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Guide | October 13, 2021

Your guide to conversational commerce

What has more than 1.3 billion users but just one thumbs up?


Facebook Messenger is the answer, of course, though it’s not even the social media giant’s most popular messaging service. That title would belong to WhatsApp, weighing in at a whopping 2 billion monthly active users.


In a world that never switches off thanks to messenger apps, it’s never been more important for eCommerce companies to be accessible to potential customers. No wonder that Facebook found that two-thirds of holiday shoppers messaged a business during the shopping process.


Conversational commerce, or c-commerce, is already “entrenched in Asia and Latin America” according to The Economist but is also becoming increasingly popular in developed nations. It’s not just for customer support anymore either, as more and more companies are allowing in-conversation purchases. 


Experts like Mike Myer, founder and CEO of communication platform Quiq, have even predicted that a “significant portion” of all eCommerce sales will be more conversational in nature in the next five to 10 years.


But just what is conversational commerce exactly? And is it right for your business? Read on to find out.


What is conversational commerce?


“Conversational commerce is about delivering convenience, personalization, and decision support while people are on the go, with only partial attention to spare,” wrote Chris Messina, inventor of the hashtag, back in the heady days of 2015 when he coined the term “conversational commerce”.


On a more nuts and bolts level, it means using technology to interact with potential customers in real-time to facilitate the purchase process. When done right, it’s personalization taken to the nth degree. There are several different forms conversational commerce can take, so let’s check some out.


1. Chatbots


Ever had a smiling man or woman’s face pop up at the bottom of your screen while browsing a retail site, offering to help you out? Then you’ve probably come across a chatbot.


Chatbots are powered by conversational AI to answer queries, survey customers, and even help complete sales, typically using a text interface. They can range from the very basic, with a few pre-programmed responses to a simple set of questions, to the more complex, with some even capable of helping diagnose medical conditions.


Chatbots aren’t just available on websites though, Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp have AI chatbot capabilities for brands as well.


2. Live chat agents


Who better for a conversation than an actual living, breathing human? Live chat agents do what chatbots do, except of course as a sentient being, they can answer a much broader and more complex range of questions. Live agents can also turn hot leads into sales.


They can work over text just like their chatbot cousins, but increasingly, large brands are using video calls to connect live chat agents with customers and give them the personal touch.


3. Voice assistants


We covered how to provide a satisfying voice commerce experience recently, but as well as being a key part of this subset of eCommerce, voice assistants are making waves in conversational commerce. This makes sense, as their ability to speak means they can actually have a conversation.


One study revealed that 47% of frequent online shoppers have used a voice assistant to make a purchase, which shows how savvy shoppers see the utility of voice assistants.


3 benefits of conversational commerce


So how can conversational commerce help your business? Here are three of the tip, top benefits.


Personalization


In a recent Decision Lab survey of Vietnamese conversational commerce shoppers, 61% said they purchased goods in this manner as doing so meant they could take advantage of a personalized consultation. A Facebook for Business survey also found that 31% of eCommerce shoppers message brands for personalized advice.


We’ve spent plenty of time extolling the virtues of personalization so we won’t tread over old ground here, but just as a reminder as to the importance of personalization, an Epsilon survey found that “80% of consumers are more likely to make a purchase when brands offer personalized experiences”.

It’s pretty obvious how conversational commerce provides a personalized experience, as your brand will be communicating to customers on a one-to-one basis, sometimes even on the same app they use to chat with family and friends. So the messaging they receive can be tailored to be extremely personal to them.


Real-time customer support

 

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You'll be able to provide round the clock customer service with conversational commerce.


The same Decision Lab survey mentioned above found that 66% of conversational commerce buyers are willing to keep in touch with merchants post-purchase, while faster response times were the third-most-popular reason for shopping in this way at 55%. In short, shoppers like it as it means they can get the support they want from a brand instantly.


This allows you as a brand to stay in touch with consumers around the clock, something which has become increasingly important in the era of social media. More Facebook research found that the vast majority of consumers said “being able to message a business helps them feel more confident about the brand”. 


So not only will you be able to more easily upsell to consumers, handle complaints quicker and tackle customers’ pain points, just being there and available for your customers will give them more confidence in you/ Just don’t leave anyone on read!


Scale at a lower cost


While it can be pricey setting up conversational commerce capability (more on that later), the dividends can start showing rapidly. Decision Lab found that 50% of Vietnamese conversational commerce buyers became regular online shoppers via chat, and a whopping 95% plan to either increase or maintain their spending via conversational commerce.


Such statistics so some way to showing the huge potential engaging conversational commerce shopping. In addition, it’s the scaling dream, as without increasing overhead by much or at all, revenue can start ticking up pretty quickly.


3 drawbacks of conversational commerce


Not every conservation is a pleasant experience, need I remind you of the “birds and bees” chat? Likewise, conversational commerce isn’t perfect, so let’s take a look at some notes of caution in the sector.


Clunky chatbots


Despite all the leaps and bounds forwards in AI technology, robots still lack that human touch. They can often struggle to recognize a customer’s intent and their ability to show empathy is lacking. On top of that, if you’re selling across a few different locations with different languages and some customers are communicating with the chatbot in a second language, it becomes that much harder for the robot to provide a satisfying interaction.


On the most basic level, customers can see through a clunky chatbot right away and it will be obvious they aren’t talking to a person. This could end up alienating them, which would obviously be a disaster.

 

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No matter how cute your AI chatbot is, it will be lacking the human touch.


Security requirements


When Microsoft released an AI chatbot on Twitter, it started off as a well-intentioned attempt to better connect with millennials. It ended with the chatbot spewing racist hate speech and being taken offline. An extreme example that may be, but it goes to show some of the vulnerabilities with chatbots.


Ransomware, malware, data theft, phishing, and more are all ways chatbots can be attacked. Of course, you can invest in security for your chatbot and you definitely should if it’s handling customers’ personal details.


Human resources


If you’re not using AI for all or part of your conversational commerce capabilities, that means you’ll be using live chat agents. This means you’ll have to employ and train people to man the chat boxes, so to speak. This is in the long-run more expensive than going fully AI-powered, and of course there’s the pesky issue that humans need to sleep, so it will be tough to run your conversational commerce offering 24/7.

 

Next steps

 

Ready to have a conversation about conversational commerce and all your other eCommerce needs? Get in touch with one of the experts at SmartOSC now to find out how we can help you.


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