Note: This is part 2 of our Rethink Your Revenue series. For part 1, click here.
Nearly every website you visit right now greets you with a chat window — a seemingly new feature of the last few years. It’s an understandable trend. The smartphone era has cemented chat as the mainstream form of instant communication.
Today, chat is no longer a one-to-one exchange of text in real time. It’s an all-encompassing solution for companies of any size, supported by personalization, chatbots, conversational AI, and live customer representatives. For that reason, it’s no longer called “chat” - it’s now referred to as Conversational Marketing or Conversational Commerce.
More important than what it is called is it’s impact. The ongoing investments in Conversational Marketing have been proven to deliver great returns. PointClickCare reports that having an advanced chat strategy and AI functionality on your website can quadruple your conversions from the existing traffic. According to Kayako, 79% of businesses now realize that chat is a powerful way to grow sales.
So how do you leverage chat to its full potential?
How Companies Get Chat Wrong
Even though chat is everywhere, it doesn’t mean that it works for everyone right away. Ask a few marketers about their chat experience, and you’ll often hear questions like these:
- How do I know that I’m getting everything I should out of chat?
- I put chat on my website but am not getting great results, how do I increase conversion rates and reduce abandons?
- I installed chat on our homepage, but my sales team was immediately overwhelmed with low-quality support questions - how do I fix that?
- I used a chatbot, but it wasn’t a great experience for our customers - why?
- What’s the best way to qualify visitors for escalation or sales through chat?
- We don’t have the resources or expertise to deploy the perfect chat strategy, how do I make best use of my sales resources?
- We tried using visitor identity tools to pick out visitors to chat with but it didn’t work with most of our visitors, how do we know who to chat with?
No doubt, building and deploying a sophisticated chat strategy is a larger undertaking than most marketers initially perceive. But it doesn’t mean that chat doesn’t work — you just need a clear step-by-step strategy.
So, here’s a simple guide for getting an outstanding ROI from your website chat.
Start by asking yourself where you are today when it comes to your chat implementation. Below is a quick reference for you to self-select where you currently are (note that “target” means to define the audience you want to chat with, whereas “personalize” means to adapt each instance of chat to that audience).
To fully migrate from novice to pro, you need to have a clear strategy for who to target, how to target them, the best type of engagement for each visitor, and how you can continuously optimize and adapt to the dynamic nature of your website.
Thankfully, we can help you make the move. Read on for more.
The 5 Building Blocks for a Successful Chat Strategy
Chat has the ability to transform your website conversions. But it only brings these kinds of dividends when it acts as an integral part of your engagement strategy, instead of just being a separate tool.
To get to that ROI, you have to understand and integrate a number of strategic components into your website sales plan: buyer-intent AI, a messaging platform, sales agents, chatbots, and in some use cases, conversational AI. Let’s discuss each one in more detail.
1. Buyer-Intent AI
For your chat strategy to be most effective, you need to understand the buyer intent of your visitor, and you need to know it quickly. You might think it strange that the very first building block is AI, when you may not have even heard of “buyer-intent AI” - but we’ll explain why it all has to start here.
Crazyegg, for example, promotes the 15-Second Rule, stating you only have 15 seconds to capture attention and engage a website visitor before they bounce. That doesn’t leave you much time to act.
Generally speaking, that act might involve something like a pop-up, or inviting the user to chat. The problem is - you can’t chat with everyone as it’s not feasible, and you can’t throw chatbots at everyone either as they only work well in particular contexts.
A popular solution is to use marketing automation tools that help identify visitors and profile them through offline analysis and CRM synchronization. The problem is that on average, 98% of your website visitors are anonymous. In theory, you can reach out to everyone through chat, but how do you know which anonymous visitors are more likely to buy than others?
This is where buyer-intent AI is a game changer. Its machine-learning models are able to process a near infinite number of data attributes in real time — referral URLs, pageviews, time spent on page, pages visited — to assess the unique behavior of every visitor and make reliable (over 85% accurate) predictions as to their buying intent based on millions of data points including chat interactions and visitor profiles.
Buyer-intent AI opens engagement possibilities far beyond the 2% of known visitors (or up to 30% if you are effectively using ID reveal tools) that you can leverage with traditional marketing tools. At last, you’ll be able to know the buying intent of every visitor, whether known or anonymous, and act in a way that maximizes your conversions while wisely utilizing your human resources.
Armed with this knowledge you can direct:
- High intent visitors straight to a live sales agent. Why? Because live sales agents are the best at converting visitors into sales or leads, so they should only be talking to visitors with a high buying intent. If those visitors are instead sent to a chatbot, they might encounter an interaction that locks them within a frustrating experience and doesn’t pave the way to what they really want instantly. Unlike customer service scenarios where people are used to having to wait, prospects are much more impatient and will abandon instantly if their needs aren't met.
- Medium intent visitors to a qualification chatbot with a possibility to escalate quickly to a live agent. This makes better use of your resources, taking advantage of automation to sift through high volumes of non-buyers while doing a completely serviceable job of answering simple questions or directing visitors to the resources they need to nudge their sales journey forward.
- Low intent visitors to a similar chatbot experience for nurturing.
See below for a quick visual reference to how you can now treat each visitor depending on their buying intent score.
Given these buyer-intent AI possibilities, how much revenue are you currently leaving on the table?
Lift AI (currently the only buyer-intent AI solution that performs the above tasks) has found that 9% of your anonymous website visitors have a high buying intent. If you have thousands of visitors each month, that’s a lot of revenue.
As you can see, it makes sense to start with buyer-intent AI before investing in the other essential building blocks, as a solution like Lift AI will set the stage for every other action you take using chat.
2. Messaging Platform
Chat allows you to reach visitors in real time and at scale, which means it’s also the best way to engage anonymous visitors while they are active on your website and showing interest in your products or services. Without a chat tool, you end up chasing the small handful that do leave information (e.g. in a form or pop-up) while missing the other anonymous visitors completely - and remember, up to 98% of your traffic is anonymous.
That said, selecting a chat tool is another essential building block, as they’re not all made the same. For example, some may or may not:
- Offer robust visitor targeting
- Have the ability to personalize live chat and chat bots
- Integrate easily with your other technologies such as a CRM
- Include marketing automation such as conversational AI (more on this later)
In the past few years, tools like Drift, LivePerson, Intercom, and others have evolved from being simple chat windows to full-featured messaging platforms, with the ability to programmatically present various engagement options from live conversations to automated chatbots to FAQs.
A frequent complaint about chat tools is that they can quickly overwhelm sales resources on popular websites and result in poor customer experience due to wait times (and an unproductive use of sales resources). To cope with this, live sales chat engagements are often restricted to just a few key webpages, such as pricing, product, or checkout.
Selecting the right tool for your company should warrant an in-depth comparison of their features, and possibly even using free trials to get a feel for them. At the very least, you’ll want the ability to personalize the chatbots as they will play an important role over and above your sales resources.
At the same time, the ability to proactively solicit an online chat conversation is critical to unlocking your conversion potential. Once marketers know the buyer intent of every visitor, they can customize engagement types and reach out to them in a personalized way at just the right moment, boosting the overall brand experience and maximizing conversions.
If you monitored the navigation pattern of website visitors you would find the pages they view, what order they view them in, and how much time they spend on different content - you would see that it results in thousands of unique customer journeys. Defining the journey of a high intent visitor is next to impossible with manual processes - in fact, Lift AI has found that only 5% of high intent visitors follow a common or expected pathway.
That’s why buyer-intent AI used in tandem with a powerful messaging platform can be deployed liberally across your website and work on a visitor-based targeting model rather than an outdated page-based targeting one.
3. Sales Agents
BDRs (business development representatives) are four-to-five times more effective at converting website visitors than chatbots. The problem is that only about 9% of your visitors actually have a high buyer intent (according to Lift aI), which means that in 91% of cases, your BDRs might be wasting their time.
This is bad news for a number of reasons:
- Your BDRs are missing out on revenue while spending time with the wrong visitors
- Your BDRs will become frustrated by talking with the wrong visitors
- Ultimately, you are not maximizing the utility and efficiency of your resources
That’s why, again, buyer-intent AI is important so it can instantly identify visitors with the most potential and connect your sales agents to them through your messaging platform. AI is not about replacing salespeople, but rather multiplying their impact by identifying and delivering more qualified opportunities to convert.
Targeting and engaging the right visitors will have an immediate effect on your conversions, revenue, and BDR team morale.
When talking about how to increase the effectiveness of your sales team, we shouldn’t forget about the value chatbots can add.
Chatbots’ secret weapon is their efficiency. They are consistent, they can work 24/7, and never take a day off. But they are not as effective as humans in selling.
Thoughtfully designed chatbots can improve customer experience and serve your sales team at the same time by providing useful and timely responses within the correct context. They’re great for answering simple questions, nurturing visitors, directing them to informational resources, or escalating visitors to sales agents if needed.
The key is to know when exactly a chatbot should be implemented and to set up the “playbooks” (which are predetermined conversation trees) to do simple, repetitive tasks. Most advanced messaging platforms include features to shape and personalize playbooks that chatbots will follow. Aligning your chatbot and live sales agent strategy will yield much better conversion results than simply using either one separately. The most effective way to use chatbots in a sales process is to quickly qualify prospects before introducing a sales resource, before a visitor suffers from bot fatigue
5. Conversational AI
With rapidly advancing NLU (natural language understanding) technology, conversational AI takes the centerstage in sales and chatbot discussions.
A misconception is that conversational AI and chatbots are the same thing - but they’re not. Most chatbots follow simple rules and playbooks designed to navigate pre-defined logic, whereas conversational AI is all about trying to interpret and respond to messages in a human-like manner in real-time. The reality, however, is that conversational AI is incapable of providing the same customer experience as a well trained live salesperson.
Conversational AI needs to be trained to understand the different intents of visitors, plus the best way to respond while trying to consider nuances - and this takes time, and a significant data set to be effective. Some platforms can require a minimum of 200 thousand messages to effectively train the model.
There is a reason why B2B sales and considered purchases require salespeople. They have complex dynamics, where a lot is based on assumptions, interpersonal relationships, and intuition. Despite AI’s breakthroughs in beginning to understand human emotions, persuasive communication is still challenging. For the time being, conversational AI has a more limited application in sales than many understand, and needs to be used strategically, in use cases where it can deliver the best results.
How To Execute Today’s Chat Strategy
Now you can see how the elements of an advanced chat strategy described above can completely reimagine the way you engage with your website visitor - especially if it’s predicated with buyer-intent AI. But how do you actually implement it? There are two key things you need to do.
First, for any on-site chat strategy to work, you need a capable messaging platform. If you don’t use any at the moment, take a look at companies like Drift or LivePerson which are great platforms depending on your environment and what is most suitable for your company.
Second, install a buyer-intent AI solution that can predict the buyer intent of every anonymous visitor on your website, which enables you to create the right experience in your chat platform to maximize your conversions.
Lift AI is the leading platform in this space, developed with anonymous visitors in mind. In fact, Lift AI’s machine-scoring model has been trained on over one billion visitor profiles, more than 14 million live chat engagements, and 15 years of sales data.
Once you have Lift AI and your messaging platform in place, every single visitor to your website (whether known or anonymous) will be scored on their buyer intent and can either be directed straight to a live agent or greeted by a proactive chatbot accordingly.
As a result, all visitors from now on will get an appropriate level of engagement, and you’ll be effectively utilizing your team’s resources while maximizing conversions every single time.