Although shoppers are getting accustomed to chatbots and obtaining information and answers through virtual assistants, inconsistent and poor experiences can be detrimental to the retailer or brand. During the 2023 Omnichannel Retail Index study, our consultants benchmarked 120 companies and their omnichannel experience to understand how retailers and brands are delivering on the omnichannel promise to consumers. Some areas of digital features and functionalities have significantly improved year over year, with 83% of companies in the study having live chat on their site, up from 75% in 2022.
Still, the chat functionality was fragmented and inconsistent. To be satisfied with their customer service chat, shoppers need to know where to engage. While this may seem simple, chat functionality is often practically invisible or nonexistent in many parts of the shopping experience. It was surprising to see that a good number of benchmarked companies still do not have a universal chat bubble.
Tory Burch keeps their chat function fully visible throughout the shopping experience, giving the customer easy access as questions arise.
Chatbots have significantly improved over the past year. They can not only help you find a product you’re looking for but also tell you the size and fit of the product, check your order status, help you with returns, and more. It’s often much quicker than waiting for a human agent to become available and give you the answers you’re looking for. We’ve all been there where you ask a question and then don’t hear from the agent for what feels like an eternity. However, many retailers and brands use chatbots only to answer a set of pre-defined questions. For anything outside of those queries, you’ll be asked to use another form of customer service. Sometimes, shoppers will be left without help if agents are only available during certain business hours. While 72% of benchmarked retailers have automated chatbot responses plus interaction with customer service agents, the use of chatbots with support available from live customer service reps is still fragmented, leaving the experience underwhelming and frustrating.
Calvin Klein uses a chatbot Digital Assistant who can direct you quickly to the most necessary information. However, you can also be directed to a customer service agent if needed.
One area that stood out where customer service was lacking for multiple retailers and brands was during checkout. Whether it’s a live chat or a direct phone number to an agent, being reachable during a critical conversion moment should be high on the priority list for retailers and brands. Some offer customer service that takes shoppers off the checkout page, disrupting the journey. Having an integrated chat during checkout is a way to reduce cart abandonment and ensure a smooth experience for the customer. The 2023 Index revealed that 64% of retailers in the study offer customer service (live chat, phone number, email, click to call) during checkout—up from 56% in 2022.
Adorama makes their live chat clear and available on the top of the page throughout the checkout process to address any last-minute questions or doubts shoppers may have.
When implementing a tool like live chat, it’s important to understand how your customer will use the chat. Think about questions AI/chatbots can accurately and effectively answer vs. when you’ll need to introduce live customer service reps to augment the help and insights chatbots cannot offer. Make sure the experience is seamless so it does not create more frustration during the shopping journey.
Would you like to see more insights from the 2023 Omnichannel Retail Index? Access the Executive Summary Report.
Rich Siefert is a Senior Consultant, Practice Lead in OSF Digital´s Strategy group. He has over two decades of executive-level experience at large-scale retailers, particularly in the home categories, with a proven record in strategy, P&L management, and organizational leadership in an omnichannel environment.