Conversational Commerce : A definition
Before discussing its nuances, it is important to define the term conversational commerce and identify its origins. First used in 2015 by Uber’s Chris Messina, conversational commerce refers to use of messaging applications for shopping purposes. That is, researching, comparing and ultimately purchasing through apps such as Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp and in Asia WeChat, Telegram and Line. Its rise as marketing terminology has come hand in hand with the ever increasing amount of consumers utilising these apps to communicate with friends and family, a trend more often than not directly correlated with monetization opportunities from a business perspective. The sheer amount of consumers globally using these apps on a daily basis, on the same level as social media timelines, meant that the monetization of these mediums (particularly Facebook in regards to WhatsApp) was always in the pipeline.
Today, brands who ignore using messaging apps as part of their marketing arsenal do so at their own peril.
Messaging Apps Users in APAC region (millions) 2019
Like many evolving technologies adopted by companies, understanding where within their armoury messaging fits can lead to head scratching. Whilst their potential is undeniable, their use cases will differ across industries and verticals.
Messaging apps as a customer support mechanism
By its nature, messaging was conceived as a medium for people to communicate with friend and family quickly and conveniently. They have become a necessity in the consumer’s everyday personal life. For this reason, when deciding upon how to monetize their apps, the big players have been reluctant to create hard sell promotional opportunities for brands. This is understandable, in an age when the customer comes first, risking usability and adoption of their apps for the sake of advertising was never an option. This is particularly the case for WhatsApp, who have put in place stringent measures to ensure that their API is not abused by companies sending promotional messages. These include needing to be accepted onto the program by WhatsApp themselves, being restricted to pre-approved ‘message templates’ and accounts being blacklisted if misused. Other apps, such as WeChat and Line, have looked to include other functionalities other than just messaging in order to generate revenue.
Unlike any other channel or method, messaging apps can be utilized to manage the entire customer journey. By this, I mean ensuring that consumers have all the support and information they need to move from the brand awareness (pre-purchase) all the way to purchase and retention (post-purchase). This is where from a business strategy perspective messaging apps come into their own, they are able to inform, support and take transactions (disclaimer: in terms of transactions, not all apps – yet), and they do this almost immediately within one conversation.
No more waiting for email replies, or customers repeating themselves to different agents, just one seamless and contextual conversation.
Conversational Customer Support Software, such as Quickdialog, delivers these capabilities for you, providing all the tools your company needs to have quick, contextual and relevant conversations from one platform.
Messaging apps as a point of sale & AT SCALE
An important reason for the increased adoption of companies using messaging apps as a communication channel is the rise of chatbots and AI. Chatbots give companies the ability to drastically increase response time, deal with any line of questioning and take purchases, all automatically with no human input. Importantly they are able to this AT SCALE and, when NLP (natural language processing) it can be done in a HUMAN way.
These advances, in conjunction, have the power to transform the relationship between companies and their customers. Arguably the most transformative change, for both consumers and companies, will come through the ability to make purchases via a chatbot i.e. a point sale. Customer experience is driven by convenience so for consumers, a chatbot enabled to support consumer needs at all stages of consumer journey (from consideration to purchase) is beneficial as their needs can be met via one touchpoint. For businesses, other than the benefits gained through creating great customer experiences, developing conversational commerce capabilities provides a new conversion channel to direct traffic to.
AI chatbots, messaging apps and contextual conversations are three of the most important aspects driving the future of customer experience. Brands who fail to adopt these approaches risk falling behind in the next battleground for differentiation- providing innovative, convenient and delightful experiences to their customers.
Within many industries there is fierce competition to gain and retain customers, and it easier than ever for customer to switch alliance to a competitor should their experience with your brand fall below their expectations. Conversational Commerce capabitilities offers companies a innovative way to differentiate themselves from their competitors.
Implementing these as a ‘tripod’ to support customer needs at all stages of customer journey allows innovative brands to not only meet ever rising customer expectations but also exceed them.
Whilst conceptually an enterprise ‘messaging strategy’ is still in its infancy with much to be learnt and tested, one thing is for sure – it cannot be ignored. Brands need to be where their customers are, and all their customers are on messaging apps. By neglecting a presence in this space, brands risk losing customers to their competitors who have taken a leap into the unknown and have began investing into their messaging sales and support capabilities.