ABy Anand Subramaniam, VP of Worldwide Marketing, eGain Corporation

Online abandonment is a big challenge. Analysts say online sales are expected to hit a trillion dollars this year—yet  web sites don’t make it easy for shoppers to buy. This in turn causes today’s impatient, distracted shopper to simply abandon a website with the click of a mouse or ‘swipe’ of a tablet. Shopping cart and online form abandonment rates are often upwards of 75%, and only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to lost sales on retail sites.  Shoppers often abandon websites even before they ‘grab’ the cart.  We call it ‘shopping abandonment’, a phenomenon that is even a bigger problem than just ‘shopping cart abandonment’.


Online customer journey: find, decide, buy

When shoppers buy online, they go through three distinct steps in their purchase process – find, decide and buy. Thanks to exploding SKU clutter, search dead-ends and content irrelevance, they might get lost or distracted, and simply defect. Many eCommerce sites offer simple keyword search or online catalogs to help eager shoppers find what they are looking for, but keyword search is famously unintelligent and catalogs are not consumer-friendly. Would a skin cream be in the personal care, health or pharmacy section? Recently, when I searched for ‘glow-in-the dark analog watch’ on a leading retailer’s website, I got multiple pages of t-shirt hits with ‘glow-in-the-dark’ logos on them before there was anything related to watches. Once the shopper finds some options, they’d need to next decide exactly what they want to buy.

To make a decision, they typically search for product information and independent reviews, especially for non-commodity products. Many websites don’t aggregate this information – this is called federated search in tech jargon - causing shoppers to go elsewhere, never to return. Moreover, websites often make clueless, one-size-fits-all offers in the ‘decide’ phase that don’t move the customer journey forward. Finally, when the shopper is ready to buy, they put things in their shopping cart and start to check out. But then they often quit at this stage for various reasons – whether it be the convoluted checkout process, shipping fees sticker shock, inability to find something, or another reason. When shopping for financial services and insurance, customers often need to fill out onerous online forms to ‘buy’. These forms are often complex, and there’s no real-time, in-purchase help, so the shopper simply gives up and goes elsewhere.

Creating ‘Wow’!

Connect with Wow: Wouldn’t it be great if websites had a virtual assistant (aka concierge, chatbot, etc.) that made that all-important first connection with every shopper in a fun and clever way? What if the chatbot welcomed the visitor in an engaging manner, answered common questions in a natural language dialog, pushed relevant web pages to the shopper, gave website tours and even transitioned the conversation with all the context to a sales advisor, if needed? That’s what best-in-class, channel-integrated chatbots do – retail and telecommunications are among the industries leveraging virtual assistants for wow and cost savings. Chatbots can help to keep distracted and indecisive shoppers on your website long enough to move them forward in their purchase journey.

Guide to help find and decide: What if the website search understood the intent of the shopper and helped them ‘find’ by guiding them to what they need to buy through a step-by-step conversation – just like a competent sales person or an automobile GPS would? Intent-driven search technology and guided help based on AI (Artificial Intelligence) technologies like Case-Based Reasoning (CBR) can make it happen.  One of our telecommunication clients have implemented this approach – the company’s web site recommends the most appropriate set of mobile phone models and subscriber plans, based on an interactive self-service conversation with subscribers. Sticky websites move shoppers to the next stage in their journey, namely, ‘decide’. They federate search results from not only from their own websites, but also from independent product review and customer support forums, making it easier for the shopper to ‘decide’, without ever having to leave the website. These sites also make relevant offers such as content, coupons, real-time chat or cobrowse offers from sales advisors, etc. to help the shopper decide what to buy. Moreover, they make these offers based on 360-degree customer context from the current interaction as well as past multichannel interactions and transactions with the enterprise, complemented by relevant ‘big data’. A unified multichannel customer engagement hub enables this approach.

Collaborate to close: With technologies such as click-to-call and cobrowse, combined with concurrent text or video chat, sales advisors can help shoppers complete online forms or shopping transactions, show them around on the website and close the sale. Our clients have been able to increase online conversion by up to 200% with this approach!

Go get ‘em!

There’s no question that digital commerce will continue to grow rapidly. Businesses that wow online shoppers  with smarter and better engagement in their online journey will be better positioned to convert browsers to buyers and expand market share.

Anand Subramaniam is the vice president of worldwide marketing for eGain, a leading provider of customer service and knowledge management software.


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