Conversational Maturity Index: Sporting Goods Retailers 2021 Ranking

7min read - Terrence Fox

A conversational strategy is more than just deploying chatbots on your eCommerce site. Many aspects of the customer journey are factored into a successful approach, and the brands must evaluate their strengths and weaknesses to meet expectations.

To keep customers top of mind and continue to help brands and retailers humanize experiences, iAdvize created a unique assessment known as the Conversational Maturity Index(CMI). The CMI uses a quick online simulation to generate a score based on six pillars to evaluate how conversational brands are in relation to their industry. 

This month, we have addressed the sporting goods sector and provided a ranking for the most conversational brands in the industry.

Sporting Goods 2021 Ranking

Our CMI research uncovered critical findings for the industry. Industry leaders excelled in creating personalized experiences that focused on providing customers with genuine connections. They were also successful in securing scalable methods to impact a larger number of shoppers.

Industry Standouts

Backcountry

Backcountry’s chat is unique in that they refer to their respondents as “Gearheads”, providing a warm, personalized approach that is true to their brand. Their respondents work hard to establish real human conversations, conveying understanding and validating customer concerns. Take this example, where the “Gearhead” asks appropriate questions and even provides a pre-sale recommendation in an inviting way.

REI

REI’s conversational platform matches brand colors and allows shoppers to attach images or documents. They use a chatbot called the “co-op virtual assistant” who assesses a customer’s needs and directs them to a human specialist to talk to. The whole process is quick and seamless, leaving shoppers in the right place to make an educated purchase.

Decathlon

Decathlon offers flexible chat that automatically gives shoppers the option to leave an email and receive a response at a later time. They have non-invasive sounds to alert a customer to when a new chat has been received. Respondents reply quickly and send ample links to products. There is an overall sense of efficiency mixed with authentic understanding.

Key Findings for Sporting Goods

Need for More Emotion and Channel Fluidity

The industry’s lowest scores were found to be the Omnichannel & Seamlessness and Empathy, Expertise, & Authenticity pillars. Retailers were able to establish responsive messaging, but couldn’t measure up to the high expectations for authentic, emotion-infused pre-sales support. Respondents did not provide the level of understanding necessary to solve some customer concerns.

Additionally, the contenders in sporting goods didn’t provide the ease of communication needed in today’s digital world. With the exception of a few standouts, most did not offer ways for a shopper to stay in touch outside of the chat window. This could come in the form of a follow up email to resume the conversation, or the ability to message through popular messaging apps like Facebook Messenger. The best-practice approach offers opportunities for shoppers to stay connected via messaging after exiting a retailer’s site.

Success in Personalization and Messaging Content

Top scores for the industry include Personalized Engagement and Rich & User Friendly Messaging. Triumphant messaging approaches blended well into site interfaces and matched brand identity. Mobile chat features were as user-friendly as those on desktop, creating an easily-accessible experience from anywhere. Engagement was generally available across all product pages, and could be hidden by simply clicking a button if a shopper chose to do so. Chat requests supported the sending of images and were closed with a customer feedback survey.

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 CX industry. It has become essential for retail brands to provide online consumers with the kind of authentic, seamless conversational experience they have everyday through messaging. The assessment helps retailers to analyze their conversational strategy and find out how they can improve to better meet customer needs.

For this second industry analysis on sporting goods, we examined 20 leaders using the CMI framework of 80 discrete-value questions based on the six pillars. 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
  • Scalability
  • Personalized Engagement
  • Rich & User-Friendly Messaging
  • Omnichannel & Seamlessness
  • Business Drive

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 recognises 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 for 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.

As the CMI and engage with more companies on their CMI scores, we'll have more insights and metrics about business drive to share.

How Sporting Goods Compares

Our last Conversational Maturity Index industry assessment was conducted on the consumer electronics sectors. We found that the most conversational brands in consumer electronics excelled in crafting a mobile responsive UX that mimicked that of popular messaging apps. Both the consumer electronic and sporting goods industries shared the lowest scores in the Omnichannel & Seamlessness pillar. Personalized Engagement scored the highest for sporting goods, but the lowest for consumer electronics. To read the last CMI assessment on the consumer electronics industry, click here.

With the sporting goods industry, our team also noticed trends throughout the completion of the assessment. Overall, most chat respondents did not go into the specifics like they did for the consumer electronics industry. It’s interesting to note that this could be due to the nature of the products, the conversational strategy makeup, or a combination of both.

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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