We’re facing a recession. Companies all over the world are struggling with financial challenges. Expenses get reevaluated. New projects are put on hold. Everyone has to tighten the belt. But when times are tough, it’s more important than ever to not lose focus on customer experience. Why that is and how you can improve your customer experience by using AI technology is what you’ll learn if you keep reading this article.

When in a recession, the majority of businesses have to cut costs (i.e get rid of unnecessary expenses). Subscriptions of services and tools that once were seen as “need-to-have” are suddenly downgraded to “nice-to-have”. At the same time, many businesses have to redirect their business strategy from growth and development to retention and profitability.

That’s understandable. Probably even essential in many cases.

But be careful. It’s easy to get lost when the focus lies solely on profit. This is because shifting focus from growth to profitability can result in losing focus on the customer. And the customers' wants and needs should always be centric - recession or not.

This is called having a customer-centric approach. And to succeed with a customer-centric approach you have to regularly evaluate and improve the customer experience.

What is customer experience?

Customer experience (or CX if you want to use the industry lingo) is the overall impression your customers have of your brand. It applies to all aspects of the customer journey and at every touchpoint of your business.

Providing a good customer experience will impact several factors related to your business goals. Because when a customer has a positive experience the likelihood of the customer coming back, i.e becoming loyal, is so much higher. In the same way, a customer is more likely to make a purchase with a higher order value if the experience and support exceeded their expectations.

In other words: Good customer experience= better retention and increased revenue.

Bonus benefit:

Delivering a good customer experience can also become a great marketing source. Because if your customers love interacting with you, they’ll probably recommend you to others and stay with you longer. And having your customers turn into brand advocates can be rather profitable. In fact, the Word of Mouth Marketing Association (WOMMA) found that word of mouth drives an estimated $6 trillion in annual consumer spending.

Related: Customer experience trends 2023

How AI can improve your customer experience

Artificial intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (a subset of AI) are technologies that have many areas of use. In short, AI and machine learning provide machines the ability to learn from data and past experiences to identify patterns and make predictions with minimal human intervention. This technology is used in everything from preventing unauthorized financial activity to creating unbeatable chess opponents.

Another area where AI can be used (that lies somewhere between fraud detection and game development) is the field of customer experience.

Let’s have a look at four practical examples of ways that AI can help your company shape and improve your eCommerce customer experience.

#1 Give tailored recommendations

As the eCommerce industry has grown, so has the competition. And the rules of the game have also changed. It’s no longer enough to have the best product or the lowest price. To stand out from competitors you have to bring something else to the table. That something is an impeccable customer experience. 😎

One way to enhance the customer experience is by providing a personalized experience through the usage of a product finder. A Product finder is an AI-driven process that allows eCommerce businesses to advise and guide their customers to choose the right product for their needs. Without the need for extensive search or reading a lot of product pages.

How product finders work

Imagine that you’re running an eCommerce retailer that sells sports equipment. Some products speak for themselves, but complex products like running shoes can be difficult to buy online. Features like “heel drop” or “flyknit-technology” can be difficult for an average jogger to translate into actual practical value.

With an AI-driven product finder, you let the customer answer questions like this instead:

  • "How do you like to land when you run?"
  • "Where/How long/In what weather will you be running?"
  • “Will you be running on asphalt or in the woods?”

And based on what the customer answers - the product finder will give a tailored product recommendation. The product selection that at first consisted of hundreds of products now is reduced to just a handful, all of which fit their own specific criteria.

In short: product finders translate the hard robotic filters most eCommerce stores sort their products buy into soft human filters that customers can relate to.

Bonus benefit:

Besides the positive impact product finders have on the customer experience and buying process - they also increase conversion rates plus lower the number of returns for the retailer.

#2 Provide support proactively

When it comes to eCommerce, one of the cornerstones in delivering a good customer experience is to remove any possible friction from the buying journey. Besides offering product finders when buying complex products, an AI-driven Chatbot is a good tool when you want to offer a smooth shopping experience.

Like a shop assistant who proactively helps customers with their purchases in a physical store, a chatbot can do the same in an online store. Based on the customer's website behavior, the chatbot can “pop” and provide help before the customer even knew they needed it. An example scenario is to program the chatbot to trigger a message with information about your return policy if the customer types in “return” in the search bar.

Combining this with a product finder and we’ll officially crown you the king of eCommerce CX 👑

#3 Help customers solve problems faster

Besides enabling proactive help, chatbots are great when it comes to enhancing and streamlining your customer support. Today's customers have set the bar high when it comes to customer support. They expect to be informed when something will be delivered, or when someone will turn up to install something. And if something doesn’t go as planned, they expect to be presented with an alternative solution or product.

What’s more, they really have no patience to wait for support. In a survey by HubSpot 90% of consumers rate an “immediate” response as important or very important when they have a customer service question.

Providing customers with lightning-fast support is actually one of the best areas of use for a chatbot. They can help answer frequently asked questions, point customers to helpful articles or initiate a return. This doesn’t just reduce labor costs; it actually helps your customers resolve issues faster. And best of all - a chatbot makes it possible for you to be available for customers 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

“But customers want to talk to humans - not bots” you may say.

Well, yes and no.

Yes, people often want to talk to humans when that option is available, but most of all they want their problems solved. And as stated above - they have no patience to wait for it. And modern chatbots have a very human-like way of talking. In fact, another survey made by Hubspot discovered that 63% of people who used AI-driven services like chatbots didn’t realize they were using AI.

How about that. 🤷‍♀️

#4 Use sentiment analysis to analyze customer feedback

Sentiment analysis (also known as opinion mining or emotion AI) is a technique driven by AI for processing text data to classify the different emotions (positive, neutral, or negative) that text reflects. This is a technique that you can integrate with a chatbot for example. As an eCommerce business, this gives you a great opportunity to learn what makes your customers happy or frustrated, so that you can tailor products and services to meet their needs.

Wrapping up

Even though AI probably never will completely substitute human interaction, it sure has the potential to assist enhance efficiency as well as remove low-hanging fruit from the customer support team.

So don’t forget about this important part of your business as we’re facing this recession. It’s time to double down on CX instead of cutting it out of your plans.