The technology is finally available to put the power of communication with brands in the consumer’s hands. People are making the way they talk to companies work for them on the platforms they use. The way many consumers engage with brands is fast becoming identical to how they talk to their friends—through messaging apps and social media.
This is where conversational commerce comes in.
The term was first coined back in 2015 by Chris Messina of Uber. It’s the idea that retailers are using messenger apps to sell products to clients. From searching through products to making a payment and tracking delivery, the entire process can all be done through a platform like WhatsApp or Facebook Messenger. This takes eCommerce to a new level of convenience.
It’s been a slow shift into this kind of commerce, but the shift has definitely taken place. Millennials and Gen Z are becoming increasingly comfortable blurring the boundaries between personal, business, and consumer communication. The idea at first seemed invasive, but now people like the fact that they can interact with their favorite brands conveniently.
The Chinese app WeChat is probably the best example of next-level conversational commerce. What started as a local answer to WhatsApp has turned into a complete ecosystem for the modern lifestyle.
You can do your banking, order taxis, book entertainment tickets, order takeout, play games, meet new people, sort out holiday bookings and even enjoy some retail therapy—all from within the one app. This is because the developers of WeChat have partnered with other companies and offered the social platform as a hub for doing business. WeChat has set the benchmark for conversational commerce, and other platforms have taken notice.
Facebook has responded in the West by allowing businesses to use the messenger app to run official communications. Many organizations worldwide have deployed Live Chat and chatbots within the Facebook ecosystem, allowing customers to contact them directly via the social media platform. It started as a customer service portal but has since evolved to offer so much more, including shopping and paying for products. This has also spilled over into Instagram, which is owned by Facebook.
The social media giants have gone a step further recently and have partnered up with Uber. You can now order a ride by selecting an address on a Facebook page, so you don’t have to open a separate app. This keeps users in the ecosystem and simplifies yet another area of their lives.
It’s easy to see the immediate benefits of conversational commerce, but it’s when you dig deeper than they really become clear.
Just some advantages it offers include:
A Seamless Customer Experience
Convenience is the name of the game for the modern consumer. They want to be in control of how they interact with brands and how they shop. This is clear in how the average consumer has taken to Live Chat within a myriad of personal messaging apps. The instant communication to solve a problem or query leaves the consumer with a great satisfaction rate. It has overtaken the likes of email or phone calls as the preferred method of interaction.
The evolution of allowing the consumer to purchase via Facebook Messenger and other similar apps has only increased this convenience factor.
Seeing a product on sale in a Facebook post and purchasing it right there is far more appealing than having to click out to a separate platform and take several extra steps. This has made for a customer experience that’s focused on the customer.
It’s Like Having a Personalized Shopping Assistant
Conversational commerce is already moving beyond offering an easier way to shop. The ecosystem that brands can now create is almost like offering a personalized shopping assistant to everyone. Customers can open up a messenger app, go to their favorite brand’s account, and ask for help.
Say, for example, you’re looking for a birthday present for your mother. You can type or use voice command functionality to outline the type of gift you’re looking for. The Live Chat operator can then recommend products for you based on your specific needs. Those products can be purchased immediately, gift-wrapped, delivered to you, or straight to your mother.
Brands are using this concierge-like offering in a variety of ways. It’s not always possible to have real people on standby for Live Chat all the time, especially for smaller organizations. This is where chatbots and AI come into play.
Chatbots can ask a series of questions and then make suggestions for products based on the answers. In an ecosystem like Facebook, the platform can take the information it already has based on the user profiles and uses that to help inform the AI.
Streamline Business Marketing
The information gathered by the AI and your interactions with customers via messenger apps can improve your marketing. You can offer personalized advertisements and content to customers based on their conversations with you. The AI can even automate marketing content based on the parameters you’ve set.
Also, conversational commerce doesn’t just help the customer; it makes your life easier too.
These messenger apps can be trained to prompt you to run adverts on sites like Facebook or Google, create social posts about new stock added to your website, and give you a snapshot of adverts running or have recently ended. In response to these message prompts, you can say yes or no to running new adverts or posts and let AI do the rest. This is not widely used by businesses yet, but trends show that it will go that way.
If the convenience factor can boost sales and satisfaction with customers, why can’t it do the same for your business?