How chatbots can optimize customer experience (CX)

Imagine a customer service experience where the business representative is always available, friendly and equipped to handle any inquiry you send their way. While this might seem too good to be true, today it’s a reality for many businesses. 

Chatbots are an artificial intelligence-powered technology designed to engage in conversation with human users over the internet. They have quickly taken over customer service functions for a growing number of businesses. In fact, analysts from Gartner predict that by 2020, 85 percent of all customer interactions will be handled without a human. Chatbots are used for a number of different functions in today’s consumer experiences– they can act as your personal shopper, update your bank account, serve as your hotel concierge, and can even send notifications about your pizza delivery. 

Whether your business is B2B or B2C, there are many ways in which chatbots can improve your total customer experience. From answering customer questions, to recommending products, to improving efficiencies in the sales funnel, chatbots are a growing tech trend that will soon become a staple in business operations. 

The B2C Experience

Thanks to the proliferation of smartphones and mobile search features, today’s consumers are accustomed to immediate answers and instantaneous access to the web. That means your sales and service processes should interact with customers in the same way. However, while consumer research reports estimate that your customers are willing to wait up to 4 hours for a response to their online inquiry, almost 90 percent of these inquiries go unanswered by brands. Lack of response can inevitably become detrimental to sales conversions, revenue, and brand sustainability. 

This is where chatbots can have a proactive impact on the B2C experience. They can step in as a virtual assistant, guiding customers through your sales process. When you’re unable to answer customer questions on behalf of your site, during nighttime hours for example, chatbots can provide an instantaneous response that is often more timely, efficient, and accurate than the response of a human customer service representative. 

One of the most recent brands to adapt the technology into their customer experience is TD Bank, who announced their chatbot, TD Clari, in January. The bank’s chief digital and payments officer stated that, “Customer expectations are constantly evolving, and we believe AI is key to creating exceptional, personalized experiences and adding real value to our customers across our digital properties.” Integrated with TD Bank’s mobile app, Clari offers deeper insights into a customer’s financial decisions, using AI to provide spending insights, information on TD credit cards, help with everyday transactions and also answers commonly asked customer service questions.  

TD Bank_Clari_Get Elastic
Source: The Message

The B2B Experience

For B2B organizations, the benefit of chatbots lies in their ability to improve sales efficiency. In B2B operations, it can be difficult to envision a sales process where chatbots are the sole point of contact when engaging in sales discussions. A skilled sales professional is able to garner trust, be persuasive, and ultimately, utilize their communication skills to lead prospects through the sales funnel. However, a chatbot can act as a supplementary tool that actually allows your sales team to become more efficient. As Rob Tarkoff, executive vice president representing Oracle applications in a recent news article attests, “We’ve invested a lot in chatbot technology… and a lot of things that help optimize the automation in a rep’s experience working with sales planning tools.”   

In a B2B sales scenario, chatbots can automate parts of the sales process to improve productivity levels by enabling sales teams to grow leads, reduce administrative tasks, and shorten sales cycles. In fact, research from the McKinsey Global Instituteindicated that up to 40 percent of time spent on sales work activities can now be automated, thanks to AI-powered technologies like chatbots. As a result, sales professionals can spend more time engaging directly with leads instead of dealing with the behind-the-scenes work of acquiring, organizing and analyzing data.

According to a 2016 study from AYTM Market Research,89 percent of users prefer information discovery through bots to information discovery via websites. By equipping landing pages with chatbots, companies can instantly capture leads from potential customers. This is what Automabots is hoping to achieve in the real estate sector. Their tool guides buyers through the home search process with conversational language, while allowing real estate agents to convert more customer inquiries to appointments, reduce their daily workload, and spend more time focusing on customer service. 

Automabots_Get Elastic
Source: Brivity Help

If your business has yet to invest in chatbots, now is the time. More and more companies are beginning to use chatbots to assist their customers in user-friendly ways, promising a great impact on the customer experience. However, there is also plenty for decision makers to look forward to. They offer great potential to benefit your business not only now but will become essential in the future. 

The post How chatbots can optimize customer experience (CX) appeared first on Get Elastic Ecommerce Blog.

Source: https://www.getelastic.com/how-chatbots-can-optimize-customer-experience-cx

Why you need to consider animated videos in your social media strategy [infographic]

Animated videos are simple, easy to understand and most importantly fun to watch. They allow businesses to turn a complex situation or issue into a visually appealing explanation. They can also be easily shared on various social media platforms to increase reach and gain followers. For businesses seeking to establish their goodwill on the social front, this is probably the best strategy to rely upon. Also, marketers looking for the best content strategy to boost awareness and sales can make use of animated videos for the promotion of their products and services. And the best part is these videos are relatively quick to make and have a lesser production cost than videos with human talent.

This infographic explains why animated videos can be a great asset in your social media strategy, especially for promotion and advertisement.

Why you need to consider animated videos in your social media strategy [infographic]

The post Why you need to consider animated videos in your social media strategy [infographic] appeared first on Get Elastic Ecommerce Blog.

Source: https://www.getelastic.com/why-you-need-to-consider-animated-videos-in-your-social-media-strategy

Ecommerce challenge: Page speed optimization

Waiting is a pain and the tolerance threshold has become increasingly thinner as the demand for instant gratification has crept into every aspect of consumers lives. Waiting for a website to load is no different than standing in line. Slow page load time dramatically increases the website bounce rate – a 4-second delay in page response results in a 25% abandonment rate.

Page speed optimization also supports your page’s search ranking. Google penalizes page search rankings if there’s any indication of poor user experience, including slow page load time. Therefore, faster sites get an SEO boost and the higher your site is on Google, the more organic traffic it will get. 

“Today’s consumers demand a fast, engaging and secure online shopping environment when searching for a product online. We see a direct relationship between online revenues and site performance and therefore, we have to ensure our site performs well and loads fast,” said Michael Cooper,Vice President and General Manager, HomeDepot.com. Site performance remains a major factor for keeping visitors coming back to a retail site. Online shoppers demand – and expect – quality site performance which is a requirement for optimal online success.

Home Depot_Site Performance_Get Elastic

Improving page load time by even a few seconds can make a huge impact on your business. 

Amazon, Yahoo, Google, Walmart, and Mozilla are good examples of businesses where a difference of just milliseconds can have a dramatic effect:

  • Amazon calculated that page load slowdown of just one second could cost the marketplace $1.6 billion in sales each year. 
  • Walmart and Amazon both saw a 1 percent increase in revenue for every 100 milliseconds of improved page speed. 
  • Yahoo saw a 9 percent increase in traffic for every 400 milliseconds of page speed improvement. 
  • Google loses 20 percent of itstraffic for each additional 100 milliseconds it takes for a page to load. 
  • Mozilla saw 60 million more downloads per year by making their page 2.2 seconds faster

You are not only losing money because of slow page load time, but a slow page can also damage your brand’s reputation. In one study, 66 percent of customers said website performance influences their impression of the company and 33 percent of customers have a negative impression of a company with a poor performing website. Always consider the customer’s point of view when planning your page. Placing your customer’s needs first is absolutely the best thing you can do for your business. 

Page speed can either make or break the user experience; here are three ways to improve page speed optimization:

Compress Images 

Back in 1995,the average page was 14.1 KB in size. Today the average page size is more than 2 MB. Images comprise more than 60 percent of a page’s size. To reduce the page size of your site, it’s important that you compress your images before uploading them to your site. Try using a plugin to reduce the file size of jpegs and pngs, which will help remove any extraneous metadata that might be taking up unneeded space. Reducing them also reduces the visual quality of the image, so you have to be careful not to run yourself over. Don’t put too many images or upload huge image files as they can take longer to load for users. Videos can be hosted off your website on sites like YouTube or Vimeo, but there is still a load time factor to consider. As it turns out, a page can actually earn top rankings without a lot of written content on the page. A first-rate user experience, combined with some mark-up that tells crawlers what is on the page, can absolutely help you rank well.

Hosting Platform 

The hosting provider you choose will have a major impact on website speed. Choose a hosting platform that is designed to deliver lightning fast results with the various common website speed issues in mind. Certain factors need to be consider when selecting a hosting platform for ecommerce. They Include:

  • A plan that offers automatic Secure Socket Layer (SSL) protections; and opt for HTTPS, which is more secure than the conventional HTTP
  • A web host that is capable of handling high order volumes
  • Host database strength should also be considered

Content Delivery Network (CDN) 

The geographic location of a site visitor can impact how fast your site’s content reaches them. A CDN is a proven way to get lightning fast loading results by reducing bandwidth usage. CDNs provide a shorter connection distance from the server to the source, resulting in faster page load time. Make use of blazingly fast CDN that stores your site’s content globally for faster load times.

Content Delivery Network_CDN_Get Elastic

You need to have an idea of how fast your site loads. A good speed should be about 2 to 3 seconds per page. This technically implies thatyou would want to get it down to less than 1 second for your loading speed.

However, if your site takes more than three seconds to load, you might want to test what your site’s speed is with online tools such as PingdomGoogle’s PageSpeed Insight or Bitcatcha. These tools will give you an idea of where you’re at in terms of speed.

The post Ecommerce challenge: Page speed optimization appeared first on Get Elastic Ecommerce Blog.

Source: https://www.getelastic.com/ecommerce-challenge-page-speed-optimization

How to Perform a Content Audit That Skyrockets Your Organic Traffic

If your website or blog has an abundance of posts and pages that aren’t search-engine optimized, you should be thinking about doing a content audit to improve SEO. Here’s a six-step content audit and optimization process that will markedly improve organic traffic to your site. Read the full article at MarketingProfs
Source: https://www.marketingprofs.com/articles/2019/40964/how-to-perform-a-content-audit-that-skyrockets-your-organic-traffic

5 reasons CMOs should care about their commerce architecture

Previously published on LinkedIn

Delivering a compelling experience online is an exercise in story telling, messaging, branding and creative design, things that marketers have been doing well for a long time. Delivering a compelling experience online, securely, quickly and at scale, all while being able to experiment and react to new customer insights? Now, this is a whole new challenge. And, frankly marketers haven’t been doing this very long, and currently aren’t doing it very well. It is a whole new area of expertise that has very little to do with marketing, except for that fact that getting it right is fundamental to being able to share the message and the experience with customers.

Five years ago, maybe even two years ago, selecting a platform to build out your online presence was all about the features. Personalization, product management, integration capability, content management, etc were differentiating functions of the top platforms. Today, as those top platforms converge towards an RFP optimized set of commodity tools it may seem that they are all pretty much equal. In so much as they all offer the same backend tools with a different color scheme, and a sleek, responsive frontend, they are all the same. But this isn’t 2012, and with 32% year-over-year growth in ecommerce and an expected 10% of global sales to be online by 2020, the experiment we’ve been running online is transforming from being a small part of the business run by the marketing team, to the central lynchpin in an increasingly connected relationship with the business and the customer. In a world where the CMO is regularly tapped as the “Chief Decision-Maker” when it comes to the ecommerce strategy, it is important to understand that a “get it wrong” moment isn’t a failure for marketing, it is a failure for the entire organization.

2019 has brought about the realization that the most important feature in an ecommerce platform is the architecture. Without evaluating a given business, it is hard to say which architecture makes the most sense for it. Here are the five reasons why architecture should matter to the forward-thinking CMO. 

1. Scalable architecture means uptime during peak traffic

This is by far the most important reason why architecture matters. If businesses are doing their job correctly, the day is going to come when their message resonates with their customers, and they come flocking to the business for the experience they can’t live without. When they do, it is going to mean additional load on the business’ commerce site. Whether that’s increased pageviews, additional line items during a BOGO sale or additional people asking Alexa for products after that winning Super Bowl ad, organizations need a site that can meet the demand. If the platform they’re running on can’t scale to meet these unexpected demands, businesses may lose customers before they’ve ever had the chance to really acquire them.

2. Up-to-date inventory data means increased customer trust for BOPIS and online fulfillment 

In a store, on a shelf, inventory is easy. The customer walks into the store, they find the shelf where something belongs, if it is there they buy it, if it is gone, they find a store associate who looks to see if it is in the back, and the associate either hands it to the customer, or adds it to the next order and asks the customer to come back in a week to pick it up. Online, inventory is incredibly hard. Is it available, if it is backordered, how soon will the customers have it, can it be shipped to store, can the store fulfill in-house? And if businesses don’t know the answer to these questions their customers go to a competitor who does. And that happens in the flash of a few seconds. Inaccurate inventory can mean lost sales, increased RMA costs and frustrated customers left holding empty shopping bags they thought held the item they wanted. Worse, portraying accurate inventory has its own set of customer frustrations. Slow site load times and perceived lack of selection can send potential sales to competitors who appear to have a better customer experience. Finally, accurate promises for fulfillment have shown to be one of the best ways to acquire and retain customers. Amazon is proof positive that a terrible website experience doesn’t deter customers willing to wade through the chaff in order to get their Instant Pots and essential oils just a little bit faster. Being able to deliver these functions, in a balanced combination that works for the customer, and being able to experiment with which ones work for the organization is key to success on the fulfillment front.

3. Properly executed APIs allow true omnichannel engagement

The practice of commerce is a thousands of years old, with activity dating back to ancient Mesopotamia. Digital commerce in its current incarnation is a few years younger than the world wide web, which was born in 1991. Less than 30 years ago

Investment in a commerce platform is a decision an organization will live with for the next decade, maybe more. Between 1891 and 1930 humans evolved from the first automobile to normalized commercial air travel. Imagine what digital commerce will look like 10 years from now? Probably looks more like an airplane than the first automobile. APIs will be the key to future-proofing an online strategy. Choosing APIs that allow flexibility of execution is paramount.

4. Well designed application cache means less money spent on CPU cycles and more for customer engagement

Investment without return is a sure fire way to get kicked to the curb at the next quarterly board meeting. Budgets aren’t limitless, and as long as the ecommerce budget comes out of a CMO’s pocket, finding a way to reduce it is a priority. It’s not a stretch to say that the days of an on-premise commerce platform are over. The notion is antiquated, and the top reason why is that SaaS and hosted platforms have a lower overall TCO. However, even under the covers, especially if businesses are paying a PVU style license, efficiency has a direct impact on the cost of the platform. Not only the platform’s cost to operate at peak, but it’s ability to shrink and right size itself when traffic wanes. Even if an organization is paying rev share, or licensing on a per month basis, they’re still getting those hosting costs passed on to them in the form of a markup to “retail” from the platform vendor, so choosing a vendor who cares about efficient ops is in their long-term best interest.

5. Properly separated application design means easier upgrades and faster access to new features 

Experience commerce, headless commerce, API commerce… same thing, different name. They all center around separating the backend from the frontend in order to take advantage of best of breed experience platforms. At their core though, they offer some surprising benefits around TCO and agility. In the past, platform upgrades have been monumental undertakings, six months to a year of high touch work that stopped new feature delivery and focused a team on getting to the next version. Separating these tiers, and pushing feature development to a CMS that “widgetizes” the frontend means that upgrading the backend tools doesn’t interrupt the frontend experience. It also means that non-core tools can be added into the mix to offer surround capabilities for personalization, fulfillment, and other short term business initiatives. These things aren’t possible without a purpose build architecture to support modularity.

Looking back at that list it should be crystal clear that before any consideration on how many promotion types a platform supports, and which devices the homepage displays correctly on, businesses should be thinking about how the architecture enables future business success. Architecture matters, now more than ever, and the winners in the online battle are going to be the ones who have a platform that scales to meet demand, costs less to operate, and is flexible and adaptable to the future.

The post 5 reasons CMOs should care about their commerce architecture appeared first on Get Elastic Ecommerce Blog.

Source: https://www.getelastic.com/5-reasons-cmos-should-care-about-their-commerce-architecture

The Final-Mile and its factors for ecommerce success or failure

Online retailers face an uphill battle in securing new customers. More than one hundred thousand websites launch every day . Many of these websites serve market niches – meaning it’s becoming increasingly difficult for general ecommerce sites to maintain market share against specialized retailers.

Brick-and-mortar stores are fending off competition by recruiting entertaining, empathetic employees. This human touch is great for physical retail, but how can ecommerce sites deliver the knockout punch in their space?

Amazon is winning by focusing on the “final mile” in commerce

Amazon, the third largest retailer in the world, provides a shining example for both established and emerging ecommerce brands. The key is in what they call the “final mile”. This refers to both the physical and virtual distance between them and their customers. 

Local Warehouses and the Acquisition of “Whole Foods”

Amazon understands that their customers want their products as quickly as possible. The one thing that physical retailers beat Amazon on is the ability to deliver instant gratification. To combat this, the ecommerce giant has invested heavily in three key areas:

  1. The creation of their own Uber-style package delivery service in metropolitan areas.
  2. AI-influenced local warehouses with products likely to be ordered by customers in nearby neighborhoods. 
  3. The acquisition of physical retail spaces, like Whole Foods, to blur the line between ecommerce and physical retail. (They are repurposing some of the warehouse space in their Whole Foods locations to serve as local warehouses as well.)

Delivering a Compelling, Personalized Online Experience

The addition of local warehouses and on-demand package delivery certainly helps them shorten the final mile. However, optimizations in the physical final mile are useless without first ensuring that the order is placed with Amazon’s platform, instead of a competitor.

This is referred to as the “digital final mile”. The key to winning customer loyalty is personalization – and Amazon excels here too. 

Serving up product suggestions based on past user history

This might not sound like an earth-shattering idea in ecommerce, but Amazon continues to refine their approach and serve as an industry leader in personalization of the online customer experience. 

In fact, Amazon is so ahead of the pack that they have created a machine learning service for AWS subscribers that provides a state-of-the-art personalization engine for their projects. Unimaginatively, it’s called “Amazon Personalize”. The earth-shattering aspect of this is that developers get to leverage what Amazon.com has learned over more than a decade of delivering a personalized online experience.

That amount of knowledge and refinement is nothing to be sneezed at. And based on a few conversations with companies that use AWS, Amazon Personalizewas a deciding factor in choosing AWS over an alternative like Google Cloudor Microsoft Azure

Leveraging Video Content to Communicate Value in an Engaging Way

Amazon is a platform where virtually anyone can sign-up and sell their products to Amazon’s extensive user base. Sophisticated product marketers realize that their biggest competition comes from within the Amazon platform itself – in the form of other sellers selling the same or similar products. 

An entire book could be written on the art of producing compelling product videos. Assuming a seller has created an informative Amazon product listing and engaged a professional team to create a killer product video, the next most important step is uploading the video to Amazon.

It’s a relatively simple process, yet, Amazon limits the types of video files it accepts in order to ensure fast loading on customer devices. I personally recommend using an online video converterto get around the hardware bottlenecks of most computers. The final product needs to be in one of the following formats:

  • 3GP
  • AAC
  • AVI
  • FLV
  • MOV
  • MP4
  • MPEG-2

Amazon is dominating ecommerce by transforming the final mile – both physically and virtually. They are blurring the lines between online and physical retail with strategic acquisitions. 

To ensure they win customers’ orders, they are continuing to enhance their efforts to personalize the customer experience – including everything from product suggestions to encouraging sellers to leverage compelling product videos.

The post The Final-Mile and its factors for ecommerce success or failure appeared first on Get Elastic Ecommerce Blog.

Source: https://www.getelastic.com/the-final-mile-and-its-factors-for-ecommerce-success-or-failure

4 ways to create influencer marketing that really works

Gone are the days when marketing campaigns depend solely on traditional advertising and celebrity endorsements—welcome to 2019, the era of influencer marketing. To give you an idea, influencer marketing campaigns involve individuals who work with brands to promote their products among their followers. 

In today’s world, people are smart enough to not fall for larger-than-life promotions made by celebrities. They understand the intention and idea behind such advertising. These days, people would rely more on the words of a peer. Clearly, influencers are winning at marketing since their audience connects with them on a whole other level—they’re more inclined to be loyal towards a person who’s influencing them on a daily basis, rather than a celebrity with whom they have no interaction. It is the need of today’s business to create influencer marketing campaignsfor progressive growth and brand promotions.

What is influencer marketing?

Influencer marketing is basically, a meld of traditional and modern marketing techniques. You can’t boost sales and engagement without putting a good amount of energy into creating social media marketing strategies. This is when influencer marketing comes into play. 

Did you know? Big brands such as Coca Cola and H&M are using influencer marketing to boost their sales, engagement and overall brand promotions through influencers? 

One of Coca Cola’s most significant campaigns #ThatsGoldwas about the 2016 Olympic Games. This campaign was designed to attract teens with the help of content produced by athletes, musicians, and influencers. It was one of the highest number of viewsthe brand had with the Facebook Live feature.

Source: Portada

Similarly, fashion giant H&M collaborated with prominent celebrity influencers to produce four video ads which revealed their latest holiday outfits. This strategy helped them reach 12 million consumers.    

YouTube stars such as Lilly Singh, Lele Pons, and Rudy Mancuso are clear examples of influencers promoting big brands. By 2020, influencer marketing business is expected to reach $5-10 billion on a global level. 

There are two positive sides to promoting your brand or product through influencer marketing. Firstly, influencer marketing costs significantly less than traditional marketing and secondly, you don’t have to rope in a megastar, like Steph Curry to promote your new line of sneakers. You can get an Instagram influencer with a good and loyal following to promote the same.

Here are the most popular influencer marketing ideas:

1.   Giveaways

Dunkin Donuts_Halloween giveaways_Get Elastic
Source: Pinerest

Who doesn’t love free things? This is typically what a giveaway is. You can promote your products by organizing a giveaway on an influencer’s social media handle. An attractive package, free of cost is a good way to give your brand the exposure it deserves. A happy audience is the best way to get your sales going!

A simple yet engaging enough example is Dunkin Donuts. For Halloween, they asked their followers on all social media platforms to decorate their cups and send them a photo of the cup to stand to win a gift card of $100. 4 of the 5 winners were from Instagram. This helps with creating hype and also increasing curiosity amongst other viewers.

2.   Influencer Takeovers

An active social media channel with a good following can do wonders for your brand promotion and engagement. The idea is basically to allow an influencer to promote your brand on your handle or your page. The influencer applies their social media knowledge and skills to boost engagement of your page. Content is the king on social media, and you know it.

Model and actress Jaime Kingtook over the Instagram account of Harper’s Bazaarand shared her day and her ‘get ready with me’ routine for the Dior Cruise show.  

Jamie King_Harper's Bazaar_Get Elastic
Source: Peg Fitzpatrick

3.   Host an Event

Hosting an event is a great way to grow your relationship with the audience. In today’s world, promoting a brand through an influencer on social media isn’t enough. You have to take it offline too, at times. Make sure you invite influencers who connect well with your target audience. It’s important to focus on every little detail, including the decor and presentation of the entire event. 

Brandettes_Get Elastic
Source: Brandettes

Tarte Cosmetics’ marketing team is aware of the far-reaching and powerful voice of influencers, so they create influencer events which are designed to maximize exposure. Their mammoth budget allows them to regularly fly Instagram and YouTube vloggers and beauty gurus to exotic destinations like Turks and Caicos, Bora Bora, etc. These campaigns are unified under #trippinwithtarte. The enviable activities along with the beautiful location ensure influencers constantly create content and followers are engaged instantly. Hand-picked influencers and carefully curated content allowed Tarte to reach millions of users with this campaign.  

4.   Cause Marketing

This is a relatively new yet exceptional norm in the field of social media marketing. This marketing is based on a motive; to support a cause and influence or sensitize the audience about the same. You can collaborate with influencers who support similar causes, which would help you grow your engagement. 

After Puerto Rico was struck by Hurricane Irma, Tesla provided relief by working with Ricardo Rossello, the island’s governor, to produce batteries for relief. On October 24th, an enormous solar array was revealed which was said to provide power to hospitals.   

Inverse_Tesla_Get Elastic
Source: Inverse

Based on market research, influencer marketing campaigns aren’t going away anytime soon. Any and every brand is taking that extra step to reach out to and collaborate with influencers. By taking the age-old concept of “word of mouth marketing” and adding in a modern spin, influencer marketing has the potential to reach millions of people effectively.

The post 4 ways to create influencer marketing that really works appeared first on Get Elastic Ecommerce Blog.

Source: https://www.getelastic.com/4-ways-to-create-influencer-marketing-that-really-works