As the holiday season approaches, it's crunch time for retailers aiming to win back profits lost to the pandemic — here's how chat apps can help mount the fightback.
The past six months have been tough, even punishing, for many retailers, but there is good news for the up-and-coming holiday season. According to Bazaarvoice, 81% of consumers are still planning to purchase holiday gifts this year, with 61% stating they plan to spend the same as they did last year. A question mark though hangs over where they will spend their dollars with research showing 49% of shoppers now purchase more online since the pandemic began.
And in the e-commerce world, that can only mean one thing: online retail giants such as Amazon will continue to dominate for the rest of 2020 (and beyond). It leaves smaller retailers searching for ways to boost their online sales performance and customer experiences in the face of such stiff competition, especially as big ticket retail events — think Black Friday and Cyber Monday — are more vital than ever for securing much-needed revenues.
How WhatsApp and Viber serve both customers and retailers
To effectively connect and manage the expected surge in online shopping, retailers must engage with customers on channels they use in every day life and want to engage with retailers on: Messaging platforms. For instance, 90% of consumers prefer using messaging to communicate with businesses according to Data Dimension, and 53% of consumers say they are more likely to shop with a business they can contact via a messaging app.
A key ally in catering to this consumer preference are chat apps such as WhatsApp and Viber. Both are hugely popular; the former is currently the most popular in the world boasting over two billion users while the latter is one of the top 10 downloaded apps of all time with especially deep penetrations in Eastern Europe, CIS, Middle East, and Asian countries such as the Philippines and Myanmar.
Each platform offers a range of functionality that can be used to drive up sales via optimized customer experiences as well as create new marketing opportunities:
Best foot forward
Both platforms enable brands and retailers to move beyond plain text and emojis in chats, deploying rich media to help customers make up their minds about a particular product or service. Think images, GIFs, carousels, videos, and PDFs (as well as interactive buttons to simplify ordering processes) that bring shopping experiences to life on mobile screens.
An open book
WhatsApp and Viber allow brands to push out notifications that are relevant to the customer's order. From changing delivery details and opening up cross-selling/up-selling opportunities to viewing loyalty rewards, a well-timed notification strips back customer journey friction, which is essential during the often stressful purchasing rush associated with special sales days or Christmas.
Make it stick
The platforms allow retailers to swap out generic emoji sets, and replace them with digital, often animated emoji stickers that offer far more nuanced and personalized forms of expression. These enable brands to give customer conversations a more branded look too, plus sticker sets can be downloaded by the consumer in-app and used in their own conversations elsewhere. This in turn can help promote the brand far beyond that initial customer service chat.
Peace, not piece, of mind
WhatsApp Business and Viber Business Messages provide peace of mind to security-conscious shoppers by displaying a verified business mark, and securing chats with end-to-end encryption. Also, to satisfy corporate governance and compliance requirements, tyntec's WhatsApp and Viber solutions are fully compliant with GDPR.
Bot the lot?
The expensive, rather dumb chatbots of yesteryear have now been superseded by smart bots with lower development costs — and even entire out-of-the-box solutions. This enables bots to be rolled out at speed on WhatsApp and Viber and service customers who need answers to common FAQ-like questions, such as details on products/services, loyalty point updates, and more. While rolling out a bot this year may not be practical for some retailers, they should be made a critical consideration for 2021 (see below).
Chat App USPs Revealed
Both WhatsApp and Viber offer their own unique strengths for e-commerce to leverage:
Click to engage
When added to a Facebook or Instagram advert, click-to-chat enables customers to click through and connect with the retailer via WhatsApp instantly. This puts the customer in control of the conversation — and their privacy.
Strike up a conversation
Retailers can encourage customers to reach out to them directly via conversation starter buttons on keys areas on their website.
Like click-to-chat, these begin chats on WhatsApp immediately, enabling the customer to request more information on a product or service there and then, instead of being forced to wade through pages of website content or queue for a response from a call center agent.
The Marketer's Best Friend
Unlike other messaging platforms that ban promotional messaging, Viber allows businesses to promote their latest deals, send personalized offers, and much more as and when they choose to — so long as the customer has opted-in to receiving marketing missives.
Promotions can include sending offers to loyal clients, delivering discount coupons as a thank you (and to increase sales), and running branding and product campaigns. While WhatsApp offers several marketing opportunities, in this particular use case, any marketing missives sent via the platform must be directly related to the customer's query or order only.
Chat app-powered e-commerce: Bringing it home for the holidays
While such powerful functionality offers massive potential for revenue growth during the impending holiday season, it's understandable if retailers have concerns about implementing a chat app strategy in such a short period of time. Unless the business has a dedicated in-house IT team fully versed in messaging platform deployment, it represents a significant, even insurmountable, challenge.
It's why more and more retailers are partnering up with official providers such as tyntec that are able to create, roll out, and manage a retailer's entire messaging platform solution. Critically, tyntec has retail-specific APIs available that connect WhatsApp and Viber with existing commerce systems including Shopify, Slack, and more. This enables any chat app-based conversation to be fully personalized using pre-existing customer data. For those wishing to deploy a chatbot at speed, tyntec offers a range of no-code/low-code options to aid in rollout.
Importantly, by utilizing the potential of messaging platforms now, retailers are not only preparing their operations for this holiday season but ensuring their offerings remain relevant to increasingly digital-first customers in the long term. After all, Gartner research shows that 70% of all customer interactions will involve technologies including chatbots, machine learning, and mobile messaging by 2022. It means for retailers to secure revenues as the world emerges from the pandemic, reaching out to consumers on their preferred channels is now more vital than ever.