The online world offers businesses many channels to get their products in front of new customers. From websites and emails to apps and social media, online spaces allow companies to market themselves, close sales, and improve customer experience. But, in business, you can’t sit back and hope that customers find you. You have to meet them where they already are.
Nowadays, people spend a significant amount of time on messaging apps such as WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, WeChat, and others. In response, businesses have begun looking for ways to reach people through these services. Rather than always forcing consumer interactions into a channel designed by the company, businesses are looking for ways to interact with people on the messaging services they are already using.
This approach has been given the name “conversational commerce”.
What is conversational commerce?
The term “conversational commerce” was first introduced by Chris Messina in a short 2015 piece published on Medium. The article discusses the rise of messaging apps and voice assistants and how the use of concierge-style services has the potential to become a dominant mode for mobile transactions.
Since 2015, conversational commerce has expanded into a wide-reaching form of eCommerce, where businesses communicate directly and in real time with their customers. This means communicating via both text and voice, including the use of messaging apps, voice assistants, live chat, or automated chatbots.
Fully integrating conversational commerce into your business strategy allows you to deliver content for every stage of a consumer’s journey, all from a single platform. Plus, many messaging services can now integrate with an easy bill paying service to facilitate simple eCommerce transactions.
In the modern world, consumers expect immediate responses and personalized service. Conversational commerce provides helpful product information and meaningful support to improve the overall customer experience across the purchasing journey. By creating a back and forth conversation, customers can easily access the information they are looking for, and companies can effectively market their products and gather valuable feedback.
The different conversational commerce channels
Conversational commerce can be separated into four main types:
- Live Chat
Live chat functionality on websites allows businesses to interact with customers quickly, often replacing the need for email or phone interactions. Hiring informed customer-facing staff who can succinctly respond to requests, often handling multiple at a time, has become a game-changer for people wanting immediate customer support from real-life people.
This can enhance the customer experience, reducing the wait time for responses while also adding the flexibility to pivot conversations into new areas and help increase sales. This could be simple advice when navigating the website and directing them to specific pages or something deeper such as asking questions about the customer’s needs and providing specific recommendations.
While live chat is great, it can place a significant burden on employees, and your workforce can become overwhelmed with requests leading to long response times. Another popular approach utilizes chatbots instead. Chatbots are software that can decipher customer messages and automatically guide them to the information they require.
Chatbots are a simple, lower-effort, conversational commerce solution that allow businesses to handle large numbers of requests around the clock. However, their functionality is inherently more limited than having a real person on the other end of the conversation. Chatbots are great for simple requests such as information on a specific order or rescheduling deliveries. But they can fall short when asked more nuanced questions.
With that in mind, chatbots are often used for initial customer interactions. In this capacity, they can narrow down the customer’s needs and relay the pertinent information for support staff to take over. Chatbots are available for both company websites and messaging apps. This allows the customers to pick and choose the channels they prefer to use.
- Messaging apps
Messaging apps are an excellent tool for conversational commerce. As we already mentioned, they are the tools people already use for their private communications. Applying them to business for both interactions and transactions is an easy next step for many consumers to take.
People are already familiar with the service; they don’t need to leave their favorite app, learn how to navigate a company’s website, or pick up the phone and speak in person. Instead, they can communicate with companies using a messaging app, get quick responses, and receive personalized service specific to their needs.
With messaging apps, companies can also deliver automated messaging to remind customers about specific appointments, deals, and order updates.
- Voice assistants
Voice assistants found on smartphones and home hubs are a growing tool for people looking to quickly search for new products and services or access information on previous purchases. Natural language processing has reached the stage where we can efficiently interact with machines using only voice commands. This opens up a whole new world for companies.
However, it’s a very competitive world when it comes to search. Unlike traditional web searches, voice assistants don’t return listings for customers to browse and visit various websites. Instead, they produce a single response. Also, given popular voice assistants are offered by tech giants such as Amazon, the solitary response to a product query generally remains within their sphere of influence.
Still, voice assistants are a helpful tool for customers to organize their purchases, quickly receive updates, or reschedule appointments. They can even learn about users and develop profiles that help deliver better responses to requests.
The advantages of conversational commerce
In Messina’s original Medium post, he described conversational commerce’s advantages for the consumer: “convenience, personalization, and decision support while people are on the go, with only partial attention to spare.“
But conversational commerce also produces significant benefits for business:
- Growth: Reaching customers effectively and guiding them through the purchasing journey is a great way to improve sales, reduce customer churn, and grow your business.
- New markets: Conversational commerce can reach new markets that may not be accessible through more traditional channels. In particular, younger audiences often prefer integrating chats and back and forth conversations into the shopping experience.
- Automation: Introducing technological solutions can alleviate the burden on employees and allow services to remain available 24/7.
- Customer experience: Delivering personalized assistance can improve customers’ shopping experience, in turn increasing retention.
- Feedback: Convenient communication channels simplify the process of receiving feedback and gathering valuable information to improve future services.
What conversational commerce can do for your business
Conversational commerce is a growing field that combines two other expanding markets: eCommerce and messaging, both voice and text. Businesses should consider their existing operations and identify how conversational commerce could enhance future customer interactions. By creating a more natural, real-time, back and forth conversation, they can find new ways to reach consumers and help grow their customer base with ease.