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Dear chatbot, sell me some socks with flowers!

How can a chatbot help with online shopping?IMG_1303


– Who are we?
– Millennials!
– What do we want?
– Shopping!
– How are we going to do it?
– Without leaving the messaging apps!

Millennials are the most active online shoppers. And they make more and more purchases online, and more and more often use their mobile devices for it. Taking into consideration the popularity of messaging apps with Y Generation, it is absolutely necessary to use them as a marketing channel, for receiving orders and feedback, for up-sales and cross-sales.

We are going to look closer at the elements and functions of the chatbots for online shopping, starting with the basic and inevitable functions and saving less obvious but the most useful for dessert.


All kinds of chatbots for online shopping


Though the chatbots get smarter and more powerful, as yet online shopping chatbots usually exist just as an addition for some online shopping website that performs particular functions.
We didn’t find any independent, fully fledged shops in chats representing any American or European companies. Though there are plenty of such shops in the Chinese market, where many entrepreneurs run e-commerce business through WeChat messaging app only, without creating their website. But the chatbots are not popular in WeChat.
We suppose, that the chatbots can not replace online shopping websites at the moment because of somewhat limited possibilities of chatbots design. Some vital functions of online shops can not be easily and properly moved to chat.
A chatbot can “live” on the website of the shop or in messaging app. The chatbots on websites perform some useful services, but they have a big drawback – they do not reflect the trend towards mobile shopping.

internet-shopping chatbots- trish

Speaking of the messaging apps, the chatbots mostly inhabit Facebook Messenger.

The elements and functions of an online shopping chatbot


Surely. we want not only consider which“building blocks” are characteristic of every such bot, but also how convenient and agreeable they are for customers, and also, what elements are lacking. So, let’s have a look!

Now, there are two main things the chatbots can do, from the user’s point of view:
They search for items.
They show items without intended search as if you called in the store or were just browsing items. They present in in form of collections, catalogs, etc.



The search function is realized with the help of various interface elements. It can be text input, the choice of options represented by buttons or “quick replies”, choice of categories put into a “slider” o a “carousel”
The most common way is to search by keywords, with text input.
Some stores offer to search items (mind, it should be the right type of goods) with the help of decision tree, where the user selects one of the options represented by “quick replies” or buttons. E.g., you choose a book for a gift or for yourself. If it is a gift, a chatbot asks “for a child?” or “adult?”. Then, they offer “fiction” or “nonfiction”, or age variants for a child.



internet shop chatbot-1

In a hybrid model, the text input is combined with buttons. For example, chatbot offers to choose men’s or women’s clothes, and the color should be typed.
Some advanced shops, like eBay, allow searching by images.
Some of the bots – as a rule, fashion shops, – search only by images, like Glamix.


internet shop chatbot -2


There are chatbots that search by emoji. It is not that useful, but funny.
But no one can claim it senseless in general if it does not facilitate much the search process (by the way, it doesn’t impede it either). It is helpful in another way – it entertains the user and makes a positive impact.

Available search options
As search is one of the most important tasks that chatbot performs, the bot creators should carefully select search criteria. If there are too many settings, the filtering process will bore the customer and he or she will quit a conversation with the chatbot. If there are not enough settings, a customer will be forced to examine the entire catalog. And that is quite a different function.
The fashion shops (this sector builds the majority of chatbots for online shopping) usually offer following search options:

  • by category
  • by style
  • by collections
  • by sizes
  • by colours

Search is the function that website chatbot, or virtual assistant, can perform perfectly. Very often, the customer doesn’t want to browse multiple pages to find necessary item. A smart chatbot can help with navigation and immediately redirect him or her to the required page.

Items demonstration


Chatbots display goods selected by the shopkeepers: “new”, “popular” or “best sellers”, special offers, collections by season or topic, etc. In fact, if the customer is interested in the collection, he or she often proceeds to the standard search procedure, choosing size, color or price. However, many businesses create collection anyway, simply as the alternative for intended search, aiming to inspire users to make purchases. To represent collections, a catalog is utilized.

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A catalog

It is an online shopbot element used to represent a collection or display the search results (in this case, it is a catalog of items with requested characteristics). It is as a rule presented in messaging app by a “slider”, or a “carousel”. In the “slider”, there are several items or categories of goods, each “slide” contains a picture with a description and several buttons. Usually, at least one of them is a call to action – “browse collection”, “add to the shopping cart”, “buy” and so on. Often, there is a button like “details”, “view on web”, “read more”, “read feedback”. Also, they offer to “show more like this”, “view more”, etc.

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We think that the catalogs are the weakest place in chatbots, compared to a website. Mostly, it is not very convenient to view items on those small pictures, all the more, one item is represented by one image only. To view more images you have to go to the website. The “slider” can contain up to 10 items, and then it offers to show more. Perhaps, the only thing which can be really easily chosen in chat catalog is a book. On the other hand, speaking of the mobile shopping – it is easier to choose an item in a messaging app and then goes to the website only to view details than to load the mobile version of the website or an app for the corresponding shop and browse goods there.

Shopping cart, order placement, payment


After pressing“add to cart” or “buy” button, the customer is usually redirected to the website.
The vast majority of the chatbots ask people to go to the site and place order there. If the shop is not purely online but has also brick and mortar stores, chatbot offers to find the nearest offline shop of the company. Despite that the most inhabited by chatbots messaging app – Facebook Messenger – offers seamless payments for chatbots, online shops seldom use this feature.
Food delivery chatbots in Facebook and Telegram often give the ability to add items to cart, view cart and even pay for it – in other words, make an order – without leaving the messaging app.
Compared to this service, online shops don’t seem to put many efforts in providing convenient order procedure in the chatbots.

It may seem strange, but yes, a Greeting is very important!


We shall talk about the first element toward the end of the discussion. It seems obvious, but practice shows that many online shops forget how important the first impression is. Also, they forget that not all their customers very often speak to chatbots. Great, if the user who meets a virtual assistant for the first time, is lucky to add eBay, Fynd или Pan Macmillan bot, or other that good. The customer immediately sees Start button or something like.
But some bots wait until the user makes the first step, says to them Hello!, etc. The user, in turn, doesn’t understand that he or she must write to the “robot” to launch it, and don’t know what to write and what to do. Some bots don’t explain what they can do, and how you can interact with them.
The Greeting can be displayed in a message bubble and include only verbal instruction, how to deal with the bot and the list of commands, or may be accompanied by the main menu with buttons.


Other functions


Now, let’s consider additional functions, which are indeed very useful. We believe, they alone are a good reason for an online shop to create a chatbot, and for a customer – to add it.

Repeated sales and cross sales


As we mentioned, it is not very convenient to choose an item right in a chatbot. Most people go to the website.
But a chatbot can do the cross-selling, recommend to a customer additional services or products, some accessories or other things. It can suggest buying batteries, smartphone cases, mousemats, laundry detergent for a new washing machine, and others.
It is easier for a client not to go to the website again, search and fill the form, but to write in the chat: repeat my last order. And the bot just finds all details in the message history and repeats order.
The chatbot can remind a loyal customer of children’s products that is time to order diapers or baby food.
Or, maybe, a customer buys a multifunctional unit in electronics online shop. Usually, in a month a cartridge is empty. The chatbot can offer to the customer to replace a cartridge in time, and he will already know the MFU model and will suggest suitable cartridge and show the price at once.
Many clients would love such care.

Delivery status check


It is much more convenient to check delivery status in messaging app or subscribe to the updates and receive a notification from a chatbot as soon as the status is changed.

Customer support. Problems and Complaints. Feedback


When the problems with an order happen, the chatbot can help to solve them faster than if the customer is forced to fill and send forms.It is not just more efficient but also looks better for the client, who is able to see, that his request is being processed. When people wait for a Support Service answer they often decide to go to forums and write negative reviews. It is much easier to keep the customers loyal if they don’t need to wait until an operator is free or until someone answers their emails. Also, the decreasing in workload allows customer care staff to deal with non-standard complaints, which a bot can not process, more productively.
The majority of online shops clients usually read reviews and feedback before making a purchase. A chatbot can accept and display them.

Outbound marketing messages


A chatbot allows sending people news, new collections, special offers and promo codes. A client can manage subscription to receive updates in suitable time

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Cool concepts



Some chatbots have exclusive conceptions. They are not just sets of website functions customized for a messaging app and realized in a chat.
For example, there is a reader’s chatbot ShelfJoy shows the users the “shelves” – collections of books sorted by topic. You can buy a book from a shelf on Amazon.
Chatbot Joy (yes, it seems the bot creators try to make their bots sound very joyful) helps to choose gifts for mom. It can give you advice about what your mom would like and even offer what to write in a card.
RefurbishedBot sells refurbished Apple products. It not only searches items in stock but also “remembers” what you want to buy and sends you updates, when there are more offers.
Casper the Insomniabot that keeps you company if you can not or must not sleep at night. What does he sell? Nothing. It just makes a positive impression. And here’s Casper company that created Insomniabot. The company sells mattresses – they are good enough to beat insomnia.

Screenshot_1 online shop chatbots

So, the Internet shopping chatbots allow their users browsing and searching for items, help brands to keep customers’ loyalty and interest. However, they could do better with an ability to place orders in chat, and sometimes – proper greeting. Promising features for shopping chatbots are informing customers on delivery status, customer support service, outbound marketing messaging, repeated sales and cross sales.

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