Almost 20% of all retail sales, now made online (and with no signs of slowing down), industry reporters are quick to praise the excellent headway made by brands and retailers in the ecommerce and digital marketing space on increasing digital revenue. They’re less quick to comment on the fact conversion online is 7x lower than in brick-and-mortar stores. This sobering statistic is testament to the fundamental issue that brands and retailers are failing to help consumers find the products they’re looking for online.

With hundreds of thousands of products to choose from, and most websites still only offering outdated, static and frequently ineffective search experiences, brands cannot solve today’s problems with yesterday’s strategies and technology. So, how can brands and retailers solve the basic issue of helping customers find what they’re looking for? It’s time to evolve the search paradigm from keyword to intent based assistance - and turn every search experience into a successful shopping experience - that engages, understands, converts and delights every single consumer.

Recognise the importance of choice overload

Consumers have astonishing choice and information at their fingertips today. And while choice is good...too much choice is bad. So much so, 42% of consumers have admitted to feeling overwhelmed with the amount of choice available to them on a retailer or brand website.

Have you ever searched for cameras on Amazon or Walmart? Over 100,000 options. How about a coffee maker? More than 2,000 models. No matter what you sell, choice overload affects your bottom line - 54% consumers admit to abandoning a website after feeling overwhelmed. But it doesn’t stop there. Failure to simplify the purchase decision lowers Customer Lifetime Value (CLV) and your Net Promoter Score (NPS). The latest research from CalTech highlights that the optimum number of options for a human to pick from is seven.

Consumers need help translating the tech specs, features and functions that feed traditional search experiences into a language they can understand and engage with - something which they can understand. And, the easiest way to engage with consumers is having a conversation. So, how do you replicate the the old adage of ‘How can I help you?’ at scale, across all digital channels?

From keywords to conversations

It’s well-reported that 66% of all product searches begin on Amazon, due to its digital dominance and the convenience it offers online shoppers.

But, given that choice doesn't always equal conversion – how can brands and retailers compete to increase engagement and drive conversion? The fastest way is to transform the search experience, moving from 'keyword' to 'intent'. This means recognizing the intent of shoppers, in the moment, and rather than leaving them to self-navigate your website, you engage them in a conversation to help them find the perfect product. For example, if someone is searching for a ‘bicycle’, rather than showcase the hundreds of products on your website which match that keyword, guide, assist and sell more by asking questions!

Digital CX with a human touch

Delivering a search experience which replicates the best elements of human interaction across your digital channels is no easy feat. Especially, when you consider how immense product catalogs are and the rate of new products entering the market - where do you even start?

By leveraging Artificial Intelligence (AI), brands can bridge the gap between the in-store and online experiences, addressing the human need for conversational engagement with the innate want to be understood – across all channels. This helps companies, in turn, to build trust and loyalty.

AI helps brands to bring the best elements of assistance and guidance to digital. Unlike a human assistant, leveraging machine learning and algorithms mean you can gain critical insights behind sales performance to learn who is buying what, and why. Using AI to deliver experiences that feel “human” across digital channels may seem contradictory, but to remove friction in the search experience, especially at scale, requires the use of emerging technology.

Why it’s now or never.

AI-driven conversations offer consumers the quick and convenient paths to purchase that they demand, no matter what channel they are shopping on. The latest research highlights that 88% of consumers demand more assistance and guidance while shopping, and is reflected in the fact that online conversion still sits 7x lower than in-store. But brands and retailers who recognise the shortcomings of traditional commerce strategies and embrace the future of all things conversational will outperform their competitors by reducing friction caused by choice overload and increasing engagement, loyalty - and of course, conversion


Written by Sarah Assous, CMO, Zoovu. 

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