Shopify’s cohort of more than 800,000 merchants and small business owners have a new way to speak to customers today with the introduction of Shopify Chat. The company’s first native chat client, Shopify Chat can host web conversations between merchants and customers using a web browser on Android or iOS devices or a laptop.
Shopify Chat is free and is made for use on business websites today, but the plan is to extend Shopify Chat to SMS and Android devices in the future, Shopify product director Michael Perry told VentureBeat in an interview in San Francisco.
“Shopify Chat is going to stay focused on the online store because that’s the nature. I think we’re looking and working on partnerships, like expand within SMS. That’s obviously a clear play for us, because what we’ve done with Business Chat. We’d like to be able to recreate that in the inbox as well as through SMS,” Perry said.
The news today comes weeks after Shopify introduced Apple Business Chat for exchanging messages with iPhone users and is yet another step toward Shopify’s previously stated goal to help small businesses run their operations with conversational AI.
Merchants that don’t use Apple Business Chat today can still communicate with customers using Shopify Chat.
“Our goal is to have a basic default offering that reaches everybody,” Perry said, adding that the personal touch can be critical for merchants selling directly to customers.
About a year ago, Shopify introduced Ping, an app for merchants to manage customer conversations coming in from Facebook Messenger, SMS, or Shopify’s automated bot Kit. Ping can also now field Shopify Chat messages.
Avenues like Shopify Chat can be used to help customers complete purchases, answer questions, or create a deeper connection. Shopify shared no specific metrics, but Perry said businesses who engage customers in chat on average see higher conversion rates and larger cart sizes.
Tools like Shopify Chat could prove beneficial for customers as well, who can use services like Shopify Arrive to track packages. More first-party offerings are on the way for consumers and merchants, Perry said.
Conversation data gathered by Shopify Chat may be used to improve the performance of automated bots that may appear in conversations with consumers to do things like share response times, handle FAQs, or even mimic a merchant’s tone in customer exchanges.