It's late in the evening, and you're stuck with a long automated IVR (interactive voice response) your bank serves you. Wouldn't it be nice to just hop on to WhatsApp and shoot away your questions at a human agent?
Believe it or not, this you can do this, right now. Conversational commerce apps are here and they're can save you hours of frustration.
Conversational Commerce Defined
With conversational commerce, customers no longer have to physically visit a bank, shop or an e-commerce website.
Uber's Developer Experience Lead Chris Messina describes this contemporary phenomenon in the following way:
"Conversational commerce is about delivering convenience, personalization, and decision support while people are on the go, with only partial attention to spare."
Simply put, it's a way for brands to connect and interact with their customers in real-time to address their needs and wants in a conversation.
In the past few years, conversational commerce has reached a new level of personalization and customer intimacy - one of the hardest value disciplines to be achieved, as defined by leading consultants and academics Michael Treacy and Fred Wiersema.
How Have Brands Lost Customer Intimacy
Over the years, brands have excessively used traditional marketing tactics that fall under the infamous title of 'outbound marketing', which focuses on sales and not relationship building. Fast forward to now and brands have realized the potential power of the web and social media to communicate with customers - but now these tactics also seem akin to mass broadcasting. This is not what customers today want, especially Millennials who want one-on-one interactions - the kind they would have if they went to a shop, but facilitated from the comfort of their couch.
The Social Shoppers
According to a report by eMarketer, in 2015 the number of customers who used chat apps reached 1.4 billion, and by 2018 this is predicted to increase to over 2 billion - and jump to 6.1 billion by 2020 according to the Ericsson's Mobility Report. This means that conversational commerce will become the a key element for brands to invest their time, energy and dollars in.
The Asia Pacific region, including India, China and Indonesia, has seen an influx in their respective smartphone market. Chat apps like WeChat and Viber are dear to users as the founder of YesBoss Chris Franke describes. In Indonesia alone, Franke highlights that 97% smartphone users "access chat apps multiple times a day" and 60 million small to medium sized businesses are already selling products via assorted messaging apps.
This new wave of marketing urges brands to build and maintain personalized relationships with customers in real-time. Whether real humans interact with customers or artificial intelligence assistants like Facebook M, Google Allo and Cortana, the point is to be a part of the conversation.
Problem Solver on the Go
People want their problems to be solved immediately, like Veruca Salt in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. They can't wait because as Google describes it this is an epoch of "micro-moments" when people want solutions on the go.
With conversational commerce the problem-solving journey isn't limited to advertisements - it becomes a two-way communication in which brands can reach customers one-on-one. In a live chat, whether it's through text or video, it's easier for agents to:
A lot of brands including Uber and Shop Spring are connected via Facebook Messenger, for example, only so they can be in constant touch with their customers.
The Value for Money Counts
Ryan Holmes, the founder of Hootsuite, recognizes the existence of Generation C mindset who are tech-savvy and endorse constant engagement. For such customers, buying products and services online is not only convenient but a norm. In this scenario brands can use messenging apps and bots to make sure customers complete their buyer's journey within the specific interface.
Nevertheless, it's important to note that customers value their money, and want more out of their purchase. While some may like to spend a lump sum on top brands, they also want the magic that comes along with it - basically an experience to cherish.
The Right Choice of Words
Adweek recently noted that 91% of Internet users in China regularly use messaging apps more than the conventional search methods. This means that most of their needs are being met within the single app from chatting with a friend to finding a new dress. The vice president of communication products at Google, Nick Fox says it's all about "getting things done right in your chat".
With your target market, you need to do the same. Always put your brand forward and give sincere advice. Keep the sales pitch subtle and walk them through the process,from the changing room to the cash counter.
The Future of Conversational Commerce
I foresee B2C relationships becoming stronger and more relevant via messaging apps and customized chat bots with upgraded artificial intelligence. The idea is to be there for the customers whenever and wherever they need you. Especially for fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG) brands as well as e-commerce, marketers can greatly benefit from this trend to build customer trust and loyalty.
That said, I feel the success of conversational commerce also depends on these few things:
- Population of smart phone users who use messaging apps in different countries of the world.
- Intelligence level of a bot to interact with humans in a way that seems natural.
- Reliable transactions from within the app. Can a customer rely on Snapchat's Snapcash?
- Ability of AI bots to process different spoken languages and respond to customers.
- Collection and evaluation of data to improve the customer management system.
Conversational commerce has a long way to go, but it is making waves. For brands to make this work, they need to roll up their sleeves and dig in - and they need to start today.