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The ultimate guide to AI chatbots for ecommerce

December 18, 2023

If you are not using an AI overlord chatbot for your customer service, you’re seriously missing out. This complete guide will convince you to build one today.

Shopping online has become the new norm, from groceries to electric vehicles, even swimming pools (in this order, of course). Customers are increasingly ditching physical stores for digital carts. Customers crave the ease of shopping from home. They want the personal touch of in-store service, blended with the internet's speed.

Meeting these expectations is tough for online retailers, especially if you are a no-code ecommerce business. Enter AI chatbots in e-commerce—your solution for better customer service, faster operations, and lower costs. More no-code, better business.

This guide breaks down the benefits of AI chatbots, showcases them in action, and offers practical tips for integrating them into your e-commerce business with just a snap of your fingers.

Why should you get an e-commerce chatbot? 

Online shoppers expect instant answers, anytime. Even the best service teams struggle to deliver this, often at high costs.

Chatbots keep your customers happy, help scale your business, and cut costs. Some stats to convince you:

When you're shopping and have a question, do you wait 24 to 48 hours for a response? Most likely, you'll move on to another store that offers quicker help or immediate shopping assistance.

Now, imagine needing to respond "immediately" to hundreds of queries across your website and social media. It's overwhelming. 

These chatbots can handle most customer support questions using your website's existing data. This keeps the conversation flowing and the customer engaged with your brand, increasing the likelihood of purchase during the assisted session.

Ecommerce chatbot types

Chatbot technology keeps evolving, always. Though there's ongoing development in automation using artificial intelligence and machine learning, chatbots generally fall into two categories. Let’s quickly overview these types:

Simple chatbots

These are basic, rule-based bots with limited capabilities, ideal for straightforward tasks. They operate by asking questions from a set of predetermined options. The user selects from these options to find answers. These chatbots don’t understand context or past interactions; they respond solely based on the user's current input.

For example, a pizza-ordering chatbot will guide you through choices like size, crust, and toppings, and then take your delivery address and payment.

Smart chatbots

Smart chatbots are a step above simple ones. They use conversational AI to better grasp human intentions. These bots can mimic natural, flowing conversations, learning from previous interactions and built-in parameters.

Take online shopping assistants as an example. These bots can respond to queries like looking for skin-brightening products, and offering relevant recommendations from the store.

Example of a smart chatbot during early stages of development

If you've interacted with Google Assistant, it's a good example of a smart chatbot. It can understand various question formats and provide pertinent answers.

Advantages of AI-based chatbots

Plenty!

Always there, 24/7

Chatbots don't sleep, fall ill, or take vacations. They're ready to assist your customers day and night. While it's a challenge for human agents to be available 24/7, chatbots handle it effortlessly.

Custom experiences

Chatbots are great at quickly gathering, remembering, and using data. They can remind customers to restock items like pet food. This kind of personalized service isn't just nice for customers; they expect it. Salesforce reports that 66% of customers anticipate companies to understand their needs, and 70% say personalization deepens brand loyalty.

Boosting sales

Personalized chatbot services encourage customers to spend more. They can guide customers to product pages, special deals, or coupons. AI chatbots, understanding customer needs better, can offer the most appealing incentives to shop. A Statista survey found that 63% of businesses saw higher conversion rates with personalization

These bots act as on-demand shopping assistants. They pop up to answer product queries, recommend the best deals, and guide shoppers through their entire buying journey. It's like having an excellent in-store assistant, ensuring you leave with the perfect product. This approach brings customers back, so why not replicate this hands-on experience online with chatbots?

Slideshare highlights that 80% of consumers are more inclined to purchase from brands offering personalized experiences.

For instance, a customer looking for a new smartphone cover might not know about a headphone discount in your store. The bot suggests the deal, and the customer, realizing they need headphones, makes an additional purchase. This results in a happier customer, savings for them, and increased revenue for you.

Fewer abandoned carts

Shoppers might add items to their cart, then leave to compare prices elsewhere. This leads to abandoned carts. Baymard's study shows a nearly 70% cart abandonment rate in 2022. That means seven out of ten customers don't finish their purchases, resulting in lost revenue. Chatbots can tackle this by sending reminders to shoppers who haven't completed their purchases, effectively reducing abandoned carts.

Lower return rates

E-commerce returns are over seven times higher than in physical stores.

Chatbots can lower your return rates by:

  • Quickly understanding return patterns and helping you address issues faster.
  • Interacting with customers considering returns, suggesting exchanges instead.
  • Making the return process east, which is a key expectation for online shoppers. This makes for a better customer experience, encouraging them to shop with you again in the future.
If you have a storefront and employees, a chatbot will also reduce this!

More bang out for your ad buck

Online ads draw new customers to your site. But if they don't buy anything, you lose out. Sometimes they don't find what your ad promised, or they're overwhelmed by too many choices and leave. This hurts your ad spend return. A chatbot can fix this by guiding ad leads through their shopping journey.

When customers land on a page from an ad, a chatbot can greet them and offer help. It could ask questions or run a fun quiz to learn more about them and suggest tailored products. This information also sharpens your future ad targeting and boosts your ad spend returns.

Cater to different customer journeys

Your customers arrive at your website in various ways. Some might click an email offer, others tap on a mobile ad, or they could visit your site while talking to an agent.

Each customer has unique needs and preferences. Address these by offering interactions on their favored channel, like web chat, voice chat, or messaging apps. Setting this up with human agents is costly. Chatbots make it affordable to deliver a consistent, top-notch experience across all channels.

Re-engage customers

Chatbots can surprisingly endear themselves to customers, with an average satisfaction rate of 87.6%. This is a great opportunity to boost brand awareness. Unlike web chats that end once solved, messaging app chats can be reignited anytime. Chatbots can use these to send special deal reminders, check if customers need to restock, or share new marketing offers.

Delivery tracking

After placing an online order, customers eagerly await their package. Instead of making them search and enter order numbers online, set up a chatbot. This chatbot can quickly update them on their delivery status, saving time and enhancing their shopping experience.

Automate scheduling

Whether it's pre-purchase consultations or post-purchase maintenance appointments, chatbots can automate these scheduling tasks.

Choosing the right platform

Chatbots are already a big help in e-commerce, but advanced bots push your business further. Imagine a chat where the bot-human interaction feels real. That's what AI chatbots offer.

Say goodbye to customer frustration from misunderstood keywords. With AI chatbots, customers simply state their needs and get human-like responses. This is the magic of conversational AI! Now, let’s talk platforms.

Live Chat chatbot

Zendesk data shows live chat has an 85% customer satisfaction rate, just behind phone support at 91%. Your online store is the prime spot for a chatbot. It can welcome visitors, guide their purchase journey, assist them before, during, and after buying, and help prevent cart abandonment. Chatbots on live chat have been proven to enhance customer satisfaction and boost sales by engaging visitors well.

Facebook chatbot

Customers often interact with brands on Facebook for product information and deals. A Facebook Messenger bot is the best thing for it. It can engage consumers who find you via Facebook shops, groups, or campaigns, directing them to your website.

Instagram chatbot

Traditionally, businesses handle Instagram DMs manually. As the business expands, managing these DMs, especially repetitive ones, becomes challenging. Instagram chatbots can be a solution, similar in function to Facebook bots. They can collect customer information, suggest products, or direct shoppers to your site.

WhatsApp chatbots

With over 2.4 billion users, WhatsApp offers a massive market for e-commerce. The WhatsApp Business API allows businesses to reach this audience. Chatbots on WhatsApp can boost communication, enhance engagement in broadcast campaigns, offer customer support, recover abandoned carts, and gather feedback.

The only shame about WhatsApp's infrastructure is how backward it is sometimes, especially compared to Telegram. 

Telegram chatbots

Telegram, another popular messaging app, is also used for marketing and customer support. E-commerce chatbots on Telegram can address customer queries and engage users, leading to more store visits.

But before you start using chatbots on all these channels, let's look at some of the best platforms to ensure proper implementation. You might know your channel, but where should you build it, eh?

Top AI chatbot platforms

Alright, here we go!

Chatfuel

Since 2015, Chatfuel has enabled users to create chatbots for Facebook Messenger and Telegram without coding. You can build a shopping bot to assist customers in finding products, making purchases, and getting tailored recommendations. 

Its drag-and-drop interface is a standout and makes bot creation a breeze for non-coders. Chatfuel also provides templates to add more functions to your shopping bot. It's not limited to e-commerce; even restaurants and hotels use it to offer personalized services, like reservation bots with customized menu suggestions.

ManyChat

Another choice since 2015, ManyChat, lets users craft Facebook Messenger chatbots without coding. You can develop a shopping bot for product discovery, purchases, and personalized advice. Its user-friendly drag-and-drop interface makes bot customization really simple. ManyChat also comes packed with templates, too.

Tars

Tars (yes, just like in Interstellar), established in 2017, helps users create chatbots for websites, no coding needed. You can create a shopping bot that helps in product discovery, purchasing, and offering personalized recommendations. Tars stands out for integrating with third-party tools like Shopify, Stripe, and Google Analytics, thus letting you build kick-ass advanced bots that can handle transactions, track sales, and analyze customer data.

Directual

Since its inception, Directual has enabled the creation of Telegram bots of any complexity, all without coding. You can integrate these bots into your business, pair them with ChatGPT (more on that below), and automate operations. Directual is all about getting straight to the point and making things happen fast.

ChatBot.com

Founded in 2017, the Polish company ChatBot.com focuses on boosting workflows, solving problems, and improving customer experience through its software. We also have a guide on how you can learn to craft a smart bot for your e-commerce using both Directual and ChatBot.com.

Case study: Habit hero

Not necessarily an ecommerce chatbot here, but it’s an amazing case study nonetheless. As complex as it gets—if you can get this up and running, an ecommerce chatbot is nothing.

Habithero.io started as a simple website project but quickly expanded. It's a Telegram chatbot that manages educational marathons, especially in big companies. It assigns daily tasks during a marathon and tracks completion, with the option to remove inactive participants.

Habit Hero helped companies launch large-scale marathons for 20,000-40,000 employees in retail networks. Initially managed manually, these marathons aimed to help employees develop the right habits. Here’s what was used to build it:

So, the bot can handle a range of tasks:

  • Sending daily tasks
  • Collecting responses
  • Calculating results
  • Reacting to messages
  • Sending reminders
  • Utilizing templates
  • Analyzing data
  • Providing reports

It also sends customized messages based on task completion and operates in multiple languages. Neat, huh?

Building an AI chatbot with Directual, step by step.

Alright.

1. Pick your platform

Start building your shopping bot by picking the right platform. You've got all these choices listed above, like Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, Slack (that too!), or your own website. Each one comes with its perks.

Here's the scoop:

  • Facebook Messenger: big hit for bot building. Huge user base, lots of features.
  • WhatsApp: perfect for reaching folks outside the U.S. Big international audience. Awful WhatsApp Business accounts, but hey! You can reach anyone.
  • Slack: Catching on fast, especially with companies using it for chatting among themselves.

Think about who you're targeting, what features you need, and your budget. Remember, some choices like Facebook Messenger might need you to have a Facebook page. Choose wisely!

2. Design your AI ecommerce bot!

Time to roll up your sleeves!

Once you've picked a platform, dive into creating your bot and crafting its chat flow. This part is what makes your bot tick, guiding how users talk to it and what it can do.

Here's a step-by-step guide to making it happen right away with Directual and a Telegram bot:

Link your Telegram Bot to your app

First off, zip over to BotFather and kick off a new Telegram bot. You’ve got two paths here: Either whip up a new app using the Telegram bot template or plug the Telegram plugin into your existing app.

Get the ChatGPT plugin rolling

Next, sign up with OpenAI (have a EU/US phone number ready). Once you’re in, grab your API key and install the OpenAI plugin.

Setup up message processing

Let’s focus on a specific scenario that springs into action for each new entry in the TMessageIn data structure.

Time to lay out the steps:

  • Start step: choose a context variable, like a response in string or file form.
  • Telegram step: hold tight while OpenAI processes your request. You’ll see the bot typing.
  • Condition step: use a regex to see if the user wants an image created.
  • Text-to-image ChatGPT call: send the Telegram message text to OpenAI and store the answer in a context variable.
  • Telegram step: send the created image to your user.
  • Text-completion ChatGPT call: prompt ChatGPT with your chat history, stored in the TChat object.
  • Telegram step: shoot the generated reply over to your user.

Edit object step: log the user's request and the bot's reply in the chat history.

Set up history reset

We’ll add a neat feature to our scenario here: clearing chat history and starting fresh when someone types "/start". We've already rigged a field in the TChat object for storing chat history.

Or, for an easier route, just watch this video!

Make it more human than human

Got your bot up and running? Great! Now, let's add a human touch to it. Here’s how:

Start by sketching out the routes users might take with your bot. Say your bot's helping users shop. You'd map out paths like searching for products, adding them to the cart, and checking out.

Next up, craft your conversation flow. This means writing down the messages your bot will send at each step. Keep them clear, straight to the point, and in a logical order to help users along.

To really engage your users, give your bot some personality. Throw in a joke or an emoji here and there. Maybe even give your bot a catchy name and a cool profile picture.

3. Connect your bot to ecommerce platforms

After nailing down your bot’s chat flow, link it up with e-commerce platforms (if you’re using one and not building one yourself, of course). This lets your bot access your product list, handle payments, and more.

Check out e-commerce heavyweights like Shopify, WooCommerce, and Magento.

Key point: test your bot a lot after linking it with an e-commerce platform. Make sure it can search for products, add them to the cart, and process payments without a hitch.

4. Test and launch your shiny AI chatbot

The home stretch for your shopping bot is testing and launching it. Test every part of its conversation flow to make sure all's working well. Also, throw different scenarios at it to see how it handles them.

Once you’re happy with how it's running, go ahead and deploy it on your chosen platform. Usually, you'll need to get it reviewed and approved by the platform's team. After the green light, it’s ready for your customers to use. 

Practical tips on AI chatbots

Some parting wisdom.

Focus on one use case

With the many roles chatbots can play in e-commerce, you might be tempted to deploy them in every possible area immediately. However, this could lead to complications and a poor customer experience. It's wiser to pick the most important use case for your business and begin there. 

Define the role clearly

For optimal results, set clear goals and outline precisely what your chatbot should and shouldn't do. This clarity in purpose and boundaries ensures you meet expectations.

Optimize, measure, optimize again

Installing an AI chatbot in your online store is just the beginning. Equally important is to monitor, analyze, and tweak its performance. Otherwise, you make it once, and if it’s bad, it’ll stay that way.

Polish the chatflow

A.k.a see above.  Your bot should chat well, understanding and responding in natural language. Give users that personal touch they crave. Fine-tune your chat flow until it feels just right.

Embrace machine learning

Do it by saying “Please, my AI overlord!”. Use machine learning to make your bot smarter with every chat. It'll get the hang of what users like and recommend things more accurately. Analyze user chats and spot trends to keep improving.

Act on feedback

Really listen to what users say about your bot. Their feedback is great for making your bot better. Use their suggestions to sharpen your chat flow and nail those recommendations.

Make it mobile-friendly

Since everyone’s shopping on their phones during the few moments of quiet and peace, your bot needs to be a mobile-ready. Mostly they are, but if it’s your own website you better test that sucker through and through. Basically, ensure your bot’s easy to use on mobile screens.

Link up your socials

Use social media as a launchpad for your bot. It’s great for getting the word out.

Sync your bot with platforms like Facebook and Twitter, so users can share their shopping wins easily. Throw in a discount code the bot can process and you’re set.

Ta-daaa! You did it. If not, get going—none of us are getting younger here, especially without your fine wares around.

Afterword

And just like that, you can create your own little AI minion that will get pesky customers off your hide. The capabilities of chatbots these days are truly staggering, but the success still rests on your own smarts and how well you think everything through. One thing is certain for sure—it’ll give you a very strong competitive edge.

Questions? Send us an email at hello@directual.com. Can’t be bothered drafting a letter and would chat instead? Hop into our communities—the links are in the footer below.

FAQ

Are AI chatbots a viable help for e-commerce?
Are AI chatbots a viable help for e-commerce?

AI chatbots in e-commerce tackle the entire customer funnel—discovery, sales, and support. It’s a virtual assistant that never sleeps, understands your customers' needs, and guides them through their entire shopping journey—chatbots are that, and more.

How do AI chatbots boost the online shopping experience?
How do AI chatbots boost the online shopping experience?

AI chatbots make online shopping more interactive and personalized. They quickly respond to queries, recommend products based on customer preferences, and assist in navigating the website. They also reduce cart abandonment by reminding customers about their selections.

Can AI chatbots in e-commerce help reduce operational costs?
Can AI chatbots in e-commerce help reduce operational costs?

Absolutely! AI chatbots can cut down on operational costs by automating customer service tasks. They handle routine inquiries, which reduces the workload on human staff. 

What should I know about AI chatbots in ecommerce?
What should I know about AI chatbots in ecommerce?

When integrating AI chatbots into your e-commerce platform, consider the chatbot’s ability to understand the natural human conversation, its integration with your product catalog and customer database, and its adaptability to customer inquiries. Think about the platform compatibility (like with Facebook Messenger or WhatsApp) and the ease of setting up the chatbot to fit your brand’s tone. Do regular testing and act on customer feedback for optimal results.

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