SA retailers turn to chat commerce to boost sales

by Jeppe Dorff. Retail businesses are gaining a competitive advantage with chat commerce.

by Jeppe Dorff. The retail industry has gone through a digital metamorphosis in the last year. A complete shift in customer behaviour has seen technical developments which may previously have taken years, now being implemented in months. Retail businesses are gaining a competitive advantage with chat commerce.

The pandemic has seen a rapid rise in digital innovation from South African retailers. New customer behaviour has forced retailers to find new ways to reach consumers where they are, rather than simply attracting customers to their stores. Retailers are now battling it out on a new front of customer service rather than just price and quality. Including chat in their omni-channel offering can make a substantial difference to retailers fighting for the limited spend of customers.

Clickatell and Aberdeen Research have released new data which shows companies that have deployed chat commerce see higher revenue growth, stronger customer retention, reduced service costs and increased market effectiveness. In the global multi-industry survey of 405 companies, Aberdeen found that those that use chat in commerce achieve superior financial results, while delivering a better customer experience. Highlights of the research indicate that companies using chat in commerce experience the following:

  • 75% improvement in annual revenue growth.
  • 48% bump in customer retention rates.
  • 27% improvement in ability to reduce service costs.
  • 21 x improvement in marketing ROI.

The research also shows that many forms of chat—including WhatsApp, live chat, and mobile in-app messaging—rank high in terms of planned adoption as companies seek more connection with consumers. By deploying chat—which is now used daily by eight in 10 adults, companies can more quickly respond to changing consumer needs and preferences as they pursue their digital initiatives.

Makro adopts chat to deliver value added customer services

An area where retailers can make significant gains by using chat commerce is in customer service. South African retail giant, Makro has already made significant headway with a chat solution. Makro customers can connect over WhatsApp in an engaging way. The solution enables shoppers to access multiple services, for example, to track orders, view current catalogues, access a digital store card, locate nearby stores, and have frequently asked questions instantly answered. New additions include the ability for shoppers to enter competitions, access other value-added services and log requests directly with customer care.

The Makro solution allows shoppers to either add a contact and begin chatting, or to scan a QR code. The growing popularity of QR codes by local consumers is proving particularly valuable for retailers who can use these as a quick way to serve their customers. This can be through a secure chat engagement or product discovery or even problem resolution. Judy Gounden, marketing vice president at Makro, remarked how Makro is constantly evolving, making sure it offers a service that suits its customers’ needs. Makro has deployed Clickatell’s chat solution which has the flexibility to grow and change over time.

Looking ahead, South African retailers are ideally positioned to take advantage of the opportunities offered by chat commerce. Retailers in South Africa have, in many cases, already made significant investments in digital, often employing data scientists and ecommerce specialists in-house. However, even those who have deployed their own bots sometimes struggle with the sudden rise in online orders. By integrating with their bots and delivering a chat platform as part of their omnichannel offering, retailers will be in a much better position to handle the influx of queries around the increase of online orders. Chat is also a good solution for alleviating overburdened call centres, and most importantly, positions the retailer for exciting future options.

With the use of everyday and available mobile technologies, an entire customer journey from product exploration (making use of augmented reality); to secure transactions, and including returns and product ratings, can happen within the chat experience. This includes the ability to hand over to live agents to deal with complex queries to ensure a supportive experience. The entire solution is supported by advanced fraud protection, smart workflow editors, chat desk integration and advanced analytics.

We expect chat commerce to transform the way consumers find, discover and purchase what they need. Chat will also greatly increase the customer insight, and ultimately customer retention. South African retailers are poised to take advantage of the opportunity.

Main image credit: Photo by Drew Beamer on Unsplash.


Jeppe Dorff is Clickatell Chief Product and Technology Officer.




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