Skip to main content

Chances are you’ve conversed with an ecommerce chatbot already.

The meteoric rise of language learning AI software ChatGPT has left tech giants scrambling. Microsoft unveiled it will invest $10 billion in OpenAI, the company responsible for creating the viral chatbot. 

In response, Google announced it would launch its chatbot version of Google Search plus 20 other AI products this year. Although Google’s AI tool, Bard, had a less-than-stellar live demo last week, both companies are innovating rapidly, creating a lot of buzz about the possible uses of chatbots in our day-to-day lives. 

However, artificial intelligence chatbots are not a new invention. Ecommerce sites have been using chatbots for the past few years to deliver prompt responses to queries and 24/7 customer service. 

So, what does this mean for your business, and how can you benefit? In this article, I'll look at the different types of chatbots available and the best ways to use them for your ecommerce business.

What Is An Ecommerce Chatbot? 

Think about the last time you shopped online, and a chat box popped up asking if you need any assistance. Most of the time, these ecommerce chatbots use a blend of automation and machine learning to help customers navigate throughout the site and answer queries. 

This has proven to be an easy way to provide great customer service in the online space. Messages are delivered promptly and efficiently without much delay. While it’s great to have several ways for customers to contact your business, getting a hold of someone over email or phone can take time, while instant messaging is, well, instantaneous. 

Chatbots reply immediately, making them appealing to customers who are short on time and need answers quickly.

While customers do love live chat, 74% of customers prefer using a chatbot when it comes to more simple answers. Having a chatbot on the frontlines of your customer service team can also save your staff time from having to answer the same routine questions over and over again so they can dedicate more time to complex customer issues. 

Plus, the chatbot market is growing. We predict chatbots will be a major trend in ecommerce for 2023 as more companies adopt chatbots to assist customers throughout the buying process. By 2032, the chatbot market size is predicted to be worth $4.9 billion as AI technology advances. 

A look at the growing chatbot market size from 2023-2032. Source: Global Newswire

3 Types Of Ecommerce Chatbots (Plus Use Cases) 

Nowadays, three main types of ecommerce chatbots are often used within online stores. Let’s look at three types regularly used within an ecommerce environment and which is the best option for your needs. 

Rule-based chatbots 

Rule-based chatbots, also known as decision tree chatbots, do not use any artificial intelligence. Instead, you use decision tree logic to lead a customer through a conversation, manually filling in predetermined responses with a script.

These chatbots will ask customers questions and give them the option of agreeing or disagreeing, which will lead them through branching logic. These are great to use if your customers tend to ask the same questions over and over again. 

Popular rule-based chatbots like ManyChat can be integrated with your ecommerce Shopify store and be used to automate replies on social platforms like Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, Instagram direct messages, and SMS to save you time. 

A screenshot of Manychat’s own bot to handle new customer inquiries.

In the image above, you can see how new visitors on ManyChat’s site are led through an automated script by a rule-based chatbot. The visitor can pick from three options based on their knowledge of the product before being led on a tour of the company’s offerings. 

Based on their answers, the visitor can be tagged as a beginner, intermediate, or advanced user of the product, which can help with your marketing and sales efforts later on when making product recommendations or upselling. 

These automated conversations help engage customers and have around an 80% open rate. You can look at the analytics tab to see how much revenue is generated from automated conversations and the contact data you’ve collected. 

The only flaw with this system is that the customer may not find what they are looking for since rule-based chatbots have limited functionality and can only reply with what you’ve manually programmed it with. It’s recommended that you also give visitors a chance to have a live chat with a designated customer service representative in that case, so you don’t lose out on potential leads. 

A rule-based chatbot is great if you are a small business that needs to automate a specific task like booking or scheduling appointments or answering commonly asked questions about your return policy or product features.  

Pros

  • Great for FAQs
  • Cost-effective option

Cons

  • Responses are limited and can’t handle more complex inquiries
  • Not self-learning and won’t use past customer data to build on their responses
  • Replies can feel robotic and rigid
A screenshot listing the pros and cons of rules-based chatbots
Stay in the loop! Discover what’s new in the world of ecommerce.

Stay in the loop! Discover what’s new in the world of ecommerce.

  • Hidden
  • Hidden
  • No spam, just quality content. Your inbox is safe with us. For more details, review our Privacy Policy. We're protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.
  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

AI-driven chatbots 

AI-driven chatbots are more sophisticated ecommerce chatbots that can answer and predict customer queries based on the flow of the conversation.

They use an AI tool called NLP (natural language processing) to create more human-like responses, making conversations more dynamic and engaging. They also use machine learning and sentiment analysis to pick up on user intent more efficiently, which allows them to match customer concerns with a product or service. 

The back-and-forth between the customer and AI chatbot feels conversational and organic, almost as if you are talking to a real person.

In most cases, it’s hard to detect if you’re speaking to a chatbot rather than a human! 

AI chatbots like DialogFlow use Google’s leading AI to pick up on patterns, so they navigate through complex conversations and provide better conversion rates. 

The advancement of AI chatbots is largely thanks to the healthcare industry, which has been using chatbots for the past few years to great effect. 

Medical chatbots in the healthcare sector are already used to help with many day-to-day tasks. They can help patients schedule appointments, refill prescriptions, and obtain medical information. They also perform more advanced tasks like checking a patient’s symptoms to see if their illness warrants a visit to the emergency room. 

Medical chatbots can also receive training in cognitive behavior therapy and provide medical assistance to patients dealing with PTSD or depression. An example of this is the popular mental health app chatbot Woebot

Screenshot from Woebot app using conversational AI, image via Business Insider

Woebot is a great example of how AI uses machine learning to predict our mood and state of mind through conversational flow. 

Whether someone is dealing with anxiety, stress, or depression, Woebot is knowledgeable enough as an AI chatbot to provide users with tools they can use to live a better life and improve their mental health. 

Pros

  • Natural sounding conversation
  • Bot is self-learning
  • Better ROI than rule-based chatbots
  • Can converse in multiple languages

Cons

  • Requires a lot of machine learning training before it can be used
  • More expensive to implement
  • May not be necessary if you want a more simple chatbot
A screenshot listing the pros and cons of AI-driven chatbots

Hybrid chatbots 

Hybrid chatbots use a blend of the decision tree, artificial intelligence, and live chat to create a well-rounded ecommerce chatbot for a seamless customer experience.

They are gaining popularity since they can use rules to answer simple queries but switch to AI if the customer has a more complex query. If the knowledge base for AI is exceeded, the customer can then be connected with a live agent. 

That being said, whatever chatbot option you decide to use for your ecommerce store, a good rule of thumb is always to offer customers a live chat option. Although chatbots are convenient and can churn out quick answers, many customers still prefer chatting with a real person. 

However, it remains to be seen if anyone can tell the difference in a few years' time as AI and machine learning get more sophisticated. 

Pros

  • Natural sounding conversation
  • Bot is self-learning and can understand common typos
  • Better ROI than rule-based chatbots
  • Can converse in multiple languages
  • Customers like talking to a human agent

Cons

  • Requires machine learning before implementing
A screenshot listing the pros and cons of hybrid chatbots

6 Ways To Use Ecommerce Chatbots For Your Business (With Examples) 

If you’re excited about implementing a chatbot for your ecommerce store, here are six ways you can use them to get more out of your marketing and sales efforts.

1. Answer frequently asked questions

Set up your chatbot to answer common questions about your brand and products or services.

Offering FAQs and product knowledge about the size, color range, and benefits of using your product. Put yourself in the shoes of your ideal customer and the things they would ask before making a purchase.

  • What are your shipping times?
  • Is there a warranty available?
  • Is your product cruelty-free? 

Make a list of questions, and once you get your chatbot up and running, you can add to your list of scripted responses as more customer data comes in. 

2. Engage customers before they engage you 

Rather than having the customer try to find a way to contact you, and click through your site to find your customer support email or phone number, offer help right away with a pop-up message. 

Taking the lead in the conversation makes your brand more friendly and customer-centric. Ecommerce chatbot icons can appear on the corner of your screen or kick in automatically after a visitor has spent a certain amount of time browsing through your ecommerce site. 

Engaging first shows that you are proactive and committed to providing them with a stellar customer experience. Customers don’t like to feel ignored, so don’t be afraid to make the first move. 

3. Inform them of sales and promos

A great way to plug any sale or promotion you are having is through chatbots as well. 

Sometimes, customers that do not arrive via the homepage can miss out on potential offers. Having a chatbot script written out beforehand leading them to your sale or promo landing page can make them feel more enticed to shop and convert right away. 

On Samsung’s website, they put their offer front and center, so it’s hard to miss that they have a sale running. They lure in visitors with the promise of extra savings if you engage with one of their experts.

Samsung’s chatbot features an enticing call to action about their Big Game Sales Event in the week leading up to the Superbowl.

It also has an enticing call-to-action that includes a spoon-fed conversation starter: Chat with an expert to learn more about their Big Game Sales Event, which makes customers curious about what deals are currently live. 

4. Offer support for order tracking 

Sometimes, customers like to check up on the status of their packages. Having access to an ecommerce chatbot that can look up their order number and provide a quick status update can provide peace of mind, especially when it's an expensive item. 

You can automate this process as well if you offer returns or exchanges. Ask customers to type in their order number and generate a return label so the customer service process is seamless. 

5. Gather real-time data

Whether using a rule-based chatbot or an AI chatbot, you end up gathering a ton of information about your leads and customers.

Although ecommerce chatbots are customer service tools, they can also be a goldmine for market research. By analyzing past data, you can see what customers feel strongly about and what they like or dislike about your brand and products. 

You can also create a short survey via chatbot if you have more specific questions for your website visitors on their user experience. 

  • How do they feel about the current site? 
  • Are they able to find what they are looking for quickly? 
  • How would they rate their buying experience? 

These are all important questions to ask so you can see if any changes need to be made to your website layout and design to reduce bouncebacks and lower your cart abandonment rate. 

6. Address complaints quickly 

We’ve all seen customers venting via social media about companies and their bad customer service. This can really hurt a brand in the long run since perception is everything. Take this as an opportunity to quell any resentment or frustration quickly. 

Speaking from personal experience, we were less than thrilled when a couch we bought online arrived poorly packaged. When opening the boxes, silica gel beads spilled everywhere, which added to our clean-up time. 

When we spoke to a chatbot, they quickly directed us to a live agent who offered us free add-ons to our couch.

Offering unhappy customers a discount or an add-on item is a great way to rebuild the relationship and make them feel seen and heard. The human agent was able to resolve the issue quickly, and we couldn’t help but be impressed by the quick solution. 

Conversational Commerce and Ecommerce Chatbots Are Here To Stay 

How will you use chatbots for your ecommerce business? Different types of ecommerce chatbots can help with a range of customer-facing issues varying from simple to complex. 

You can set up a rule-based chatbot to answer commonly asked questions or use an AI chatbot to handle more detailed and nuanced customer feedback. 

Whichever chatbot solution you choose, the data you collect will be invaluable to understanding your customer better and their motivation behind purchasing your product or service. 

Don’t forget to subscribe to The Ecomm Manager newsletter to get more strategic insights for your ecommerce business. You can also connect with us on Instagram for more digital marketing tips. 

More great ECM content: 

By Frances Du

Frances Du is a content manager and writer with 10 years of experience in ecommerce and digital marketing, turning customer insights and market trends into actionable content strategies that drive engagement and discussion. Frances' editorial work has been featured in The Ecomm Manager, Village Living Magazine, GOOD Magazine, Traveler's Digest, SHE Canada, The Culture-ist, and The Huffington Post. She is a graduate of the University of Toronto.