Instant messaging has overtaken emails to become the preferred channel for official communication in recent times. According to eMarketer, there were nearly 149.8 million users of messaging apps in 2018 in the United States alone, and the number is projected to reach 171.3 million by 2022. If surveys are anything to go buy, 83% of consumers now obtain the required information about a company’s product or services via messaging platforms. An estimated 76% seek support and assistance over texts, and 75% use it to make purchases.
Even though the idea of conducting business through messaging apps was considered invasive at first, Millennials and Gen Z are increasingly adopting conversational commerce as a more efficient form of e-commerce. How consumers interact with brands now is similar to how they engage with their friends and families, which is through messaging platforms.
What is Conversational Commerce?
Conversational commerce is a union of messaging platforms and shopping goals. The term was first used by Uber’s Chris Messina in 2015 to refer to a business interacting with customers via apps like WeChat, Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, Viber, Alexa, and Talk to enable conversational shopping. This includes making tailored recommendations, sending delivery notifications, and providing customer support. Customers can even search and shop for products, order groceries, book travels, read reviews, make payments, and track delivery status, without having to leave the platform.
All of this is possible thanks to AI and ML technologies that lay the foundation for conversational chatbots that use machine learning to converse in natural human languages to interact with people. With AI and ML technologies becoming an integral part of eCommerce, it would be wise to acquire AI/ML skills. Online courses, such as the PG diploma in Machine Learning and AI and Master of Science in Machine Learning and AI, are two excellent choices for artificial intelligence enthusiasts.
Conversational commerce enables a business to provide improved e-commerce solutions where convenience and customization are given priority to cater to customers seeking instant resolutions and personalized recommendations.
This either involves a human representative driving the shopping experience or a chatbot using speech/speaker recognition, NLP, and Artificial Intelligence to effectively converse with customers. With the usage of digital assistants touching one billion worldwide, technologies like Amazon’s Echo, Alexa and Google Home are enabling conversational commerce through voice commands, further enhancing the level of convenience in online shopping.
Benefits of Conversational Commerce
- Personalized experience
The idea of conversational commerce is to provide a customer-centric shopping experience by allowing instant access to a brand’s products or services. This in many ways emulates a sales assistant at a physical store who makes personalized recommendations and guides you through your purchases.
AI-powered chatbots and voice assistants with their 24/7 availability have eliminated the need for businesses to have human resources on standby to service customers. Instead, live chat assistants gain insight into your requirements through a series of questions and then suggest products based on your replies.
- Enhanced convenience
As customers are now able to purchase products right from their messaging apps, it has improved the satisfaction rate associated with shopping experiences. Not having to migrate to a separate platform and follow a series of steps to finally make a purchase instils a sense of control within customers. And businesses are banking on this convenience to drive user experience.
- Improved marketing campaigns
Businesses can leverage Artificial Intelligence to gain insight into the purchase habits of customers based on conversations with them. This information is eventually used to personalize ads and display automated marketing content as per their interests. Messaging apps can also be trained to curate posts and marketing content as and when new stock is added to your inventory.
Use Cases of Conversational Commerce
Top companies worldwide are leveraging conversational experiences to level up their commerce game. As one of the early adopters of conversational commerce, Walmart had started a text-to-shop service that accepted product requests from customers, located the item, and had it delivered to them the next day. Even though the service was discontinued eventually, it prompted a wide range of startups and companies to dabble in and successfully implement text-based shopping.
Here are a few real-world examples of how conversational commerce is revolutionizing e-commerce:
Facebook Messenger released its Messenger SDK in April 2016. The app has enabled businesses to carry out official communications with customers, 58% of whom feel more confident about interacting with a business over messages as opposed to other forms of communication.
From ads displayed in the messenger inbox, businesses being able to send sponsored messages to customers, as well as click-to-messenger ads that redirect users to desired platforms, the Facebook messenger has made it possible to automate user interactions with increased accuracy.
Now, the social media giant has joined hands with Uber to facilitate instant commute solutions to users. This allows them to order an Uber, provide the right address, and interact with your uber driver without having to exit the messaging app.
Almost every organization with a Facebook page has a Live Chat option in the form of customized chatbots services. Instead of locating brand information on their websites or Google, customers can directly interact with businesses to obtain the details of their product and services. You can also migrate to their Instagram pages to further explore their services.
Amazon’s Echo, the voice recognition-based device, allows Capital One’s customers to carry out banking transactions, and access balance details and bank statements, through a set of voice commands.
Developed to be a replacement to WhatsApp, the Chinese application WeChat has expanded into various segments to take e-commerce to the next level. It allows users to carry out banking transactions, order food, taxis, clothing, indulge in recreational activities, and make entertainment and travel bookings. By presenting itself as a social hub for users to carry out day-to-day activities, WeChat has carved itself a niche in the e-commerce industry.
Among others are companies like SnapTravel which jumped into the conversational commerce market long before Facebook’s SDK release. The company registered a whopping $100 million in sales and garnered 2.5 million users in just three years.
How conversational commerce is driving user experience?
As conversational commerce is blurring the lines between personal, consumer and business conversations, messaging platforms are partnering with popular companies to enhance the accessibility of their product and scalability of their services. By making necessary information available in one place, businesses are reducing the number of steps involved in converting a prospective buyer into a purchase. This has also eliminated the need for consumers to toggle back and forth between websites and messaging apps, thereby, simplifying the process of purchasing.
With AI-based chatbots available 24/7, customers are benefiting from seamless access to customer support, instant and accurate resolutions to their queries, and greatly personalized services.
Big platform investments will be integral in accelerating the growth of conversational commerce and making e-commerce more customer-centric. Samsung and Google, for instance, are working to enable shopping via their respective digital voice assistants and allowing customers to make payments through Samsung Pay or Google Pay. Similarly, Facebook has announced plans to finance private communications channels to lower the barrier of entry into conversational commerce.
Furthermore, companies like Jumper.ai with their end-to-end conversational commerce solutions like automated notifications and responses, multi-channel live chat, social media integrations, and chatbot builders, are helping top brands increase user engagement and drive sales. Jumper accomplishes this through a combination of humans and AI-powered solutions to personalise shopping experiences and gather insights that are effective in consumer re-engagement.
The shift from traditional forms of commerce has been gradual, but now that conversational commerce has arrived, it will continue to dominate the commerce industry for years to come. By allowing consumers to engage with their preferred brands conveniently and accomplish shopping goals, conversational commerce is leading the way for businesses to enhance user engagement and experience, and drive growth.
Author: Upgrad is India’s largest online higher education company that offers Digital Marketing, Data Science, Artificial Intelligence, Blockchain, & Machine Learning courses. It recognises the potential of AI-powered conversational commerce in changing the way consumers shop online. This is also causing a paradigm shift in how digital marketers are buying online media and engaging with their target audience. The above article presents their views on the subject.