways

  1. The ‘conversational interface’ is where omnichannel ecommerce is headed, whether augmenting in-store
    or online experiences or even as the sole touchpoint.
  2. The nuts and bolts of the conversational interface for a chatbot and a voice device are effectively identical.
    The same components are required: the marked-up content, the ability to process context and intent,
    and in many cases communication medium itself.

AI to the rescue

Thanks to new artificially intelligent, conversational interfaces, all that is about to change. It’s now possible for a customer to interact with their retailer, using their own voice and receive a fast, efficient, and best of all, personal experience.

We’re talking about voice shopping, conversational commerce, smart speakers, chatbots, and natural language processing – For retailers who want to build meaningful and long-term relationships with their customers, now’s the time to consider adding these technologies into their retail technology roadmap.

Chatbots first. Voice second

Voice still has a fair way to go before it’s going to overtake the chatbot “bubble” interface. Right now it’s great for one-way instructions like turning on lights, playing Jeopardy, or listening to a Rolling Stones playlist, but as requests get more complex, deep integration with the retailer’s systems, silos, product catalogs, MDM, titles, descriptions, items numbers, abbreviations and more becomes a pivotal part of creating a meaningful customer experience.

Search is a good way to demonstrate this: Let’s say we’re looking for an iPhone 8 on the Apple.com website. There are three variants of the product, the iPhone 8X, the iPhone 8 Plus and the iPhone 8. Assuming we know nothing about the products, visually the site presents us with a very effective side-by-side comparison and beautiful imagery.

Of course, if we asked a voice-based interface to do this simple search, it would become very complicated very quickly. Imagine being told the various details of each phone as you try to compare them.

Now imagine something more complex like searching Amazon for a pair of hiking boots. This produces hundreds of results – easily scrollable on a screen, but next to impossible for a normal human to even remember past the first five items as the voice agent describes each product.

A text-based chatbot has similar issues, however, it can show images in a carousel. For voice, this problem can be solved using search refinement techniques, where the bot can ask some qualifying questions before it starts to talk about a product. Still, even though today’s product catalogs may be attribute rich, the average voice agent may not know which are the most important attributes to use in those qualifying questions.

Building product search for both text and voice interfaces requires strong A.I. to disambiguate the request, then requires well marked-up product data. A different breed of A.I. is required for this, one that imbues semantic meaning product data based on what people search for and what they finally select. Ecommerce labs are steadily improving the accuracy of these technologies.

Implementing chatbots today will make voice easier tomorrow

Because the frameworks of the conversational interface for a chatbot and a voice device are effectively the same, retailers, who offer chatbots to their customers now put themselves in a good position to make a successful leap to voice shopping once customers adopt this new way to shop.

Conversational commerce is a reality now, and voice-shopping is not far behind. Interested in how you can add chatbots and voice to your omnichannel roadmap?

Contact us today; we’d love to hear what you’re planning.

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“Holiday 2017 – Can Chatbots Pass the Stress Test?”

Holiday 2017 chatbot

It’s that time of year again, with retailers investing heavily in holiday campaigns, merchandise, and staffing, and shoppers everywhere are investing time, energy, and savings in holiday cheer. The upcoming weeks between Black Friday and January sales provide an annual stress test, not only to a retailer’s processes and systems but more importantly, to their customers’ patience.

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Getting Up To Speed On Chatbots

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It’s no wonder you’re hearing a lot about chatbots these days. With 2.5 billion people worldwide using at least one messaging platform, and more than 1.6 billion of them using Facebook Messenger, social messaging is driving an exciting opportunity for retailers. As with the advent of mobile, and with the web before that, AI Chatbots for retail offer a fresh way for brands to interact with their customers. Understanding chatbots and where they fit will help you get quickly up to speed on social selling. 

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We Meet The Aerie Chatbot

At the April 2017 Facebook Developer Conference, Mark Zuckerberg announced a new version of Facebook Messenger containing a host of features that would help ecommerce retailers fully engage with their customers. Women’s intimates retailer Aerie immediately launched a chatbot that took advantage of many of the new features.

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Chatbot Reviews: The Facebook Messenger 1-800-Flowers Chatbot

The original 1-800-Flowers chatbot demonstrates that this company is no laggard. They launched their Facebook Messenger chatbot in April 2016 at the F8 conference. What better press than Mark Zuckerberg announcing “To order from 1-800-Flowers, you never have to call 1-800-Flowers again.”

Well, things have moved on and we see a new version of the  1-800-Flowers chatbot powered by IBM Watson.

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Chatbot Reviews: Order Status Chatbot from Best Buy

As we get closer to the Holidays, customers get increasingly concerned that their orders are not going to be delivered on time. So the clever chaps at Best Buy are experimenting with an order status chatbot that will reduce the load on the call center by providing updates on customer orders. At 1080bots we take a good look at ecommerce chatbots to figure out the most helpful ecommerce conversational experiences.

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Chatbot Reviews: IKEA Build Bot (not IKEA’s bot)

Recently Gam purchased a chest of drawers at an IKEA in Madrid – the IKEA Buildbot claimed to show him how to put it together. The team at 1080bots is studying retail chatbots to improve our delivery of productive ecommerce conversational experiences to represent your brand image and deliver business objectives. So we decided to see what Buildbot had to offer. At 1080bots we’re always studying retail chatbots to improve our delivery of productive ecommerce conversational experiences. Chatbots should both represent your brand image and deliver on business objectives.

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Chatbot Reviews: VSPINK on Kik Messenger

Victoria’s Secret Pink brand has created VSPINK on Kik, a messaging platform. Kik boasts a young, active and fast growing user base of 300+ million users. At 1080bots we’re always studying retail chatbots to improve our delivery of productive ecommerce conversational experiences. Chatbots should both represent your brand image and deliver business objectives.

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Chatbot Reviews: Sephora Chatbot on Kik

Sephora is one of the earliest retailers to offer a chatbot experience consistent with its chic and modern brand values. The Sephora chatbot is available on Kik, a messaging platform popular with millennials. The team at 1080bots is continually reviewing chatbots to figure out how to create brilliant high-touch ecommerce experiences that represent brands and deliver on business objectives.

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Chatbot Reviews: The White House Chatbot

The team at 1080bots is continually reviewing chatbots to figure out how to create memorable conversational experiences that represent brands and deliver on ecommerce objectives. Here’s a review of the White House chatbot (September 2016). We discovered the White House chatbot in a Facebook Messenger recommendation. The chatbot promised that we’d get a message to President Obama, a great job for a chatbot collecting information from a lot of people and passing it on.

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Building better chatbots means teaching them the 7-laws of chatbotics. Here’s what we drill into every chatbot module we create. Chatbots have a very important part to play in all aspects of human lives going forward, so it’s important that they act responsibly every time they meet a human. Their job is to be of service, to be patient and most of all, be reliable in everything they do.

Here are the guidelines that make our chatbots great.

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Adding chatbots to your ecommerce roadmap?

1080bots has become the go-to resource for retailers looking to add chatbots to their ecommerce, omnichannel roadmaps. With over 20-years experience in retail ecommerce we understand the technology and we know how to engage customers. Want to learn more about how 1080bots can help you add world-class chatbots to your omnichannel offering? Send a note to ez@firstretail.com, or fill out the form below and we’ll get right back to you.

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National e-retailer adds 1080bots chatbot modules

We’re happy to announce that 1080bots.com has been selected as the vendor of choice for a national click and mortar retailer.

The chatbots we’re implementing include product finder, ratings & reviews and store finder. Additional product finder chatbots specifically tuned toward helping customers find the perfect wine and locate the furniture for small spaces will be next.

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Integration with ecommerce systems.

Better integration means better customer experiences.

Easy chatbot integration for ecommerce retailers means a richer dialog and better customer experience. Our many years in retail ecommerce have taught us that to provide the best service in a customer conversation, you have to be able to respond usefully to any relevant customer requestDoing this well requires careful integration with the entire ecommerce application stack.

The chatbots we build integrate with ecommerce applications while leveraging powerful machine intelligence that understands intent, thereby guiding both conversation and action. This allows our chatbots to deliver customer experiences that increase the quality of conversions as they help to build and maintain brands.

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