You’ve heard of the persistently trending buzzwords in e-commerce: omni-channel strategy, SEO and growth hacking. Conversational commerce is set to become the next big thing, with the likes of Uber, KLM and WeChat setting the bar with revolutionary synergy between brands and social media apps. But how does conversational commerce work? And what does this mean for you as a marketer, or an entrepreneur?
Conversational Commerce: Defined
The term ‘conversational commerce’ was coined by Chris Messina, the former Developer Experience Lead of Uber in ‘Conversational commerce: Messaging apps bring the point of sale to you’. Messina has heavily endorsed the use of bots and social media messenger apps in ecommerce, having integrated Uber’s ride-hailing service into Facebook’s messenger app.
Conversational commerce is the new-found common ground between messaging apps, social media, ecommerce and customer service. It is the ability to communicate with brands through a messaging app such as WhatsApp or Facebook Messenger, or social media accounts.
Here’s how messenger apps are being used by companies across the globe:
- Customer support
- Real-time conversations
- Personalized product recommendations
- ‘Click to purchase’ links and payment
- Order and delivery notifications
- News updates
Why are brands using messenger apps for communications?
It’s simple: brands are employing messenger apps because they have realized that they need to be where their customers are. The growth of users on messenger apps is exponential – data from Statista has revealed that between January 2014 to 2017, the number of monthly active users on Whatsapp increased by 770 million.
According to eMarketer, 1.4 billion consumers used messaging apps in 2015, which is up 31.6% from 2014, and that number is expected to hit 2 billion by 2018. It’s clear that apps and social media are becoming the preferred means of communication because they fit in with the life of the increasingly digital consumer. Being where your customers are will increase your conversion rates, because customers do not even need to leave social media or a messenger app to make a purchase.
Chatbots and messenger marketing can also put a stop to lengthy email threads or long waiting times for phonecalls by automating, and therefore speeding up, the time it takes for customers to get a response. This method of support is faster, cheaper and can improve the customer experience tenfold.
Case Study: the KLM Flight Bot
KLM airlines has seized the opportunity to improve its customer experience by adopting Facebook Messenger into its communications with the KLM flight bot.
When purchasing their flights, KLM passengers must opt in to Messenger communications.
Once added to the system, the bot can send you a flight itinerary, boarding pass, check-in confirmation and delay notifications through the app, without having to venture outside the confines of Facebook.
On top of this, the bot offers your customers the choice to talk to a human customer service representative if the bot does not meet their needs.
The app has been a huge success. KLM’s social boss anticipates that the new generation of chat bots will lead to the demise of company websites because they will no longer be needed.
Image credit: pcworld
How Could You Use Conversational Commerce?
You don’t need to be a multinational company like KLM to benefit from conversational commerce. Here’s how you could use it in your business strategy:
- Speak to your customers and followers through your social media channels. According to Zendesk, 50% of social media users regularly use their social networks to seek assistance from brands with service issues. Are you a small ecommerce company? Many online store builders such as Shopify have now partnered with Facebook; this means that you can sell your products, converse with customers through Messenger and send automatic shipping and tracking updates in one fell swoop
- Simply responding to tagged posts, hashtags involving your brand name, and responding to direct messages on social media can be a great way to get involved in the conversation
- Consider using a CRM software which features chat software and can operate 24/7, to swiftly respond to customers and let them know that they are important to you
To Bot, Or Not To Bot?
Before diving into the world of chat bots, you should ask yourself if they are suitable for your business and what your customers need. For example, if your customers require simple delivery/shipping notifications or news updates, then perhaps chatbots will work for you.
However, if your customer service requests are more complicated, it may be worth holding off and sticking to human-operated social media or good old fashioned emails, letters and phonecalls.
After all, bots are not humans (no matter how intelligent people claim AI is these days). Your customers may require empathetic communications that no bot could replicate. If this is the case, you could consider using a bot for initial, simple message responses, and quickly hand over the cases in need of special attention to a human.
Conversational commerce is set to become the next big thing, after taking the world of multinational ecommerce by storm. It’s likely that it will become commonplace for smaller ecommerce companies to incorporate this strategy to deal with every stage of the customer’s journey, from sales to customer service.
To sum up:
- Brands are using messenger apps and social media to be where their customers are and this increases their conversion rates
- Conversational commerce can be used by smaller companies too, by getting involved in social media conversations or employing software such as ZenDesk
- Chatbots have been a revelation for some brands, but will they work for you? Think about this before you invest in one