Freshworks today launches Freshworks CRM for e-commerce, built to help direct-to-consumer brands and digital retailers connect with customers across conversational marketing, sales and customer support. All of this runs on a unified customer record stored in the vendor's underlying Neo platform, as Prakash Ramamurthy, Chief Product Officer at Freshworks, explains:
All the things that we are bringing together and announcing reinforces our notion that a unified customer view has to be built out-of-the-box. It shouldn't be left as an exercise to our customers to go buy an integration software and millions of dollars on a partner to bring it together. It should all be available out-of-the-box, that has always been our position.
Today's announcement integrates Freshworks' sales and marketing automation solution alongside its core customer support platform, and adds a range of new messaging and automation capabilities along with ready-made integration to popular e-commerce platforms, starting with Shopify. He sums up:
This launch is all about bringing support and marketing together, adding additional channels for support and marketing, enhancing our modern agent, conversational experience, and including bots to the front end, adding multilingual support for bots, and also adding natural language support to understand intent.
The new offering is in response to surging demand for an integrated online commerce experience in the wake of the shift to online retail during the pandemic, along with growing consumer adoption of messaging channels. As part of the move to more conversational interactions with online retailers and brands, customers also expect these companies to have all their information to hand when they get in touch, rather than asking them to resubmit details when changing channels. Ramamurthy says:
We have brought sales, marketing and support together, fully integrated with the unified customer record. All the channels fully integrated, bots and chat fully integrated. So that e-commerce companies can just take care of their customers, whether it is to give them a better deal in marketing, to take care of them when they ask for support, or give them information when they ask for it. 'Where's my order?' 'What is your hours of business?' Any of those things, all of them available, 24x7. End of the day, that's what these guys are looking for.
The messaging channels available include WhatsApp, Apple Business Chat, SMS and Line, with Instagram expected soon. Agents can also use the Freshdesk native Textline messaging product to interact with customers. There are various pre-built chatbot templates for e-commerce, and agents can see order information when dealing with customer issues. So for example, if a customer contacts support with a returns query at the same time as filling up a new shopping cart, the agent can see that this would be a good time to reinforce customer goodwill by waiving the restocking fee on that return.
It's also possible to allow customers to set preferred messaging channels, so for example if a customer has put several items in their shopping cart and then leaves the session, they could get an automated message an hour later to their preferred channel, reminding them of the outstanding items and perhaps offering a discount if they complete the order within a certain time limit.
The integration to Shopify includes connections into pre-built chatbot templates, with Natural Language Processing (NLP) and the ability to recognize intent, so that conversations can be natural. If a chatbot isn't able to solve an issue, it can automatically refer the conversation to a human agent with all information attached. In addition to today's integration to Shopify, others including Magento and WooCommerce will follow soon, says Ramamurthy.
Chatbot automation will help businesses reduce operating costs at the same time as improving the customer experience. He explains:
In e-commerce, especially, there are high-volume support queries that come in. A lot of times, these are transactional queries, which are repeated. The single most asked query of an e-commerce company is, 'Where's my order?' People ask that, sometimes two times a day and five times a week, until the thing shows up. So what we want to be able to do is, have bots front-end these queries, automatically find the data, and give it back to the customer in their channel of choice.
The platform also allows marketers to define multichannel engagement journeys, so that they can run segmented marketing campaigns, personalized according to customer purchasing behavior across email, chatbots, SMS, WhatsApp, and social platforms such as Instagram and Facebook. They can also draw on data insights gathered from e-commerce platforms and synced to contacts and purchase history to create campaigns and actions to drive repeat revenue and build customer lifetime value.
Freshworks will continue to develop the solution with more integrations and new functionality. One example is to provide further support for long-running asynchronous conversations across multiple channels. Ramamurthy says the aim is to continue to make the interaction with customers more natural:
When I'm trying to text my wife, iPhone doesn't tell me, 'Your wait time is three days, because she doesn't want to talk to you.' You just deliver a message and it leaves it up to her to react to that.
At the end of the day, we feel that the most important thing is, we want our businesses to interact with their customers in their natural habitat and give it all to them in one place.
There's a clear trend, especially in online commerce, to converge channels and functions and make engagement between customers and retailers as natural and frictionless as possible. For many businesses, the effort required to stitch together a collection of disparate e-commerce, customer service and digital marketing tools is becoming an impossible burden. A ready-made, integrated alternative is likely to prove an appealing proposition to many.