New Ways to Accelerate Ecommerce Sales in Financial Services

Consumers want to buy from websites, but the truth of the matter is that websites are not good at selling.  Online basket abandonment rates in web retail are now at a whopping 88%, according to the latest analyst reports. However, don’t be fooled into thinking thatthis is a problem for the FMCG retailer alone; web form abandonment rates are upwards of 75% in the banking, financial services and insurance (BFSI) industries as well…

The fact is, that most web sites don’t make it easy for customers to buy. In fact,cart and web form abandonment percentages are just the tip of the iceberg when you look at the larger phenomenon of “shopping abandonment” in retail parlance – one could call it ‘purchase abandonment’ across industries.

When consumers go to websites to buy something, they go through three distinct steps in their purchase process – find, decide and buy. While the basket and web form abandonment happens in the final, “buy” stage of a transaction, consumers often quit their purchases way before they even get to that final stage. In order to take online sales conversion to whole new levels, BFSI websites need to therefore address the larger phenomenon of purchase abandonment through proactive contextual engagement at each step of the purchase process – find, decide and buy. Here’s how they can do it:

Stage 1 – Find: Make it easy to find appropriate products and services

Finding things in any retail store can be a challenge, and in this day and age, in-store customer service help can be poor at best. While shopping abandonment rates in a bricks-and-mortar establishment might be lower due to the shopper’s “escalation of commitment” – after all, the shopper likely spent a sizeable amount of time (and petrol!) driving to the local branch – there’s no such commitment to the BFSIweb site. With no such constraints,potential customers get lost in a hurry and simply bolt with the click of a mouse or the swipe of a tablet.

We’ve all been there, not knowing where to search or what to type in for the best result. Keyword searches are rarely able to decipher the real intent of the customer. This results in hundreds of irrelevant hits (called “search overload”) or in a dead-end (i.e., the dreaded “no results found”) and consumers heading elsewhere. Shoppers expect a website to do more than just dump irrelevant information on them today, they want purchase guidance – a GPS and not a raw map.

Stage 2 – Decide:Facilitate the decision to buy

Once the consumer finds some options, they’d like to decidewhat they want to buy. In order to make that decision, they need product information including features, benefits and independent reviews, as well as how they compare to alternatives – all in one place, your website. Many ecommerce sites simply don’t offer this and consumers have to go elsewhere to find such information, abandoning the purchase in the process.

Moreover, web sites often compound the problem by making irrelevantoffers that don’t help move the purchase decision forward. One example is dumb proactive chat, often called “attack chat,” where visitors get ambushed the minute they reach a website.Stalking customers with unintelligent chat offers does not help the customer in their decision-making. In fact, it causes consumers to leave the website in a hurry.

Another example is presenting irrelevant voucher offers during the decision process. Most offers tend to be generic sales promotions that miss the real opportunity to make targeted, contextual offers to help the consumer make the decision to buy a particular product you are attempting to sell.

Stage 3 – Buy:Make it easy to complete the purchase

When the customer is ready to buy, they start the checkout process. Shoppers often quit at this stage– the checkout process being convoluted, in-your-face surveys, etc.

In the BFSI sector, customers often need to fill out onerous online forms to “buy”. These forms are oftencomplex, and there’s no real-time, in-purchase help. The customer simply gives up filling the forms and goes elsewhere – and after all that hard worktoo!

New ways to accelerate BFSI ecommerce sales

How can BFSI companies address purchase abandonment and boost ecommerce sales? The answer lies in bringing to bear the right technologies at the right time in the find-decide-buy process.

Take the find stage; it is now possible for a website search to understand the true intent of the consumer. Intent-driven search technology and guided help based on AI (Artificial Intelligence) technologies like Case-Based Reasoning (CBR) can do this.  This can help reduce frustrating keyword search dead-ends and unrelated information dump;helping customers to what they need through a natural language dialogue or step-by-step guided help – just like a competent sales person in a branch office would.

Also, wouldn’t it be great if the web site had a virtual concierge that helped customers find things? Well, they exist!These chatbots never take time off; they work 24×7 and are even multilingual! Moreover, they are designed to align with the brand, thereby reinforcing the brand through customer’s digital experiences.

Many of our clients now use virtual agent technology, which allows consumers to converse in natural language with a life-like, online “avatar” to help their customers learn about new products and get answers to questions about their account, including balances, bill payment, claims, policy questions, etc.

One premier international bank uses eGain-powered chatbots to provide distinctive web self-service to business clients, deflecting 30% of would-be phone calls to the website. A unified approach is key here – when the chatbot is unable to resolve an issueit escalates the interaction seamlessly to a human agent, preserving
the context and content of the interaction.

Finally, when it comes to the decide and buy stages, many of our clients aggregate search results from independent product review and online forums – all in one place – making it easy for the customer to make an informed decision, without ever having to leave the web site.  Furthermore, instead of those attack chats, these sites make intelligent and relevant offers, such as real-time chat or cobrowse that are honed to the stage of the process that the customer is currently in.

To this end, premier BFSI companies in the US are using eGain for chat and web collaboration, helping customers fill out forms online, get questions answered, and complete transactions.

One such example comes from a leading US insurance client that has their sales agents cobrowse with customers, while talking to them on the phone at the same time. The agents show consumers around on the web site when they are in the “find” or “decide” phase, and  collaboratively fill online forms, etc. when they are in the buy phase or during the member onboarding process after the purchase. The insurer has been able to increase its online conversion rate from 25% to 75% with this collaborative approach. This is like having your friendly neighbourhood agent hand-holding the customer through the enrollment process but without the cost of a brick-and-mortar retail branch.

It’s clear that proactive, contextual, technology-enabled online engagement– automated or human-assisted – can help businesses dramatically improve sales conversion. As consumerscontinue to embrace the digital age, this approach might very well separate the winners from the losers in the BFSI sector.

Anand Subramaniam is Vice President of Worldwide Marketing for eGain,, a provider of multichannel sales and service software.