Caroline Klatt

Caroline Klatt, cofounder and chief executive officer of Headliner Labs, told attendees that while consumers spend five hours a day on mobile devices, which includes shopping, conversions remain low. Why?

“Because mobile web sites and mobile apps are not in line with what we’re actually doing on our phones,” Klatt said. “On our phones we’re chatting, and your customers are chatting.” For her part, the solution for retailers and brands to boost conversions lies within mobile chatbots.

Klatt said mobile devices “are the center of our universe. Over the last 15 years we’ve replaced dozens of technologies with one single device. It’s our camera and dynamic photo book. It’s where we watch TV, and it’s our boom box. It’s how we get mail, and it’s how we send mail. It’s how we get transportation, and instruction, and increasingly, it’s how we discover and purchase products.”

The ceo noted that mobile represents “a huge opportunity for brands to find customers and close sales, and to get invaluable and actionable data and analytics.” Klatt noted that e-commerce sales will be 50 percent of all sales by 2020, and half of it will be done on mobile devices. “So while stores are closing, or changing, e-commerce is growing, and more and more of that is mobile,” she said. “Mobile is now the single most important channel to focus on if you want to grow your business now, and ensure that it lasts into the future. The problem is we haven’t come close to optimizing mobile for shopping.”

Enter chatbots. Klatt said last year, messaging apps grew by over 400 percent. “That’s massive growth,” she explained. “By remaining off of those platforms, you’re essentially betting that people will go against their normal behavior to come shop with you. Even for brands, or retailers with the most loyal customers, that’s a really, really high expectation. Chat is here for the taking, it is open season.”

So, aside from customer service bots and “personal assistant bots,” Klatt said the focus needs to be on chatbots that are “shopping experiences that live inside of messaging platforms.” It’s a way to engage with customers one on one. “A chatbot is your ability to converse with each and every one of them,” she said. “To learn about them, and to send them microtargeted specific content at the time they are most likely to read it. The beauty of all this is that it’s automated, it’s done by artificial intelligence, and not necessarily by a human. When thought about it this way, bots drive serious engagement in sales.”

But there’s a caveat, Klatt told attendees. “The single most important part of acquiring sales with a bot is being able to reach the right audience,” she said. “With easy integrations you can actually begin talking to your web site customers inside a messaging app. All of a sudden your anonymous web site churn become individuals with whom your bot can go back and forth collecting data, and putting them into customer segments. You’ve opened up a live conversation that stays open like a text conversation with a friend.”

And that leads to higher conversions, she said, adding that “the bots that we deploy, we see an 8 to 64 percent increase in direct digital sales.”

For more WWD business news, see:

When a Seam Is Missed, Darn It Steps In

Amazon, Wal-Mart and Apple Top List of Biggest E-commerce Retailers

Kingston’s Moment: Celebrities and Creative Types Rediscover Historic Town