How to employ a chatbot in your e-commerce store

This is the feature we were considering for some time and after a few clients expressed interest in this technology we did the research, selected the platform and tested a chatbot on website (it was replaced by a live chat linked to our support system later).

Chatbot can help visitors with some simple tasks like finding a link to their billing account, search the knowledge base and submit a support request. Any chatbot is a work in progress and many new scenarios will need to be added to catch more requests as well as the knowledge base to be updated to make results more relevant. The exercise was mostly a research on how to create and use chatbots in e-commerce stores.

What is a Chatbot?

A “chatbot” is a new way for interaction between a customer and a business which is becoming a part of everyday life for millions of people (think Google Home, Amazon Alexa, and Apple Siri).  Chatbot is a computer program which simulates a conversation with human users and can provide instant answers to many of the common questions customers may have, re-engage customers by sending messages, provide 24/7 support. Currently, chatbots are used by companies like Sephora, Macy’s, H&M, 1-800-Flowers, Uniqlo, Burberry and most brands from Barbie to the Washington Post seems to be working on a chatbot implementation.

Some companies are trying hard to emulate the real human in a chatbot, so a customer does not even know he/she is talking to a bot which is possible to a certain extent but not recommended. In our chatbot we decided to tell the customers right away this is a bot and it will ask if a customer wants to get connected to a human on almost every step.

Why use a chatbot in your store?

Chris Messina, a former Uber developer, labeled this technology as ‘conversational commerce’ which delivers convenience, personalization, and decision support.

Advantages of using a chatbot:

  • Enhance customer service 24/7 to hundreds or even thousands of customers simultaneously
  • Provide personalized assistance with product recommendations
  • Share updates
  • Offer promotions based on location
  • Process orders and provide delivery updates on request or push updates to a messenger application
  • Automate processes and enable discovery

Chatbots can gather data about the user, and use it to offer a more personalized service. They can check the history of conversations with that user and see previous orders, learn customer’s preferences and provide a quick response any time of the day or night when your staff is not available.

For many online business owners who do not manage hundreds of conversations at the same time, outsourcing all customer support to a chatbot may not be the best option. At this time, Artificial Intelligence is not evolved enough to completely replace human customer service, but chatbots bring automation to deliver a more personal customer experience through the online chat or messaging apps, eliminate the need to create your own app and utilize something like Facebook Messanger with 1.2 billion monthly active users.

Do you need a chatbot for your online store?

If you have around the clock live operators available to your customers – kudos! This is the best way to provide live support and, if your operators are not overloaded with inquiries, you probably do not need a chatbot.

If such setup is not feasible, even a simple chatbot will give your business a 24/7 concierge with an instant response to an inquiry and will convey a feeling of presence that your customers will appreciate. If you have a little free time or an employee with some brains, consider setting up a chatbot – most of them are free to setup and charge a very reasonable monthly fee if your usage volume will exceed a threshold (in which case you probably needed one anyway).

If you have some extra money to invest in a new technology, a more sophisticated setup with integration to your store’s product catalog, order history, and your WISMO system can do wonders for your customers’ satisfaction, loyalty and the number of repeat orders. And integration of your chatbot into Amazon Echo or Google Home can simply take your business to the next level.

Where can I get one?

There two major types of chatbot building platforms:

1. Scripting platforms

  • Powerful way to model large and complex flows
  • Use of AI (Artificial Intelligence)
  • Extensive API libraries to integrate into multiple platforms
  • Support text and voice interactions
  • Complex and expensive to build and implement
  • If done correctly offers a huge potential with self-learning AI working around the clock over multiple platforms

Popular platforms:,

2. Non-scripting platforms

  • Easy to setup, integrate and manage without any programming
  • Does not use AI (Artificial Intelligence)
  • Usually, can integrate with only one system at a time

Popular platforms: Chatfuel, OctaneAi,,,

We tested Chatfuel first, but it was hard to understand and manage, integrates only with Facebook Messenger and extremely slow to reply (some replies took over 2 minutes to receive) – I would stay away. We also tried OctaneAI which seems to be easy to work with and is focused on using a chatbot for Facebook marketing. If this is your primary goal, definitely give it a try but we needed a chatbot for our website, not just Facebook, and hit the spot. Easy and fun to manage and integrate, very fast and flexible. One we will test next is – it’s advertised as a cross-platform setup (build a chatbot once and it runs on all supported platforms) and has almost 100 integrations available which sounds awesome but will see how it will do in the real life application.

I hope you found some useful information in this article and any comments or questions are welcome. You can contact me via Linkedin, Twitter or Facebook. And let us know if you need any help to setup, upgrade or manage your e-commerce store.

About the Author

Co-founder and General Manager of FinestShops. We specialize in e-commerce systems optimization, deployment, re-platforming and supporting B2B and B2C online stores for small and medium-sized businesses that operate without a large IT department. Contact us today to see how we can help your business! Connect on LinkedIn | Follow on Twitter