How to Leverage Conversational Commerce to Boost Your Business

by: Dustin Hawley | Thursday April 4, 2019

In the general sense, conversational commerce has been around since the existence of barter. Though the sophisticated term was not used during its inception, it’s how merchants brought in sales and how you ask the sales assistant to help you make a purchase decision. Without trying to sound cliché, conversation drives conversion.

Consumer expectations are higher than ever, and the speed and convenience associated with these raised expectations have spurred new innovations that are opening up a seamless communication channel with consumers, notably called conversational commerce (cCommerce).

Let's break down what conversational commerce is, why brands should care, and some examples of how brands are leveraging it to boost their business.

So What Is Conversational Commerce?

The term “conversational commerce” (also known as 'cCommerce') first surfaced in 2015, when Chris Messina of Uber (who also invented the hashtag as it is used today on social media) published a short piece on Medium about breakthroughs in adding a conversational element to the customer experience.

In that piece, Messina defined conversational commerce as “delivering convenience, personalization, and decision support while people are on the go, with only partial attention to spare.” With the intention of delivering top-notch customer experience, conversational commerce is designed essentially to replicate the one-on-one, in-store salesperson experience with customers.

conversational commerce interpreted through image of chatbot

From buying clothes to banking transactions to ordering a meal from a restaurant, conversational commerce is beginning to revolutionize the way business is done in the modern world.

How Does Conversational Commerce Work?

Conversational commerce works through event triggers, knowing your customers and their spending habits, and constant review and analysis of your own site’s analytics. A trigger event is "an explicit set of conditions that initiate the transfer of information between system components.

We have recently seen cCommerce being built into artificial intelligent advancements, but the chatbots engaging in cCommerce with customers aren’t yet meant to replace human-to-human interactions. Although Gartner Research projects that chatbots will be handling about 85% of customer service by 2020.

For now, though, chatbots are around to be present when a human can’t be; we write the rules they must follow and the scripts they must adhere to. And they fill a need in conversational marketing in a way that is data-driven, personalized, and scalable. Not to mention in real-time.

So Why Use Conversational Commerce?

Conversational commerce isn't about keeping up with trends. Conversational commerce should is built around the goal of providing a better, more personalized user experience between brand and consumer. That may sound counterintuitive, being that we’re talking about using a computer program to engage with our customers, but that's not necessarily diluting the quality of service (and timeliness) these conversations can provide to your customers. 

Using tools like chatbots to engage with our customers should add to their experience, not take away from it. And when used correctly, that’s exactly what they do; enhance the customer experience with timely, engaged communication.

So Why is Conversational Commerce Becoming a Big Deal?

App fatigue is real, and it's not going away anytime soon. With the sheer saturation of available apps, it's not hard to understand why. Every time we unlock the screen on our phones and mobile devices, we find ourselves bombarded by endless notifications and alerts.

The mass adoption of messaging apps, as well as equally rapid growth in conversational, AI-powered technology, has created an opportunity for brands to make one-on-one conversations at scale. Out are the days of clicks and taps with generic prompts. The ease of interaction conversational commerce provides is set to make a major impact in the coming months.

How Does cCommerce Work?

Though we’ve touched on messaging apps and voice assistants on multiple occasions throughout this piece, conversational commerce also includes every other communication touchpoint like social media, email, feedback, survey, etc. Every channel offers different levels of focus but ultimately, you are driving your prospects down in your conversion funnel.

convdrsational commerce is the new battleground for customer service

Say hello to artificial intelligence, once again. The inception of artificial intelligence and chatbots provide the ability to implement conversational commerce on a much larger scale. Though chatbots can only do so much to replicate authentic human interaction, they are more than capable of complementing certain aspects of communication and doing so quicker than their mortal counterparts. That's us, humans.

Based on event triggers (hello again!) and consumer buying habits, chat-based conversational commerce works something like this:

  • A user lands on an online store looking to buy a new t-shirt
  • The chatbot connects with the user through Facebook messenger
  • The chatbot prompts the user asking if there’s anything specific the shopper is looking for
  • After asking a few follow-up questions, the chatbot helps the shopper buy a shirt
  • The chatbot keeps the customer updated on the shipping status
  • Upon the delivery of the package, the bot confirms it and thanks the buyer for the purchase
  • The bot runs customer nurturing activity by seeking product feedback, recommendations, product return inquiries, etc.

Voice assistants like Alexa work in a similar fashion from a programming perspective, helping the user to find stores, restaurants, events, etc. in their locality, recommend products, access customer service, control smart home devices, etc.

How do I Get Started With Conversational Commerce?

In order to truly scale conversational commerce for your brand, consider developing a chatbot that is available and accessible where your audience spends the most time. Starting with your website, and depending on your industry, your brand may find it advantageous to slowly implement the chatbot into different messaging apps like Facebook Messenger, WeChat, Slack or WhatsApp. Remember, the goal is to reduce app or task switching, you want to keep our audience engaged.

“Customer Experience is the new marketing,” says Steve Cannon (President and CEO, Mercedes-Benz USA). And conversational commerce lets you establish humanized communication with your customers that values, prioritizing services over sales. And building this type of brand equity through conversational commerce, if deployed effectively, is all but assured to boost your business's bottom line.

 

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