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Digital Sales Assistants: Bringing The Best of Human-to-Human Sales Interactions Online

Have you ever visited a brick-and-mortar retail store, not sure which product you wanted and only knowing what you wanted it to do for you?

And then you met a sales assistant who really listened to you, made sense of all your fuzzy preferences, and decoded your needs to show you the perfect product out of tens, maybe hundreds of choices?

knowledgeable sales associate
Source: argenautas.com

90% of consumers are more likely to buy when helped by a knowledgeable associate.

Front-line employees are the most important asset in brick-and-mortar retail businesses. They are the creators of the in-store experience. They assist customers whenever they need support, can make their shopping experiences more enjoyable, and in doing so, contribute to creating repeat customers and generating money for the business.

But how can you transfer this successful model to the digital world?

Your Customers are Shopping  Online. How Are You Assisting Them?

If you contrast the personal in-store experience we depicted above with the experience people typically have online, you’ll find that many online retail businesses are just not prepared. Many are still ignoring the human element, the customer’s needs and wants, and as a consequence, miss out on several opportunities to sell more effectively.

Today, if an online customer needs personal assistance and guidance, more often than not, there’s …

… crickets.

While e-commerce once was not more than a place for customers to make a transaction, today, it is much more than that. Your online store experience has become a seamless extension of your brand experience and your most important asset, as more customers are shopping exclusively online.

The most successful online retailers have become masters at applying proven sales tactics in retail to e-commerce and manage to create high-value, personalized, assistive online interactions. They closely monitor customer wants, needs and pain points and use modern technology to bring human-level experiences to digital channels.

  • 68% ranked honest and personal advice among the most important qualities they expect from their favorite brand or retailer
  • 44% want proactive recommendations and tips
  • 51% say better technical assistance would improve the post-purchase experience
how the customer wants to be treated
From the Sales Bible by Jeffrey Gitomer

 

Show Up, Wise Up, Speed Up

Martijn Bertisen, Country Sales Director, Google UK, comments,

“The consumer has fundamentally changed. Their engagement with new technologies and digital services has driven their expectations up higher and higher. They’re now demanding useful, engaging, and assistive experiences from all the brands they interact with.”

He explains how businesses can create and use assistive experiences to stay ahead in retail’s digital age:

SHOW UP: Capture demand and intent wherever and whenever – through reach, discovery, and inspiration across all devices and channels.

WISE UP: Apply machine learning to customer and business data to drive better decisions across your value chain.

SPEED UP: Make shopping easy and increase customer loyalty by enabling fast and frictionless purchases everywhere.

Digital sales assistants help companies rise to the occasion and enable these AI-driven, conversational, assistive experiences:

  • Initiate personal engagement with customers to understand their specific needs in different stages of the customer lifecycle (show up).
  • Use AI to drive meaningful conversations and correlate customer expectations to suitable products, solutions, and services (wise up).
  • Present the customer with the next best solution, the next best content, the next best product that matches their needs. This saves the customer’s time and energy by circumventing their endless scrolling, searching and contemplating (speed up).

In addition to enabling more personal digital customer interactions, digital sales assistants create real opportunities to drive business success:

1) Increase Customer Satisfaction and Engagement (+80%)

Digital sales assistants help you make the customer feel a sense of personal attention.

Instead of overwhelming them with seemingly random options and choices, digital assistants ease your customers into the customer journey by engaging them in a conversation about their needs.

A study by McKinsey suggests that 70% of buying decisions are based on how customers feel they are being treated.

So, be personal, treat them well, and they will be more inclined to choose you.

camera product finder
Starting a conversation with customers instead of leaving them alone with all their choices

 

2) Boost Conversions and Sales (+107%)

Customers who can’t decide, don’t buy.

Analysis paralysis and decision fatigue are problems that need to be directly addressed if you are to close more sales.

Customers feel a great deal of pressure when choosing the right product out of hundreds of available choices. The exhaustion causes users to browse multiple stores, comparing features and prices until they lose track, become frustrated and abandon the purchase.

A digital sales assistants dramatically cuts down research time, helps them emotionally validate their purchasing decisions and points them in the right direction towards a product that can fit their specific needs.

With advanced AI capable of making the most accurate suggestions, customers get exactly what they want, without having to wade through the sea of choices.

As a result, customers feel empowered. They feel smarter because they better understand the feature-benefit equation. Data shows that digital sales assistants increase a customer’s buying confidence, significantly boosting conversions and sales.

validating purchase decisions online
Validating purchase decisions and reassuring customers

 

3) Reduce Return Rates (-10%)

Returns are a major concern in the retail industry. The cure: minimizing doubts.

A survey by Clear Returns estimates that product returns cost UK retailers £60 billion a year, £20 billion from online purchases. Even Amazon faces the wrath of returns and raised the cost of its annual Prime membership from $99 to $119 to subsidize the cost of free shipping and returns.

Digital sales assistants effectively prevent a potential feeling of buyer’s remorse, and a reduced return rate (retailers report up to -10%) is a direct consequence of this. As customers articulate their preferences and concerns and can see them being immediately addressed, they’re less likely to doubt their purchase decision later on.

Since digital sales assistants explain and clearly detail how exactly a product aligns with customers’ personal needs, their trust in the purchase is reinforced.

Read more: How to Reduce Returns with a Digital Sales Assistant

 

4) Improve Cross-Selling Opportunities (+9.7% AOV)

Whenever a customer feels that you listen and acknowledge their needs and concerns, they are ready to hear what else you have to say.

Customers who use a product finder quiz are more engaged, typically stay on the site longer, and are more likely to trust your recommendations. This provides the perfect opportunity to make them aware of other products that add value to or complement their current purchase.

need-based upselling
Upselling products based on what is known about the customer’s needs and goals

 

5) Generate Actionable Data and Insights

In the age of big data, where personalized shopping experiences are the lifeblood of business, the precise and highly insightful data captured by digital sales assistants is marketing gold.

The conversational nature of digital sales assistants lets you uncover details like a customer being a pro-level photographer, frequent traveler or adventure lover. It enables marketing teams to create a highly specific customer profile, letting them personalize their marketing to a level of perfection.

enhancing customer profile
Enhancing customer profiles to create more targeted messages and personalized customer interactions

 

Those are just the logically quantifiable reasons why digital sales assistants improve shopping experiences. Their true essence runs much deeper.

Digital sales assistants are the bridge between today’s hi-tech shopping landscape and the personal, friendly and social shopping experiences people are used to receiving in-store.

They act as the perfect opportunity to indulge your customers in a one-on-one dialogue and make them feel that you care, and are listening. The perfect product recommendations position you as an expert and reinforce their trust in you, turning them into loyal customers and brand advocates.

And that is priceless.

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