10 reasons why ecommerce is broken and how to fix it

Steve Desjarlais
June 6, 2019

Despite its ever-growing popularity, there are many ways that ecommerce hasn’t yet been able to deliver on its promises. With an average bounce rate of over 45%, conversion rates at only 1%, cart abandonment at over 65%, and return rates averaging at about 20%, there’s clearly room for plenty of improvement.

In order to further cement its domination, ecommerce needs to become as frictionless as possible. In fact, at Heyday, we like to say the “e” in ecommerce should stand for effortless. Here are 10 ways ecommerce is still getting it wrong, and how Conversational AI can help iron out these kinks.

1. Live chat isn’t up to par

The problem with the first generation of live chat is that it recreates the same old call centre experience we’ve all come to despise. Although offering a direct communication channel to assist customers as they shop on your site is a noble and necessary strategy, it needs to be backed up by truly exceptional service that delivers on its promises. If you’re making customers queue, what’s the point?

Often used to simply capture email addresses and provide service hours or even days later, this kind of utilization is actually working in reverse. It makes far more sense to first provide value to the customer, so that in turn they’ll share their personal information. Not the other way around.

Enter chatbots. Not only are they able to provide instant service, but they can also reduce bounce rates, capture incoming leads, and qualify them. It also lets companies free their customer service agents from redundant questions, and instead loop them when it matters most with high-value interactions, or when a human touch is necessary.

2. Ad display retargeting is dumb

Ever get retargeted with products you just bought? Me too. In fact, I recently purchased an engagement ring for my girlfriend, only to be retargeted with ads for the same ring days later. Not only was there no way that I would ever be interested in buying the exact same ring a second time, but it also (understandably) irritated me to constantly see these ads pop up.

The issue here is that this was a huge missed opportunity for the brand. Not only is this kind of retargeting misguided, but it also means that they’re essentially paying to frustrate customers. This kind of double negative is costly on all fronts. Instead of blowing their budget on using the wrong messaging on wrong audience, what they really needed was a solid omni-channel strategy.

By opening a direct channel with consumers with live chat and Conversational AI, you can make your retargeting strategy smarter by leveraging past customer conversations and purchase history to create higher relevance. In this case, the vendor could have helped me find matching wedding bands, for example.

3. Your ecommerce is impersonal

When it comes to online shopping, nobody wants to spend hours scrolling through a giant product catalog, applying filters, and essentially looking for a needle in a haystack. It’s time-consuming, impersonal, and quite frankly, annoying. While it’s great to offer over 500 BBQ models, what the customer really wants is to narrow it down to a selection that fit their needs, whether it be a high-powered beast for the back yard, or a tiny grill for the balcony.

This is exactly where AI can step in and help. Chatbots can answer specific questions to pre-qualify leads. By gathering this data, they’re then able to understand the customer’s needs and offer curated recommendations. Think of it as a VIP concierge service, available at scale. What’s not to like?

4. Newsletters are 90% spam

We’ve all become accustomed to our inboxes getting cluttered with a barrage of spam when what we really signed up for was value. We opt in for content that’s relevant to us, but what we end up with is newsletters and direct mail that go straight to the trash.

What CRM should really stand for is “Customers Really Matter”, and what brands really need to do is smarten up and act like a virtual friend, respecting people’s time and privacy, and focusing solely on the content that matters.

Messaging is the new marketing darling for a reason. Firstly because people are far more responsive to text messages than they are email – it takes an average of 90 minutes to open an email versus 90 seconds for a text. Secondly, they’re far more engaged. The average open rate for a retail newsletter is 20% versus an open rate of 80% for push notifications from chatbots.

5. Customers are treated like numbers

All too often, customers aren’t treated like actual human beings. Instead, they become numbers that come and go like an IP address or a help desk ticket ID. Rather than focusing on conversion and short-term gains, merchants need to focus on long-term value, and to see each interaction as a chance to personalize the experience and really wow their customers.

The data collected through Conversational AI can help anticipate people’s needs, and brands can take advantage of platforms like Facebook Messenger to build relationships over time. This way queries can be treated like real conversations rather than a ticket ID that will simply be opened and closed.

At Heyday, ticket IDs are a thing of the past as each customer interaction is logged as one transcript of an ongoing conversation. Brands and merchants need to follow suit and think about designing experiences for the long haul rather than fleeting interactions. It’s time to shift away from seeing customers as an IP address, and offer them VIP customer service instead.

6. Mobile apps (other than messaging and gaming apps) are dying

Your smartphone home screen is perhaps a brand’s most sought after real estate. If you open your phone right now, you’ll probably see the usual suspects: Messenger, WhatsApp, Snapchat etc. In fact, users rarely download any new apps beyond their tried-and-trues. Over half of consumers download an average of 0 new apps per month. This is in stark contrast to the 4.9 billion users on messaging apps like Messenger, WhatsApp, Instagram, and WeChat combined.

So how about this? Instead of forcing customers to download your branded app and making them come to you, why not go to them? Deploy your branded experience where they already are: inside these messaging apps.

Chatbots and conversational AI enable brands to adjust to this new distribution channel by adding a conversational layer to their digital strategy. At Heyday, we pitched a huge global footwear brand that had been seeing a steady decline in their mobile app traffic and usage. They approached us to deploy the same functionalities that their fading mobile app offered, but in a conversational format. This way, you could shop sneakers for sneakers in-between chats with your friends inside Messenger instead, thus creating a more seamless digital experience.

7. Customer service is only available during business hours

Customer service is an essential part of ecommerce, but if it’s only available during working hours, then you’re alienating a huge part of your customer base. People work during work hours. They shop on the weekend, at night, or even during their commute, so what they really want, and need, is 24-hour service. It’s time for brands to adjust to customers’ lives, and not the other way around.

Brands that are ahead of the game are those that are in sync with consumers and available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year.

The good news is that bots don’t need to eat or sleep. With Conversational AI, companies can scale their teams as needed, and depend on the extra support in order to not let a single lead slip through the cracks.

8. Ecommerce sites are designed for desktop, not mobile

A common mistake is designing ecommerce sites for desktop before mobile. With users browsing primarily on mobile, the focus needs to shift towards designing for the smallest interface first, then scaling up for the larger screens. In fact, Salesforce recently conducted a study revealing that 68% of online traffic is driven by mobile, accounting for 46% of revenue. Numbers this big really highlight the need to rethink the customer experience.

As always, conversational AI can help with this shift. It’s no surprise that customers are more impatient than ever, especially when using a smaller screen. So if they cant find the information they want in one scroll, they can turn to chat to ask a question.

It’s imperative to be present, and to include chat as part of your mobile commerce strategy. According to MasterCard, conversational commerce will account for a whopping $40 billion in sales in the U.S. by 2022. First movers will definitely be able to leverage this opportunity to foster a long-term competitive edge.

9. Relying on email when inboxes are flooded

Consumers want to stay in the loop, but they don’t want their retail communications getting tangled up with their professional ones. Yes, they want to know the status of their order, but no, they don’t want it to get lost among 200 other emails. Email simply isn’t optimal. Why not ping them on a messaging app instead? As we already established, customers are far more responsive via text. So again, keep it personal and opt for chat.

10. Being disconnected from the in-store experience

Everyone knows that consistency is key, and when it comes to brand experiences, this is no exception. In order to offer a seamless brand experience, data needs to be passed between physical stores and digital stores. Take for example, a customer who is shopping for a car.

If they take the time to chat with someone online or even over the phone, they certainly don’t want to arrive at the dealership only to have the exact same conversation again. Having the same visibility on customer history and preferences across all channels is key.

This is exactly where Conversational AI can help, as each interaction with a customer can be logged in one place. For example, at Heyday, sales and support teams can use our mobile apps to log in and get all the information they need about a consumer. This kind of AI can even offer recommendations on what to do next, and even suggestions on upsells. With a unified view of the customer, they’re able to offer a more streamlined, consistent, and personalized experience.

Ecommerce: E should stand for Effortless

So in conclusion, what it all boils down to is simply this: personalization is key. While traditional retail may feel more personal, it’s certainly not as convenient, or in sync with our digital lives. And while ecommerce may be more efficient but not as personalized, new technology like conversational AI is a true game changer when it comes to bringing personalization online.

Conversational AI can help bridge the gap by bringing the level of personalization that customers used to getting in-store, online, all while helping brands do it at scale while keeping costs in check. It’s time for ecommerce to shine by offering a more personal, enjoyable experience because, at the end of the day, the “e” in ecommerce should stand for effortless.