Conversational Maturity Index: Large Retailers 2022 Ranking

10min read -

What are all the top large retailers doing right in the CX (customer experience) space this moment? It’s more than just product and pricing that influences the average customer these days. Customers want an above and beyond experience that is memorable, satisfying all their needs.

There is not an exact secret formula to improve your CX. Yet, there are tools that every business should have in their arsenal if they want to have an effective CX strategy. Among these features are AI Chatbots and experts that provide real-time advice-transformational tools for implementing a seamless experience for customers across all messaging platforms. Some of these channels include Facebook Messenger, SMS, and WhatsApp. Brands and retailers do this to ensure that there is more than one way to reach them on their eCommerce site - a true omnichannel experience.

Now that you know the tools you need to put into effect, the important aspect is how you use them. The goal should be utilizing them together to create an experience that's personalized, authentic, and humanized for the customer. You want your customers to recall that shopping experience and reminisce about it with their friends and family. The most successful large retailers today focus on the digital customer experience. They acknowledge that they have to be true to their customers to gain their loyalty for the long term. 

At iAdvize, we have combined all these attributes of CX and defined a goal for brands and retailers all over the world. In layman's terms, they should want to be conversational. Being conversational regarding messaging means being natural, seamless, and consistent. An astonishing 75% of people want more human touch with businesses. Furthermore, 60% believe companies have lost sight of the human touch of the customer experience.

A beneficial approach is being a conversational company, providing customers the human touch they desire.  Creating a conversational strategy means that you are prioritizing the customer. They receive experts that are attentive and deliver personal support for every transaction. Businesses need to sympathize with their customers and build an emotional connection. These efforts help brands and retailers build trust every step of the way and win in the Experience Economy. Companies that want to succeed in today’s digital world must become customer-centric to reach this goal.

Now that you know the tools required to become conversational, how exactly do you engineer them? Lucky for you, iAdvize has quite a robust CX plan to make brands and retailers conversational.

At iAdvize, we identified six key pillars required for a successful conversational strategy:

Based on an evaluation of each pillar, we developed a unique assessment tool, the Conversational Maturity Index (CMI). The CMI uses a rapid online chat experience assessment to generate a score that identifies how conversational a company is, relative to others within the same industry. In other words, looking at the maturity of a company’s conversational strategy.

This month, we utilized the CMI to examine the most conversational large retailers.

Large Retailers 2022 Ranking

CMI research revealed that large retailers share a common practice of connecting with shoppers on a personal level. Large retailers concentrate on building honest relationships with their customers, offering real-time expert advice that is compassionate and credible. The respondents are diligent and passionate, offering their expertise at every turn. They connect with customers on a human and emotional level, leveraging those personal connections throughout the customer journey. The top CMI scores in the industry were P.C. Richard and Son, Rural King, and Ashley HomeStore. Below are summaries of their distinct conversational strategies.

Industry Standouts

P.C. Richard & Son - Enlightening Customers Throughout Their Shopping Experience

P.C. Richard & Son’s conversational strategy is centered around expertise. The advisors they had were well versed in their products and services. I first let Alfredo know my needs, explaining that I want a smart TV that streams all my favorite shows. Once I finished conveying what I precisely desired in the smart TV, Alfredo sent me a couple of options. 

He suggested two of his most popular models, a Samsung and LG smart TV. The links themselves were helpful, but I wanted to test their knowledge and see if what they were saying was scripted. I asked Alfredo if he could talk about the features of the TVs, and he was able to provide me with all the information that I required.

Alfredo mentioned the components and talked about what each one had, and provided context around it. For example, when he described the Samsung TV, he said it was a QLED TV. I did not know what that entailed, so Alfredo continued saying it has LEDs, which helps for better color and contrast.  He said if I am a sports or a gaming aficionado, this TV would be a fantastic fit for my interests. 

Alfredo then talked about the LG TV. LG was an OLED TV which is the thinnest and best for contrast. He elaborated on that and said that it has self-illuminating pixels meaning there are no LEDs, and each pixel controls itself, which makes it great for gaming.

The icing on the cake for this chat was the ability to look at previous conversations, offering a seamless experience for customers. If you forgot the advice given, it was a simple click away to get that contextual information. This is asynchronous messaging at it’s finest. Asynchronous messaging allows shoppers to revisit past conversations with a company, and look back to find specific product advice. 

P.C. Richard & Son’s agents were responsible for providing their customers with the best shopping experience, exceeding expectations. They provided all the necessary details for customers to make an informed decision. At the end of my conversation with Alfredo, I firmly believed that I was an expert on the different TV options myself. Alfredo was wise and savvy, knowing what insights would be beneficial to relay to the customer. 

The shopping experience was delightful for the customer. Not only did they obtain the best advice possible, but also, were able to have a genuine conversation with an expert in real-time.

Rural King - Knowledgeable Experts Who Guide Customers 

Rural King prioritizes the customer, offering a helping hand every step of the way. They understand that the customer experience is everything, and being conversational is at the heart of it all. The experts were intelligent and professional, ensuring that the customers had a stress-free shopping experience.

I connected with an agent, and they immediately said hello, asking how they could assist me today. My question had to do with two different types of grills, pellet versus charcoal. I did not ask for a product suggestion. Instead, I requested that Taylor give me a brief summary of the difference between them both. 

Taylor was easily able to answer my questions, providing me with the right wisdom to guide me in my journey for a new grill. I was thoroughly impressed with her response as she dug deep and went into the thick of things to help. The responses came fast, making it clear that Rural King’s agents valued the time of their customers.

When I asked Taylor to explain to me in greater detail the different feature options they were eager to aid. Taylor gave me the information needed to understand the vital differences between the two grills. I almost felt confident enough to make my own decision, but I had a few lingering concerns. 

My main concerns were pricing and what grill suited different types of food. Taylor let me know that the food did not matter on the grill. However, Taylor noted that some would be better served, on one over the other. But in the end, Taylor insisted that I prioritize price over the quality of food being prepared on each grill, as the differences in taste would be minuscule. 

Rural King has experts that are supportive and cooperative. They know that some shoppers who come to their website to shop have no previous experience. Several experts on other sites see customers like this and simply do the bare minimum to alleviate their problem. Actions like this leave customers frustrated, and they will instantly leave your site for a competitor. Customers want to be enlightened and not be told what to buy but why they should buy it.

Rural King understands that every encounter that a shopper has with your brand is an emotional one. Their advisors infuse a human-centric mindset into every conversation they have, connecting with customers on a human and emotional level. They take being conversational to the next level providing an exceptional digital customer experience.

Ashley HomeStore- Personalized Advice for Every Interaction

Ashley HomeStore has a fantastic chat platform, emphasizing the importance of personalized advice. They view each interaction as unique, attempting to create a special encounter for all shoppers. As soon as I click on the chat button, I connect with a tree-based bot that promptly asks how it may help you today. The bot can provide relevant information to customers at the right time. 

After a brief series of questions by the bot, they send you to an expert that best fits your needs. Some chats you can tell right away that the expert provided to you may be a bit of a bore. Ashley HomeStore eliminates that concern as their agents genuinely try to get to know the shopper to understand what they are looking to achieve.

Diana represented Ashley HomeStore incredibly well. She was pleasant and patient, letting me go over in every detail what I needed. I told her that I wanted an electric grill and that I would appreciate it if she could help me find one on their site. Most agents would have just sent links right away to what electrical grills were rated the highest and available. Diana decided to seek out any additional information regarding grill specifics out of me first. 

She mentioned features such as a panini press, curious to see if it would be valuable to have. I emphasized that it would be useful to have a panini press that can also be used as a griddle and if it was possible to have a combination. She replied emphatically that she would send me all the best grills that meet my requirements. Not only that, but after she sent the different grills, she gave me a deep analysis of the pros and cons for each. 

I usually am overwhelmed by paragraphs of information being thrown at me. However, with Diana, it was different. She made it her mission to give the features of all the grills in simplest terms. This type of assistance was phenomenal. It enabled me to comprehend the primary and secondary purposes of the grills. 

Diana was well versed in their product offerings and was not just an expert who wanted to get a sale. She genuinely cared about what I was going to use the grill for and was eager to steer me in the right direction. 

I would describe this experience as friendly and thoughtful. Diana was able to resonate with me as a customer, and even though I had one conversation with her, I felt that we had a bona fide connection. Ashley HomeStore realizes the importance of offering memorable experiences to shoppers. 

They ignite those values in their experts who, in return, provide customers with a personal touch. Experts were honest and insightful, delivering a painless shopping experience for shoppers.

Key Findings for Large Retailers

Opportunity to Improve the Scalability and Omnichannel Pillars

The majority of large retailers struggled with the scalability and omnichannel pillars. There is serious room for improvement, and they are lagging behind several industries in these areas. 

Overall, looking at scalability, two significant changes need to happen. First, they need to implement a more scalable system that is mindful of shoppers’ time. Retail is a 24/7 business, and your customers are always online, researching products and sources at any time, every single day. 

Everyone who has ever shopped has one main frustration, waiting. Shoppers hate being put on standby, become frustrated, and lose patience. They are here for quick and incomparable wisdom. Customers do not want to come back the next day to ask a question and companies that do this risk losing these shoppers to competitors.

The second aspect of scalability that needs to be improved is using bots. Having a bot experience is no longer something you can ignore. It is now a part of most conversational strategies, and those that don’t use bots will lose the opportunity to reach more potential customers during peak periods. Bots are critical to delivering consumers an elevated experience, which is why they have to be leveraging them wisely. They can directly impact potential revenue as well. This mix of chatbots and humans supports customers throughout their shopping journey, with affirmation that assistance will be there shortly. The inability to cater to customers who sit tight will be your businesses’ downfall. 

If you have bots put in place, they can take care of simple inquiries from customers. Having this put in place shows that you respect them and their time. They chose your eCommerce site and are clearly showing respect to your company. It is time to reciprocate the sentiment.

Having a chat should dispose of the stresses that we once had calling customer support lines. If you want your CX to reach its full potential, enforcing both chatbots and human respondents is a necessity. 

As a business you should take advantage of the resources available to you. This means using a mix of bots and humans for chat interactions, to offer a once in a lifetime shopping experience to customers. 

Here are some examples of ways that you can improve your scalability,

  • Wide availability of respondents
  •  Bots to cover when respondents are not available
  •  Asynchronous messaging to cover when respondents are not available and provide consumers an answer once respondents are available again
  •  Have AI based bots to acquire a better understanding of consumers' needs
  •  Offer possibility to escalate from bot to human respondent under different scenarios

The other pillar that needs vast improvement is Omnichannel & Seamlessness. Many large retailers were only able to offer their chat on their eCommerce site itself. If a customer cannot reach an expert on their website, they will look for other channels. These channels include video chat, WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, Twitter DM, etc. 

Not every customer is the same, and neither is their journey to reach your brand. In today’s digital world, you must evolve. Those who refuse to adapt will not meet the expectations of their customers. If you do not get with the times, you risk losing potential business, as you are offering a subpar experience compared to rivals in the industry. 

Finally, to give customers that exceptional experience they deserve, you must have asynchronous messaging. We mentioned it above, in terms of leaving a message during off-hours, which can later be replied to by an expert. Now we look at it in terms of revisiting prior conversations with customers. In this case, asynchronous messaging functions to help customers retrieve their conversation history and continue where they left off with an agent. 

Here are some examples of ways that you can improve your omnichannel presence,

  • Asynchronous messaging enhances the availability of your brand
  • Conversation strategy should be designed to provide consumers one single conversation across their journey rather than a fragmented experience of multiple conversations
  • The breadth of selected channels should be wide enough to engage consumers on their preferred channel

Delightful Digital CX Attributed to Insightful Advisors

The vast majority of advisors at these large retailers should give themselves a pat on the back. They solve all problems that customers face and explain their reasoning in great detail. Experts are genuine and thoughtful, connecting with customers on a personal level. Forming emotional bonds with customers is a high-level initiative that brings out the best shopping experience.

Throughout the customer journey, the experts are looking for resources that will help aid shoppers in their purchasing decision. They tolerate all questions asked and embrace being the point of contact for all their products and services. Simply put, they legitimately have an interest in steering customers the right way, which will help them solve the issue at hand. 

The respondents not only offer advice but tell shoppers their personal experiences with products as well. They go through every aspect of the product, elaborating on why they felt it would be the right choice for the shopper.

The messaging interface itself is organized appropriately and effortless to find. On most eCommerce sites, the conversation box is part of the UI (person interface). Several sites have their chat dug in the depths of it. Businesses that use this setup anger their customers as they probe the site for the conversation box. Finding the chat box is as tricky as playing a game of Where's Waldo. Numerous large retailers understand this, so they made their chat simple to find, straightforward, and easy to fire up. 

The engagement is customized for the shopper and always available on the essential product and care pages. There is a common practice of offering both a desktop and mobile option for live chat. This option empowers shoppers to have freedom when contemplating how to get a hold of expert recommendations.  

The chat experience is stress-free and consistent, accommodating to all customer needs. At the end of it all, shoppers have all their concerns addressed. They leave with a sense of optimism and pride in their purchase. These pillars are what define large retailers and make them indubitably conversational.

How Conversational Maturity Index Research is Conducted

This CMI is powered by insights from more than 2,000 retail brands and 10 years of experience in the Customer Experience (CX) industry. It has become essential for retail brands to provide online consumers with the kind of authentic, seamless conversational experience they have every day through messaging. The assessment helps retailers to analyze their conversational strategy and find out how they can improve to better meet customer needs.

For the eleventh industry analysis on large retailers, we examined leaders using the CMI framework of 80 discrete-value questions based on the six pillars. We analyzed 29 of the top retailers based on revenue, reputation, and market presence. We visited each website to perform assessments of conversational features using our standard question sets.

To dive deeper into conversational capabilities, we utilized available chat or messaging features on websites. We would engage with a customer-facing representative to gain information on a specific product and ask both general and specific questions to evaluate the experience.

With this information, we would then assign scores using our standard question set and calculate scores for each pillar, each brand overall, as well as industry averages.

A Framework Built on Six Pillars

The CMI examines the current experience of a brand or retailer measured against six critical pillars of an ideal CX for today’s consumer. Those pillars include:

Expertise, Empathy & Authenticity

An exceptional conversational approach can provide genuine, humanized connections between shoppers and brand representatives. There’s nothing more memorable about a digital experience than when a chat respondent recognizes needs and priorities 1:1 conversations that flow easily and invoke emotion. Those interactions represent what is measured in the "Empathy, Expertise, and Authenticity" dimension.

Scalability

Scalability can be challenging when it comes to delivering personalized conversations. Using chatbots to keep up with rising demands is a simple fix, but it can often lead to impersonal conversational experiences. Leading retailers use a mix of bots and humans intelligently and perform well on the "Scalability" dimension of conversational maturity.

Personalized Engagement

Purchase history and browsing interest might seem like an obvious way to recommend products for customers, but these methods aren’t necessarily personal. Forward-thinking retailers have human agents who foster personal connections to understand shoppers' true intents, needs, and questions while shopping online. These are the factors taken into account when looking at the “Personalized Engagement” pillar.

Rich & User-Friendly Messaging

In an online shopping environment, messaging should be integral to the digital experience. Ideally, messaging options should be easy to locate and use while blending seamlessly into the user interface (UI) which should match the branding and be uncluttered. Messaging should also open on that same shopping page, preventing the need for customers to switch back and forth between tabs. Retailers who lead in this dimension offer a rich, engaging multimedia experience that allows consumers to even share emojis, photos, and documents.

Omnichannel & Seamlessness

As online shopping becomes increasingly popular, brands and retailers need to offer support in various ways. Leaders use asynchronous messaging approaches, allowing customers to start a conversation with messaging and add to it overtime. They offer the ability for shoppers to have a complete conversation or stay connected with messaging even after leaving the site. This signifies a job well done in the “Omnichannel & Seamlessness” category.

Business Drive

The first five pillars of conversational maturity are found in features and experiences delivered on a brand's external website or mobile app. Business drive, however, is the internal factor that underpins an organization's conversational efforts and thus can only be uncovered through close examination of a company’s culture and values.

More insights and metrics about the business drive will be shared as the CMI and engagement with more companies on their scores happen.

Large Retailers Rank Middle of The Pack 

Our previous CMI assessments reviewed the following industries,

Large retailers as a whole scored in the middle on our CMI assessment, ranking seventh with an average score of 35. The industries that scored higher had one main differentiator. They were more modern, adopting trends that optimize their digital customer experience. 

Today, our shopping experience is becoming increasingly digital. Because of this, our expectations as customers have skyrocketed as well. Large retailers must get a grip on this. They need to place the wants and needs of customers at the center of their conversational strategy.

Large retailers are positioning themselves with the top dogs in the expertise, empathy, and authenticity pillar, averaging a score of 48. They offer customized advice to each customer that creates a memorable experience that leaves them satisfied. Experts create legitimate relationships with the customers they talk to and are energetic and passionate to find the right product for each circumstance. They epitomize what it means to be conversational, and customers are pleased with the result. 

Customers receive information that helps them make well-educated purchases. As a result, they feel a connection to your brand. This connection usually correlates with an increase in brand loyalty from shoppers. However, just like a positive experience can bring in loyal customers, a bad experience can drive them to a competitor's website that will deliver on their expectations.

Here is what a bad experience results in for brands and retailers,

  • 73% of consumers will defect after three bad experiences
  • 44% of shoppers will leave a brand if they can't find the information they are seeking
  • 23% of shoppers abandon brands if they encounter conflicting information

So what is the common theme here? Being conversational is a must. If you choose to ignore it, you are essentially telling your customers that you care about their money but not improving their life with your product. 

If you want to institute a stable conversational program, you have to be customer-centric as a company. It is of the utmost importance to supply customers with a 1:1 experience that presents them with the information and answers they need to make a well-educated purchasing decision. This personalized advice is not only for the best interest of your customers. It can also result in more revenue for your brand, increasing by 6 to 10%. By doing this, you are forging everlasting bonds with your customers and emphasizing the human element that will motivate them to stay with your business over the long term. 

At this moment in time, large retailers are meeting the expectations of shoppers. However, as time goes on, they must learn to be ahead of the curve.  Ultimately, your customers will get the hint that the digital CX your business is offering is not changing with the times. Other companies will take their digital CX to the next level, putting the customer first.  The enhanced CX will result in them stealing customers from competitors, and the only person you can blame for this is yourself.

What Industry is Next?

Over the summer, iAdvize acquired Aploze to ramp up our Live Shopping efforts. Live Shopping can be an integral part of your CX strategy for all industries. However, some are more mature in the space.  As we continue to bring you the most conversational companies from each industry, we wanted to add relevance and connect it to one of our new service options. So, we decided to tie our next CMI to the Live Shopping revolution, the next monumental pillar of conversational commerce. The most conversational industries are picking up Live Shopping, but none have adopted it quite like this one. That is why next up on our CMI assessment is the most conversational fashion retailers.

To find out where you stand, complete the CMI or send it to our team here.

About the iAdvize Conversational Maturity Index

Launched in March 2021, the iAdvize Conversational Maturity Index (CMI) is a resource for brands to evaluate their digital strategy and benchmark against other companies in their industries. iAdvize independently analyzes well-known companies in select industries to report on the state of conversational maturity. In addition, brands can complete an online self-survey to understand the current state of their conversational initiatives.

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