Consumer online chat/text surpasses voice interaction
Nov. 21, 2016
by Mark Ollig

“Good morning, thanks for calling WXYZ Company, how may we help you today?”

A traditional voice telephone call with a company’s human employee verbally answering our questions about their product or service has taken second place to Internet chatbots, cellphone texting, and online messaging.

Real-time, online chat messaging over the Internet on a retailer’s website, or social media network, such as Twitter and Facebook, and Short Message Service (SMS) texting using a cellphone, are being used by more millennials for conducting their commerce.

This was the conclusion in a recent report by a west coast consumer relations company called [24]7.

Headquartered in Campbell, CA, [24]7 provides automated live chat, and virtual smart-speech digital agent chatbot technologies to retail websites.

Their virtual chat services operate over many store websites and online messaging platforms such as Facebook Messenger, and mobile messaging apps (applications).

The technology used by [24]7 assists online customers with the purchase of a service or product from a retailer’s brick-and-mortar store, or their online shop.

Virtual chatbots, or bots, are software programs written to simulate human conversation, and are designed to answer questions, offer suggestions, and provide assistance from the specific company they are programmed for.

The [24]7 report, titled “A Retailer’s Guide to Chat,” shows an increased use in online automated chatbots and text messaging when visiting online retail company stores.

This report states 37 percent of the US millennials ages 18 to 34 said they use online chat channels, such as Facebook Messenger, when making purchases.

Messaging apps are a favorite with millennials; 66 percent find benefits using them for interacting with retailers.

Examples of popular messaging apps include WhatsApp, QQ Mobile, WeChat, and Facebook Messenger.

I imagine one reason this survey focused on millennials, is because their global spending power was $2.45 trillion in 2015, according to one Minnesota digital marketing research firm.

Our friends at Pew Research reported in August 2015, using messaging apps to communicate was a common practice by the 18-to 29-year-olds; indicating they’re very comfortable with the technology.

Many millennials, per the [24]7 report, trust using automated bots and retail text/chat messaging services.

Ah, but what about having a conversation relating to a store purchase with an AI (artificial intelligent) chatbot?

Of the millennials questioned, 43 percent said they would engage in such a conversation.

Millennials surveyed also said they felt better about their online shopping experience when using messaging apps for tracking their orders from a retailer.

Another benefit for having live text messaging; you can save the text conversation (or session) and go back to it later for any clarifications.

Convenience of using a chat app for directly communicating with the retailers website to resolve problems, was also mentioned as a benefit.

Of course, there are concerns when using an online chat/messaging app.

Security and privacy was the highest concern, stated 28 percent of surveyed consumers.

Distrust of using third-party apps was cited by 12 percent.

In April, Pew Research reported the current millennial population has surpassed the existing baby boomers; thus becoming this country’s largest, “living generation.”

It seems those of us left in the baby boomer generation are a bit more apprehensive; I’ll say, reasonably cautious, when doing business using chatbots and text messaging.

No doubt using online chat/texting for making the sale is popular; however, the report noted being able to talk directly with a human after the sale is made; whether to follow up on, or to resolve a problem with the sale, remains important to customers.

Although online chat and text messaging are gaining status as a preferred method for interacting with retailers with millennials, direct human involvement is still valued by consumers.

Businesses and retailers should be educating all consumer age groups on the benefits of interacting with them using secure messaging, and online chat apps.

In order to attract sales for online shops, and brick-and-mortar stores, companies need to provide consumer resources, such as virtual chat guides, video how-to demonstrations, and customer testimonials through their websites and social media networks.

Consumer education for all age groups is essential in order to earn our trust, confidence, and satisfaction when using chat/text technology in the marketplace.

“With chat technology rapidly evolving, it’s becoming a much more efficient and engaging customer service channel,” said Scott Horn, chief marketing officer for [24]7.

Their website is http://www.247-inc.com.

You can follow me on Twitter at @bitsandbytes.

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