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The Merry Chatbot: 3 New Elf-Like Experiences This Holiday Season

Erin Ollila
December 19, 2018

3 minute read

For many shoppers in the U.S., holiday shopping is a ritual. In fact, according to the National Retail Federation, retailers earned as much as one-fifth of their annual profits from holiday shoppers last year — and the trend shows no sign of stopping as this year comes to a close.

While shopping is nothing new for consumers, this year, the experience is changing: consumers are now more likely to interact with a chatbot during their search for presents than ever before. And that’s not just true for online shoppers — who, according to the 2018 Deloitte holiday retail survey, account for 60% of holiday purchases. Even those heading to brick-and-mortars can expect brand-new experiences. Here are three types of experiences consumers can expect this year.

60% of shoppers plan to shop online this holiday season

Personalized shopping recommendations

Santa’s not the only one with a list. One of a consumer’s biggest stressors each holiday season is choosing the perfect gift for each member of their friends and family. This year, retailers are working to better the overall customer experience by introducing bots that help mitigate those stress levels. When personal shopper meets chatbot, it’s as if consumers have access to their own virtual elf.

While many brands offer basic recommendations, others truly understand the role bots play in customer experience. Beauty store Sephora, for example, employs a few chatbots. One asks targeted questions in order to help consumers find perfect-for-them products. It will then share makeup tips and videos, until it ultimately guides them to the app or mobile site to complete the purchase. Another chatbot schedules on-site beauty appointments, and the third lets users try on different lip shades on their very own selfie.

A mixed-reality shopping experience

“Chatbots and AI are great tools for companies to engage consumers,” reports Ashley Crowder, CEO and Co-Founder of VNTANA, a mixed reality company, in an interview for this article. She continues, “VNTANA built software which allows companies to easily bring their chatbots to life so consumers can have their own personal hologram concierge, whether it’s helping them shop or checking them into a hotel.”

VNTANA recently partnered with Mall of America® to launch Ellie the Elf, the first Shopping Concierge Hologram. After deciding on gift ideas with shoppers, Ellie can direct them to the shop’s location within the mall and even make appointments for them if necessary. Crowder says, “Ellie is providing a fun experiences for shoppers while helping with good gift ideas. You can even see your own hologram live next to Ellie and get a video to share on social media — holiday family photo and shopping all in one!”

74% of shoppers are open to making a purchase through a chatbot

Chatbots as cashiers

A recent SUMO Heavy study found that 74% of shoppers feel comfortable making a purchase through a chatbot, in comparison to only 55% in 2016. In an interview for this article, Bart Mroz, co-founder and CEO of SumoHeavy says, “Despite this growth, most consumers still don’t realize they can actually transact via chatbots, with 42% citing unfamiliarity with conversational commerce. This holiday season could see more people using chatbots to transact, however, as awareness has risen thanks to a viral campaign from Renault Italy that used a Facebook Messenger chatbot to sell cars directly to buyers. More retailers are also joining the likes of H&M and Sephora and utilizing chatbot technology to sell products, which will also contribute to an increase in awareness.”

To learn more about 2018 holiday shopping season trends, visit smartercx.com/holiday.

Erin Ollila
Erin Ollila believes in the power of words and how a message can inform – and even transform – its intended audience. After a 12+ year career in human resources, she's jumped headfirst into digital strategy. Erin is a geek for SEO and all things social media.
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