Personal Interaction, the Missing Ingredient of eCommerce

The fast growth of digital sales has utterly disrupted the retail arena. The location-based chains stores are severely shaken, and it is time for eCommerce companies to give them the knockout blow. Today, nobody is wondering why malls are closing so fast. The reasons are just too obvious.

Going to the mall today is like using a typewriter and a corrector. With eCommerce, even the dopamine rush is better. Mall shopping is fun, but I get the same amount of instant gratification after receiving the order confirmation email and don’t get me started on finding and opening the package on my doorstep.

The online store is like a corporate pen pal, who never lets you down and always sends you a pack full of goodies. There is no way you can compare that with queuing at the store register or being crushed in the Black Friday stampede.

Disadvantages of the eCommerce concept

Still, even the eCommerce model isn’t perfect. We should all admit that, before trying to improve our businesses. That is why I am not writing this article as a chatbot copywriter, eCommerce or marketing professional. In the open market society, we are all consumers first. While attempting to sell our products and services, we often forget to take the consumer’s stance.

From the consumers point of view, the two most important disadvantages of online shopping are:

  1. You can’t try, touch, smell or feel the products you are buying
  2. When purchasing online, you don’t engage in a conversation with the seller

The first issue seems to be much more difficult to address. Still, many online retailers offer money-back guarantees and allow their customers to return the products on company’s expense. This is not the perfect solution, but it works. The return process can be costly for the firm and time-consuming for customers. Miraculously, these two disadvantages often cancel each other out.

In this article, we will focus on the second problem. Some people don’t view the lack of personal interaction as a disadvantage. That is because they are used to receiving cold responses from uniformed chain store employees.

Small stores in rural areas, on the other hand, are an entirely different story. There, the salesperson is also a neighbor and a friend. There’s no way that these customers will choose an online store over their local shop, even if you cut prices in half, give them gazillions of coupon codes and send the goods by drone (along with a free six-pack of their favorite beer).

Sales legends never die

Fifteen years ago, I went to Istanbul on a shopping excursion. That was the first time I met persistent sellers, who would do anything to close a deal. I had entered the Grand Bazaar, wanting to buy boxer shorts.

-Come here my friend! Look at these, perfect fit… They are sexy, girls love them… Yeah, they are three times more expensive, but they send a statement… I will meet you half way…

Later that day I was sitting in a kebab shop, eating delicious lamb, and chickpea rice and drinking ayran. One look at the bag left me stunned. Did I really buy leopard-print boxer shorts? Am I that tacky?

I would never buy such a trashy boxer shorts on an eCommerce website, in H&M or some other brick and mortar store.

Now, when I sell my services online, I wish that I had spent more time at the bazaar, picking up tricks from masters of the trade. Luckily today we have YouTube, so you can easily watch videos with the funniest persistent sales pitches.

Kenny Brooks, the best door-to-door salesman

The best pitch I have seen lately is the Kenny Brooks’s door to door sale. He’s a comedian and an incredibly talented salesman. Online stores generate lots of revenue, but I think no eCommerce business can achieve the same conversion rate as Kenny Brooks, who is selling a brandless cleaning detergent.

“…Wax on, Wax off, by Mr. Miyagi you remember the Karate Kid, now watch this and air dry, let me put some coating on your window, no water spots, no fingerprints, no streaks. That’s why we can’t sell it to criminals. Don’t tell OJ or Tiger Woods, okay? …”

In eCommerce, this type of product presentation is usually replaced with text descriptions, photos, and promotional videos. Apparently, all of these tools work well, but they can’t compare with the experienced, sweet-talking salesperson, who is presenting and demonstrating the product while pushing you deeper into the sales funnel.

Chatbots come to the rescue

Tech advance drives eCommerce growth. A.I. is a present, engineers have given to digital merchants, a way to improve the efficiency of their stores. The use of chatbots and natural language processing allows us to target visitors, or social media followers, from the moment they enter our page.

Most eCommerce chatbots offer assistance to website visitors, but you can also program them to share promotional messages and sales pitches.

Chatbots are easy to make. You can build them, without any coding knowledge. There are dozens of free platforms that offer fully programmed chatbots. You just need to enter the text, add keywords and share the bot on your website, Facebook page, Skype or some other messaging app. They can also be integrated with a Shopify store, in less than ten minutes.

To prove their efficiency and easiness of use, I have created a custom chatbot on Snatchbot platform in a little bit less than two hours. Del Boy is an automated boxer shorts seller. He is fun, energetic, and won’t take “No” for an answer. Talk and haggle with Del, and see for yourself how persuasive a chatbot can be. Just don’t take its pitches too seriously.

Del Boy is a reasonably simple chatbot. I would need much more time to write a bot that will match the skills of the competent merchants from Istanbul’s Grand Bazaar. When it comes to sales results, Del Boy can’t come close to the Kenny Brooks’s presentation, but it will definitely increase the underwear store’s conversion rate.

People still have the same need for personal interaction, as in the old days, when the mechanical cash register was the most advanced piece of retail tech. That is why sales talent is equally relevant today when people buy most of their things online. Talented online sellers incorporate their pitches into product pages, promotional videos, and chatbots. Although automation is one of the most popular processes in recent years, it doesn’t take away sales jobs, at least not from skilled professionals. Instead, it leaves them more time to focus on high paying clients and retail business development.

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