Humanizing commerce with Conversational AI

AI has the power to help humanize commerce further. Here are the shifts that can make this happen.
Étienne Merineau
September 10, 2019

There’s no replacement for people: our humour, quick-thinking, empathy and personability all make us a unique species. However, our humanity is also part of why we’re imperfect employees. After all, we do need to eat, sleep, go on vacation and take the occasional sick day.

That’s obviously not the case for chatbots who are ready to go 24/7, 365 days a year. Though they certainly redefine the meaning of full-time work, chatbots are still mostly underwhelming, with the bulk of vendors selling basic automated workflows that aren’t powered by underlying artificial intelligence (AI). What’s also lacking in their equation is the uniqueness of a human touch.

At Heyday, we worked by trial and error to respond to real-world needs and brought Fortune 500 companies to the drawing board with us. This collaboration allowed us to design a tech platform that fills an existing gap in customer experience, and we used real businesses and customers as the building blocks for our product rather than a one-size-fits-all model.

By working in the technological trenches and sussing out concrete needs, we were able to leverage the best of both the human and tech worlds, bringing them together to create one well-rounded product: A live chat platform that combines AI-powered assistance with the know-how of human sales and support teams.

Humanizing Commerce One Conversation at a Time

The whole point of technology should be to enable, improve and support human interactions rather than replace them. Though there is a lot of public reticence towards AI, we at Heyday believe that this technology actually has the power to help humanize commerce further instead of turning it into an increasingly alienating experience. There are many shifts that can make this happen:

1. From One-size-fits-all to One-on-one

Ecommerce is still imperfect, it can sometimes be a trying experience for customers, and this problem is amplified on mobile devices. Nobody wants to scroll through hundreds of photos of couches and dining room sets before finding the store hours they’re actually looking for.

Though it may win the medal for efficiency, ecommerce is still beaten out by in-store shopping when it comes to personalization. However, that divide may not be true for too much longer. With Heyday’s conversational commerce platform – which uses chatbots to capture online leads and connect them to the right sales or support expert – businesses can leverage good conversation to their advantage by moving the personalized experience of in-store shopping online.

2. From Talking to Listening

After decades of advertising, brands are used to being the ones doing all the talking. Since the golden age of ad men in the 1950s and 60s, companies have been paying millions in ad dollars to talk at you instead of with you, but this paradigm is shifting.

The advent of live chat and messaging apps are finally making the conversation a two-way street. Since AI-powered chatbots can answer a lot of simple questions upon the first contact, they are effectively managing the volume of incoming messages and creating a space in which brands have more time to listen to what matters.

This shift also allows companies to take the pulse of what their clients want by capturing the right data so they can further personalize the conversation and user experience down the road.

3. From Data Collection to Value Creation

For years, businesses have been gathering personal information online without the ability to leverage it properly or create a more egalitarian value exchange for their customers. However, AI has come along to throw a wrench into this one-sided model. Now, businesses can use the customer data at their disposal in real time to make well-timed contextual recommendations, which creates a more personal and human customer experience.

Stockpiling data is all fine and good, but it’s not all that helpful if the information isn’t used to improve connections with clients. In the increasingly customer-first world of commerce, it’s all about leveraging that precious data to humanize interactions, which means anticipating needs and going above and beyond when it comes to service to create value for customers.

Brands that are able to successfully combine their data and human teams are a step ahead in terms of showing customers the products they want to buy at the right time, leading to purchase.

This leveraging of AI in tandem with pre-existing human teams is a fast-growing trend, like the Australian supermarket giant Coles. The brand is quickly transforming its data-driven solutions, like improving online grocery delivery services, by pairing AI with its human resources – a move they say will save them a whopping $1 billion in the next four years.

4. From Customer Service to Customer Accomplices

Though the idea of AI might scare some who think it will make them obsolete, the goal isn’t to remove people from the equation at all. Actually, it’s quite the opposite. When used properly, AI can empower human teams to put their best selves forward and make the customer the winner in every equation. Chatbots can handle the repetitive minutiae and allow human teams to focus on what they do best: serving customers and providing a human touch.

In the end, it’s all about using AI smartly behind the scenes to support your customer service team and sales associates so that they can shine and also put the customer in the spotlight. With a little extra help, people can transcend their job descriptions and deliver the top-of-the-line service that truly sets a brand apart in the current consumer landscape.

When provided with the right data set, the power of customer support and live chat personnel can be boundless. Teams will be better equipped to answer questions on-the-fly and recommend the right product at the right time, which is an immeasurable advantage.

Rather than thinking of them as mere support agents, treat them like the experts who can create a direct link between the customer and your product. In a brick-and-mortar store, you would always leverage the selling power of your sales staff, and the online user experience should provide the same opportunity for personalized treatment. That’s what we aim to achieve at Heyday.

In the end, winning brands will be those that empower their teams to become the customer’s accomplice throughout their shopping journey, available on-demand to guide and advise them like a pro, from first click to final purchase.

Why We’re Building the Most Human Artificial Intelligence

Building the most human artificial intelligence out there is certainly a lofty goal, but one that we take to heart. Here’s how we’re able to be at the forefront of AI-powered chatbot technology:

Step 1

We pair AI with human teams so that the sales and support staff turn chatbots into their personal sidekicks.

Step 2

We connect with customers wherever they are, on their level and on their terms via messaging apps and one-on-one channels that provide instant answers with a human touch.

Step 3

Our AI learns from these human interactions at every step of the way, becoming more effective with each customer interaction. This learning allows us to position agents perfectly with quick-reply recommendations that make their job easier. When combined with AI that can mimic human tone, manner and intelligence, the result is a seamless service.

Though technology is always an extension of people, the line between humans and machines is slowly being blurred.

The French philosopher Michel Serres once talked about how a hammer is the extension of the human fist, in the same way that a computer is the extension of the human brain. Because it uses familiar, natural language, conversational AI is possibly the most human interface yet.

After millennia of using conversation to communicate and connect with each other, these exchanges have become the building blocks of our humanity, with or without AI. However, we could all use a helping hand to facilitate connection at times, and it can be especially helpful when that hand is one we’ve created ourselves. Here’s to a more human and personalized future.