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How to Master the Retail Self-service Challenge

More than ever, online consumers are willing and ready to experience retail at a self-service pace. Spending an unnecessary amount of time waiting for answers before making purchase decisions is simply not on their want-to-do list. According to a report by Forbes, 53% of adults in the US will likely abandon an online purchase if they cannot get their questions answered quickly.

To avoid this turnover, a quick fix is to implement a self-service system.

Self-service is a powerful solution for your business and consumers alike. It’s a no-brainer, given that 81% of consumers will attempt to solve issues on their own before reaching out to the support team. For your business, it means fewer calls to manage, higher conversion and significant cost and time savings. For consumers, it means a frictionless buying journey, and this is worth a lot today!

If you’re thinking about adding self-service options to your customer service portfolio and want to get real benefits, you should consider the following five characteristics of successful self-service solutions.

1) Understand what consumers want

The first and most important self-service requirement is being able to understand what your website visitors actually want and need. Only this will ensure that you provide accurate information which they will find helpful. Don’t force visitors to use your company jargon and marketing terms either. Instead, allow them to self-serve using the language and terms they understand and feel comfortable with.

Natural language processing (NLP) is a great AI technique to use for this exact reason. It is an automatic, yet smart, way to understand and get behind the real meaning of what consumers are asking before providing them with the most relevant response.

2) Be a helpful time-saver on all channels

Optimizing for mobile is a must-have in your self-service strategy. We spend so much time on our phones that it’s typically the first device a person turns to when they’re researching a purchase or require support. 45% of internet users in the US ranked a mobile device as their most important shopping tool.

But it is still important to allow consumers to use the channel that works best for them. Whether they want to go in-store to ask a question to a sales associate, chat with someone online or call the support desk, they should be able to use whatever channel is most conducive to their shopping experience.

To enable a seamless self-service experience, make sure all your channels are connected and in sync. You’ll be much more successful at leading consumers down the right path if you keep track of their interactions with your company. They will be able to continue conversations on different channels without having to re-enter information or re-ask the same question, which, believe it or not, is a significant experience game-changer.

3) Keep your system up-to-date

In fast and dynamic environments such as e-commerce, information is constantly changing and any self-service solution can quickly become outdated if it is not consistently updated.

Make sure that your self-service system is easy-to-manage and supports frequent updates to deliver accurate responses and results, every time.

The most successful self-service solutions are self-learning and reduce the effort needed to maintain and update them. They use machine learning to analyze interactions and learn from user behavior data (i.e. user feedback) to

  • automatically improve the accuracy of results and responses over time
  • help you quickly identify what needs to be optimized

4) Provide proactive support

An easy way to prevent support calls and encourage self-service is to provide contextual help from the start. AI-based self-service systems can anticipate a consumer’s questions and issues before they turn into problems. They understand the context of a consumer’s journey and provide answers before consumers even realize that they have a question. Whether this is through a chatbot or digital assistants on a website, proactive support ensures that the consumer gets the relevant information exactly when they need it.

77% of Americans like having information at their fingertips. Be proactive and provide relevant information so that consumers have the right information to navigate the customer journey, without squandering their time, searching.

5) Gather data and insights

Aggregating and analyzing the interactions with your self-service solution does not only help you improve it, but it also provides you with critical insights into your visitors wants, needs, preferences, and expectations. By gathering this data and insights, you’ll be able to better serve your customers and gain a real competitive advantage.


As service expectations keep growing, self-service is the best answer. Consumers have increasingly complex demands and want brands to value their time by providing quick ways to get from point A to point B. By employing a self-service system that is capable of real-time and iterative understanding, you’ll find it much easier to keep up with the demands of modern shoppers.



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Lilly Eggert covers topics ranging from digital transformation to customer experience, user experience, and artificial intelligence. Through her research and writing, she is continuously fascinated by how technology continues to transform online and in-person experiences. Based in New York City, Lilly spends her free time exploring the city, trying new recipes and checking out way too many books from the public library.