Retail’s biggest season

Black Friday isn’t just for brick-and-mortar stores anymore. Cyber Monday isn’t just on Monday anymore, either.

The line between the two major shopping days has become blurred. Lots of Black Friday deals begin on Thursday—Thanksgiving Day. Cyber Monday sales have various start dates, and some extend all the way into a “Cyber Week.” Instead of just “Black Friday” or “Cyber Monday,” this annual shopping frenzy is now simply referred to in the industry as BFCM.

What began as a single shopping day to kick off the holiday season has evolved. It’s now almost a week-long event, full of opportunities for game-changing revenue for ecommerce merchants.

Black Friday and Cyber Monday for ecommerce

Brick-and-mortar titans originally ruled this shopping season, but online stores have been taking bigger and bigger pieces of the pie the last few years. Just look at the stats:

Stats for Black Friday and Cyber Monday for 2018. Sources: Adobe, Forbes, Shopify

It’s clear that ecommerce retailers have the opportunity to make record-breaking sales during BFCM 2019, too. Don’t forget that Thanksgiving falls late in the month this year, leaving consumers with one less week than normal to get their holiday shopping done. People will be more anxious than ever to cross items off their lists this BFCM, so you’ll need to make sure you’re doing everything you can to encourage people to choose your store.

Lucky for you, we’ve got a tool to recommend that can make this year’s BFCM the most lucrative yet for your business. Of course, it’s a Facebook Messenger bot! Chatbots are well-suited to help almost any type of business grow—but the synergy between bot and ecommerce store is especially powerful.

We created this guide to cover the top three ways a chatbot’s automated functions can fast-track BFCM success for your store in 2019. All on autopilot, a bot can:

  1. help you reach sales numbers that’ll make you jump for joy. 📈
  2. streamline support functions to make your busiest time of year go more smoothly. 😅
  3. set your business up for future success, even after the holiday rush. 💸

#1. Get more sales

Here’s the good news: Bots are great at driving conversions and increasing sales for ecommerce stores. Here’s the best news: You can set one up to do this for you automatically. To help your store sell more, you can equip your bot to:

Create a sense of urgency

Urgency is the feeling that all of BFCM is built on. It’s a classic sales tactic, now automated for your business. Create notifications and offers for your bot to share to get prospects to buy now, like:

  • Limited-time coupons and sales. Create time-sensitive discount codes in your ecommerce platform. Then, have your bot send them to all users—or just a specific segment based on attributes or past behavior. Receiving a personalized coupon or sale notification on a platform where you're used to chatting with family and friends is often more impactful than getting one via email or direct mail. Your bot can even remind users before a deal is set to expire—any time and as many times as you like. You’ve got 24 hours of free messaging to any new user, and the sky’s the limit with sponsored messages after that.
You can set up your bot to send personalized, limited-time discounts and sale notifications, plus reminders if the user doesn't take action.
  • Countdown timers. By simply pasting a bit of code, you can set up your bot to show users an actual countdown timer. Send them a coupon code or sale notification, along with a message like: “But hurry—this deal expires in 1 day, 3 hours, 59 minutes, 10 seconds…9 seconds…8 seconds…”, immediately beginning to count down. How’s that for urgency?
  • Low-stock notifications. If you’re up for a bit more setup via the JSON API, your bot can automatically alert subscribers if your Shopify store only has a few units of some item left in stock. Imagine a message like this: “Hi Rob, I see you asked about the Samsung 40” TV last time. Just wanted to let you know that there are only 3 left in stock at this price—act fast! 🚨"

Provide personalized recommendations

How many times have you ordered the dish the waiter suggested, or bought a top in the color the salesperson said would look good on you? Recommendations hold a lot of power in sales—and it should come as no surprise that bots are great at giving them.

A chatbot can ask users a few questions about their preferences or needs, and recommend products based on their answers. It’s a win-win, because this type of attentive service:

  1. makes a sale more likely.
  2. helps the customer feel special and gives them a good impression of your brand.
  3. gives your bot nuggets of data on the user to make future retargeting efforts more effective.

Take LEGO, for example. They launched a gift-recommendation bot named Ralph for the 2018 BFCM season. It has the user choose their price range, and asks a couple of basic questions about the age and interests of the child they’re buying the gift for. It then shows products that are a good match, along with links to purchase.

LEGO’s gift recommendation bot takes the preferences of the user and their gift recipient into account.

Or, look at Beauty Player, a Taiwanese skin-care company. Their bot quizzes users to find out their skin type in order to recommend the right face masks, and then invites the user to shop. Later, it can also notify those who got the result of “dry skin,” for example, that the brand just released a new moisturizer that’s perfect for their type—and again, encourage them to shop with a link to the store.

Send follow-ups to minimize lost revenue

Cart-abandonment rates normally hover around 70-75% on average. During BFCM, they can reach even higher extremes. If you put only one tip from this section into practice, the one we’re about to share should be the winner.

A Chatfuel bot can be the linchpin in recovering more abandoned-cart revenue than ever—up to 7x more, in fact. Set up our Cart Reminders app in just three clicks and start increasing your conversions. Here’s a simple illustration of how it works:

You can set up your Chatfuel bot up to send these reminders in minutes. Then, head to Growth Tools to monitor exactly how much revenue the app recovers for you!

An example of abandoned-cart reminders appearing in a user's Messenger inbox

#2. Streamline support

According to Salesforce, although customer service agents viewed 10% more cases on Cyber Monday 2018, there was a decline in call volume. They attribute this to more consumers turning to social, messaging, and chat for support—a trend that’s on track to continue. Here are some ways a Messenger chatbot can save you time and automate certain support activities during BFCM.

Handle FAQs

How much time do you or your team spend answering the same customer questions over and over—especially during the busy holiday season? It’s a drain on productivity—but one you no longer have to deal with. A Messenger bot can take over much of the heavy lifting in this area. That way, your human support agents are freed up for other tasks that only humans can do.

You can equip your bot to answer a number of common FAQs from prospects and customers.

This use case is powerful; just ask Chatfuel client HelloFresh about their experience during BFCM 2017. A bot allowed them to decrease their response time by 32%, despite a 31% increase in incoming messages.

And for those that worry about how customers will react to automated support—don’t! When designed properly, bots can offer fully personalized and consistently friendly service every time, and they’re available 24/7. Facebook studies even show that people are “more likely to rate the effectiveness of messaging a business as “excellent” or “very good” compared to calling on the phone.” You save time and customers are happier—everybody wins.

Escalate support cases

A well-designed bot can usually handle the majority of routine customer-service inquiries (up to 90% of them, in this Chatfuel client’s case). But, if there’s ever an issue a human can address more thoroughly, or if a customer requests human intervention, that’s easy. Our Live Chat plugin lets one of your human support agents take over at any time: to solve customer issues before they intensify, and to demonstrate your brand’s dedication to great service.

Begin the return/exchange process

The season of gift-giving is closely followed by the season of returns and exchanges. If your team has more requests of this type than they can handle, have your bot start the process with customers to save you time.

You could set it up to ask the user for the necessary information (their order number, the item they wish to return or exchange, etc.). Then, you can use the Send Email to Admin plugin to have the bot instantly email these details to a dedicated support inbox, where they can be processed as you have time.

#3. Prep your store for future success

We’ve discussed the immediate benefits of a bot during BFCM. A chatbot, however, is the gift that keeps on giving—even well beyond the holiday season. The work it does during this time can pay off for your business later in the year, too, because it can:

Create a memorable customer experience

A Facebook study showed that 53% of those surveyed said they’re more likely to shop with a business they can message directly. When that message then initiates an instant conversation with a bot that provides friendly, helpful assistance at lightning speed—it’s a memorable experience that can keep people coming back. You can also use these three factors to create a bot-interaction to remember:

  1. Personality. Bots aren’t just efficient; they're enjoyable to interact with when built properly, too. You pick your bot’s persona—whatever makes sense for your unique brand. If you want it to stand out to customers by cracking jokes, sharing GIFs, and having just the right amount of emoji sprinkled in, for example, it’s easy to do. Before BFCM arrives, use our A/B Test plugin to see which of these elements your audience responds to best.
  2. Personalization. Which experience is more memorable: “Hello, how can we help you?” or “Hi Janet, welcome back! We’ve got new cashmere scarves in stock that you might like. Want to see them?”? Bots can include all kinds of personalized elements in conversation, from the user’s name and time zone to their past purchases or product interests and preferences.
  3. Customer focus. The bottom line is that you should design a bot with your customers in mind. If it adds value for them, you’ll be positioning your brand as one that’s committed to customer satisfaction—and that will keep them coming back.
Both of these examples are hair-care brands, but the bot for one uses jokes, emoji, and GIFs, while the other takes a more sophisticated approach for a luxury audience.

Gather information for retargeting

If your business communicates with customers in other ways too, like via email, a bot can help with that. It can:

  • Collect user email addresses. There’s a nifty little tool in Chatfuel called the Save User Email plugin. Add it to your bot so it can accept a user's email address after asking for it. Then, it can either store these addresses in Chatfuel for you to access later, automatically export them to a Google Sheet, or even send them to your email marketing service via Zapier.
  • Collect other types of user information. It’s not just contact details, either. Your bot can constantly be collecting nuggets of data about user preferences and behavior, too, which you can use later. Imagine, for example, sending a coupon code for 15% off iPhone 11 screen protectors—but only to users your bot marked as having purchased an iPhone 11 case from you on BFCM. Or, it could notify users who showed interest in iPhone 11 cases but didn’t buy an alert informing them of new cases in stock.
  • Collect Facebook IDs. These number codes your bot will scrape from each user’s profile are marketing gold. Export the ones for your most valuable users from Chatfuel’s People tab, and import them into Facebook Ads Manager. Presto! Now you have a ready-made way to reach new people with similar traits to your best customers, via Lookalike Audiences for your Facebook ads.

Get internal feedback

In its easy, conversational style, your bot can ask users to rate their experience with your brand and provide feedback. It's a great way to learn about what your business can do better.

Your bot can ask the customer to rate their shopping experience with you right after their purchase. This message would be free to send, as it falls within Facebook's 24-hour window, and you can gather valuable feedback from the responses to improve as needed. Positive ratings could be stored as user attributes, sent to you or a team member instantly via email, or exported to a Google Sheet. Negative ratings could trigger a human agent to jump in and resolve any issues before they escalate.

Your bot can ask for feedback on the customer’s shopping experience right away, whether it's a simple rating or answers to a series of specific questions.

Getting users to your bot

Finally, a bot can’t be effective unless it has users to chat with. Here are a few ways you can bring users to your bot during BFCM and beyond:

  • Connect your bot to Facebook ads. It’s the single biggest shopping season of the year: We’re going to guess you’re already running Facebook ads. Instead of sending users from your ad to your website or a landing page, consider directing them to your bot in Messenger.
  • Get bot subscribers from post comments. If you have a lot of engagement on your Facebook posts, take advantage! You can set up your Chatfuel bot to automatically message either all users who comment on a post on your page, or only those whose comments include a keyword.
For BFCM 2017, the chatbot for HelloFresh sent a discount code to users who commented on their Black Friday page post.
  • Add your bot to your website. If a prospect is already on your site, what better time for your bot to jump in as a personal shopper, or to answer product and shipping FAQs? Embedding a chatbot on your website just takes a moment with these instructions.
  • Share the link. If you’re sending out promotional emails to your audience before or during BFCM, you can share the link to your bot there. You could even include it in social stories or posts. Say a few words about what your bot will do for users, include the link, and watch the click-through numbers rise. Use a REF link to bring people to your chatbot’s Welcome Message, or even to a specific portion of it if that’s helpful for your strategy.

Bot Friday, Chatfuel Monday

In 2018, Salesforce estimated that BFCM could account for as much as 40% of retail revenue for the year. There’s a lot on the line for your ecommerce business during this season, so you’ve got to make it count. By now, you know that a bot is a flexible tool that can help make a big difference in the numbers you’ll be seeing come December 3rd or so. Time to get started with your Black Friday and Cyber Monday marketing!

Sign up for Chatfuel to create your bot today. Don’t worry—you don’t need to be a coding expert or have any special skills to use our software to build a chatbot. As we like to say, #AnyoneCanBuildABot. (Then, when you're ready for priority support, no user limits, and other perks, upgrade to Pro!)