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Article 6 min read

How e-commerce brands use conversational AI to reduce customer effort

No customer wants a simple exchange to feel difficult. Learn why e-commerce brands are looking toward conversational AI as the solution.

By McKay Borbon, Content Marketing Manager, Thankful

Last updated September 27, 2022

The e-commerce market has exploded over the past few years and is continuing to grow at an accelerated rate. By 2023, online retail sales are anticipated to reach $6.17 trillion.

With more people doing their shopping online than ever before, e-commerce CX has become a priority for many businesses. With a highly competitive landscape of as many as 12 million e-commerce companies, delivering easy and convenient customer experiences is more than a differentiator—it is a necessity for brand success.

The more effort a customer has to put into a service interaction, the more likely they are to leave your brand. In fact, customers are 87% more likely to go to a competitor after a high-effort service experience. And the impact of inefficient service transcends the customer-brand relationship; 77% of consumers say it detracts from their quality of life.

Customer effort statistic

To combat high-effort service interactions and the churn that comes along with it, many brands are turning to conversational AI to help simplify experiences for customers. In the Zendesk Customer Experience Trends Report 2022, 66% of customers said AI makes their lives easier. They also credit AI for saving them time and effort while also elevating the overall service experience.

Reducing customer effort also comes with the bonus of reducing your costs. A Gartner study found that a low-effort experience costs a company 37% less than a high-effort experience, on average.

What is conversational AI and why does it matter?

What is conversational AI and why does it matter? - microphone stretched out to person speaking

Conversational AI is a form of artificial intelligence that uses large volumes of data, natural language processing (NLP) and machine learning. It enables computers to analyse, understand, contextualise and measure the meaning and sentiment of language with accuracy. This means it can deliver experiences that are indistinguishable from human interactions.

A low-effort experience costs a company 37% less than a high-effort experience, on average.

In the context of e-commerce customer service, conversational AI takes automated support to the next level by facilitating human-like interactions with customers across channels. E-commerce brands using conversational AI are able to scale their support and sustain growth without sacrificing quality. It frees human agents to focus on high-value service queries, minimises seasonal hiring efforts, and can reduce operational costs.

This meets consumers’ ever-rising expectations for quick, personalised and low-effort support.

Messaging best practice examples for better customer service

Get your free guide on eight ways to transform your support strategy with messaging—from WhatsApp to live chat and everything in between.

Here are three ways conversational AI reduces customer effort to enhance e-commerce service experiences:

  1. Conversational AI eliminates the need for repetition

    A sure-fire way to frustrate your customers is making them repeat themselves. Once they have provided you with the information, they don’t want to repeat themselves. The resentment toward repetition is so strong that 92% of customers will spend more with companies that don’t make them repeat themselves.
    Having to reiterate information is not only frustrating but also leaves customers feeling unheard and undervalued. Whether they are communicating with a chatbot or an agent, or they are being transferred around to several agents, 71% of customers expect information to be passed along so that they do not have to repeat themselves.
    When well trained, AI never forgets a customer or their history with a brand. Customer context and data are readily on hand, so customers don’t need to provide as much information each time they contact support. The most advanced conversational AI is also capable of going beyond surface-level intent to understand customers’ contact reasons, motivations and sentiment. This high level of understanding not only helps customers receive the service they need but also reduces the amount of explaining and back-and-forth. It saves time and effort while delivering personalised experiences that make customers feel cared for.

    The resentment toward repetition is so strong that 92% of customers will spend more with companies that don’t make them repeat themselves.

    In the event that a hand-off does occur, a conversational AI tool that integrates with your help desk can seamlessly transfer customers to a human agent. With a unified view of each customer’s information and conversation history, the interaction can pick up right where it left off. This eliminates the need for customers to repeat themselves, and depending on the company’s internal processes, customers may not even know that a transfer occurred.
  2. Conversational AI delivers full-service experiences at scale

    Many service organisations do not have the bandwidth to provide the same level of high-quality service for every single customer query. As a result, chatbots and other automated support technologies are commonly used as deflection tools. Rather than having their issues resolved, customers are often redirected to a self-service portal. The best a brand can hope for is that its self-service option is enough for customers to figure out their own problems. No matter how robust or useful a self-service portal is, it requires customers to put in more effort.
    Only 9% of support journeys are resolved solely within self-service portals. These deflected customers will continue to spend even more time and energy trying to connect with your support team to get the service they need. By failing to provide customers with full service, brands are creating more work for customers while also missing an opportunity to make them feel valued and cared for.
    With conversational AI, e-commerce brands don’t have to forfeit the quality of service to support more inbound customer requests. From hypergrowth to seasonal rushes and daily fluctuations, conversational AI allows brands to provide full service at scale while minimising pressure on human agents. Customers can always count on receiving the support they need—even during peak shopping season and unprecedented spikes in ticket volume.
  3. Conversational AI makes customer service accessible (anytime, anywhere)

    Today’s consumers want to choose how and when they shop, so it should come as no surprise that they also want to choose how and when they contact customer support.
    Their lifestyle, schedules, devices and personal preferences dictate how and when they connect with a brand. It’s no surprise that 90% of consumers want an omni-channel experience. Whether they are contacting a brand via email at noon on a Sunday or by SMS in the middle of the night on New Year’s Eve, they expect quick and effective resolutions.
    Providing 24/7 omni-channel service makes it easier for customers to reach out for support. It’s convenient for customers and gives them more control of their experience. This reduces the effort they need to put into the interaction and increases the likelihood they’ll be satisfied.

The future of e-commerce customer service success

The future of e-commerce customer service success, rainbow

Conversational AI is setting a new standard for e-commerce customer service, making it possible for brands to deliver quick, accessible, low-effort, personalised and empathetic support at scale. The adoption of AI is increasingly necessary for business success.

E-commerce brands are wasting no time adding conversational AI to their support strategies. Customer service is the No.1 application of AI being deployed today, and just like e-commerce, the expansion of AI won’t be slowing down anytime soon. By 2025, 95% of customer service interactions will be supported by AI.

To remain competitive in the oversaturated e-commerce market, brands need to keep up with the times and equip their support teams with tools that will empower them to take CX to the next level.

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