2020, the advent of conversational brands

9min read - iAdvize

Conversational Data & Trends - Retrospective 2020

Last year, more than 250 million messages were exchanged on iAdvize between 2,000 brands and their customers worldwide, generating nearly 2 million transactions. We have been able to use the data from these millions of interactions to put together a review of digital activity in 2020, a year which has seen a boom in the conversational economy.  

Executive Summary

  • Already a part of our everyday lives, messaging completely took over in the area of customer relations in 2020. As we look back on this all-time, record-breaking year for iAdvize, our 2020 Retrospective reveals all. 
  • Across all sectors, the average number of online conversations per customer (on-site or in-app messaging, via FB Messenger, WhatsApp, SMS...) increased by 1.7x in 2020 (+70%). This figure soared during the first wave of the pandemic: doubling between February and April 2020.
  • This is an all-time record for iAdvize: brands have become conversational.
  • This surge in messaging has borne fruit in terms of sales. The average number of post-conversation purchases per customer has increased by 1.8x (+80%) in the Consumer Products industry, compared to 2019.
  • During this year of total upheaval, emerging practices, such as automated conversations and mobile-first, have become standard. At the same time, some very innovative examples of digital use have gained ground, such as connecting in-store sales agents, "full messaging" communication with visitors and the rise of WhatsApp in customer relations; not to mention the development of Sales Activation strategies. 

2020. A year that has been unpredictable, demanding, sometimes confusing and yet in many ways exciting. For digital players, 2020 was above all a record breaking year. As the data on our platform reveal, it marked a definitive turning point for conversational experiences.

Messaging is part of our lives. More than 41 million WhatsApp messages are sent per minute worldwide.* Consumers want to be able to contact brands through the channels they use every day.

Our lives are conversational. And 2020 showed that brands are on their way to becoming so.

Brands are becoming conversational

We predicted that eCommerce would accelerate at the onset of the health crisis. But what we have witnessed has been nothing short of a revolution. With +27% page views compared to 2019, activity on our Consumer Products clients’ sites reached a new level of intensity in 2020.

Already part of our daily lives, messaging has totally taken over customer relations. 

Across all sectors, the average number of online conversations per customer (on the site or in-app, via FB Messenger, WhatsApp, SMS...) multiplied by 1.7 in 2020 (+70%). This figure has more than doubled (x2.6, +160%) in the Consumer Products industry. This is an all-time high. Brands are becoming conversational. 

This transformation has been accompanied by very high conversion and satisfaction rates. The average number of transactions per customer on our platform has increased by 1.8x in the Consumer Products industry (+80%). In every industry vertical, customer advisors have achieved an average NPS of +30 points in 2020, testifying to the popularity of messaging.

Joining the conversation revolution, an imperative in 2021

The past year has confirmed our convictions. In 2021, more than ever before, we believe that conversation is the best experience a brand can offer its customers. And we want to make its digital medium, messaging, the main communication channel.

Our mission is to help brands be part of this conversation revolution.

We envision this conversation being natural, efficient, diversified and most importantly, human, to give the authenticity and emotional intelligence we need. 

For this transformation to be possible, it must happen on a large scale and take into account brands’ economic challenges. And this without sacrificing either the quality of the experience or the trust built up with customers: something too many chatbots have already done. This is the challenge taken up by iAdvize’s Augmented Intelligence

We are betting that within 5 years, noone will still pick up the phone to contact a brand. Within 5 years, the biggest brands will be offering everyone the kind of conversation experience we have every day with family and friends. A reassuring "always on” presence, that brings customers closer to businesses, that satisfies and builds loyalty, as shown by our 2020 data.

Conversational Data & Trends - 2020 Barometer

1. Conversation volumes: +70% all sectors, +160% Consumer Products industry

Across all sectors, the average number of online conversations per customer, increased by 1.7x compared to 2019 (+70%). In particular, the average number of conversations per customer doubled in the span of two months, between February and April 2020.

This all-time record for iAdvize can be linked to the explosion of e-commerce(strong demand for purchasing advice from visitors) and the need for reassurance caused by the health crisis(surge in after-sales queries). 

To respond to this strong appetite for messaging from visitors, brands have automated some of the conversations using chatbots. This has empowered them to handle higher volumes of conversations, contributing to the boom.

Unsurprisingly, the graph below shows that in 2020, the peaks in conversations coincide with the the initial wave of new engagement driven by the pandemic, and the holiday shopping season. An intense year for eCommerce indeed.

For our clients in the Consumer Products industry, 2020 saw all-time record highs, with conversation volumes almost tripling (x2.6 vs. 2019).

By leveraging messaging, brands were keen to recreate online the personal shopping experience offered in physical stores. Some have even redeployed their in-store sales agents to provide online advice via iAdvize.

2. Consumer Products sales up 80%

This growth of messaging has proven to be a win-win situation for brands. In 2020, the average number of post-conversation transactions per customer on our platform almost doubled compared to 2019. It multiplied by a factor of 1.8 in the Consumer Products industry. 

3. Satisfaction levels high and stable despite crisis fluctuations

The messaging channel is popular with customers again in 2020. The overall customer satisfaction rate(CSAT) obtained by customer advisers on iAdvize increased slightly during 2020 despite the various episodes of the crisis, ending the year at 81%.

The Net Promoter Score (NPS) for advisors also improved, ending the year at +34 points with an annual average of +30. 

These figures show that conversational brands were able to adapt their strategy over the months to improve customer satisfaction. 

4. Customer Journey focus: growth in pre-sales conversations

In the Consumer Products industry, the volume of pre-sales conversations(buying advice) increased sharply with the first wave of COVID. Their share increased by 9 points in 2020 compared to 2019.

The data confirm the success of conversational commerce in 2020: messaging was used by brands to support online shoppers and maximize their e-commerce performance.

2020: established and emerging uses 

1. Mobile-first, automation... the trends of the last few years are becoming standardized

Conversational trends of the past few years have become mainstays in overcoming the challenges posed by the crisis: 

  • The chatbot revolution. Our clients have accelerated the deployment of chatbots to respond to as many customers as possible, in selfcare mode. In 2020, 45% of conversations on our platform were totally or partially automated, compared to only 15% before the pandemic. Powered by Augmented Intelligence, iAdvize chatbots understand visitor requests and deliver an immediate response, allowing brands to handle 5x more questions.

  • Boom in online communities. Our clients have increasingly turned to on-demand ibbü experts to advise shoppers online 24/7, an agile solution to quickly increase customer service response capacity.
    → Conversations handled by independent community experts increased by 1.5x compared to 2019.
    → Throughout the year, the number of experts active on the platform remained at levels well above those of 2019: +46% more active experts per month in 2020 compared to 2019.
    → By addressing customers' need for assistance in a very efficient way, the brands that deployed these experts generated an average satisfaction rate(CSAT) of 86% in 2020.

  • Mobile continues its ascent. Since April, the majority of visits to our clients' sites have been made on cell phones (55%). This increased usage is also reflected in conversations: the proportion of conversations on cell phones rose 18 points between January and December 2020. 
  • The use of video in customer relations. To replicate the in-store shopping experience, twice as many customers adopted video calling in 2020 than in 2019. While in previous years, this channel was mainly used to facilitate accessibility for people with disabilities, usage changed radically this year with the explosion of video conferencing. It is now a way for our clients to advise customers remotely or from the point of sale.

    Video conversations last an average of 2.5 times longer than traditional conversations. The hyper-personalized contact with the customer generates even higher satisfaction scores, +9 CSAT points compared to a traditional conversation.The use of video messaging has been particularly impactful for our clients interested in providing advice on high-value orders.

2. Emerging uses of online conversation in 2020 

  • Connected store sales agents. In 2020, to offset the sharp erosion of in-store traffic, our clients have redeployed their sales force to online consulting. Sales agents are connected to visitors through the iAdvize application installed on smartphones. An approach that both maximizes staff occupancy rates and encourages e-commerce site visitors to visit the physical store through geolocation and click & collect strategies. 
    → The number of users of the iAdvize application rose tenfold between 2019 and 2020.
  • Sales Activation. This year, 4 major retailer clients of iAdvize enabled leading brands in electronics and sportswear to deploy brand sales agents for online consulting on their retail site. 

    This new trend, called Sales Activation, allows brands to replicate the D2C experience on their retailers' e-commerce platforms. Thanks to targeting rules, brands engage their prospects directly on the retailer's site via iAdvize. Brand advisors accompany customers in their search on these third-party sites by messaging, call and video. This personalized advice increases satisfaction and conversion (95% CSAT, AOV x2 recorded in 2020 for one of our clients**).
  • Full-messaging, omnichannel communication. Messaging applications are the new communication standard. In 2020, our customers have switched their communication channels over to this customer relations standard in order to gain in productivity.

    The challenge is to reduce the volume of contacts by email and telephone, channels that are being abandoned by consumers. In the time taken to handle 1 call, an advisor can handle 5 conversations by messaging. In 2021, contact by messaging is being offered in all its forms: text, voice, video, both on their site and on third-party messaging applications (Messenger, WhatsApp, Apple Business Chat). For this reason, iAdvize has this year become an official WhatsApp partner.

*Statista, A minute on the Internet in 2020
**iAdvize customer case study, March 1 to October 25, 2020

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