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Conversational Commerce 5 minute read
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March 31, 2021

The Second Coming of Conversational Commerce

Brian Dearth
Brian Dearth
Head of Strategy and Growth
Conversational Commerce

Conversational commerce has been shaping consumer expectations around brand interactions and will continue to do so. As consumers become more reliant upon digital conversations, what they demand from brands is changing.

WHAT IS CONVERSATIONAL COMMERCE?

For companies looking to optimize their customer journey, paying careful attention to the next wave of conversational commerce is critical to remaining on the cutting edge.

In this piece, we will dive into what conversational commerce is, where it takes place, and key considerations around both strategy and benefits of engaging with customers in this new method.

A New Form of Digital Interaction

Conversational commerce was a term first coined by Uber’s Chris Messina in a post on Medium in 2015. In this piece, Messina theorized that the future of commerce would involve more interactions through voice conversation than through traditional catalog browsing.

The trend Messina saw coming was a world in which consumers interacted with brands through such voice technologies as Amazon Echo, Siri, Facebook Messenger, and other similar platforms.

In 2015, voice technology was only beginning to enter the commerce scene. In the years since, it has become as commonplace as televisions and cellphones with the rise of Amazon’s Alexa and Google’s Nest. In fact, by 2020, 87.7 million American adults, or roughly 32% of the U.S. population, had smart speakers in their homes.

A Two-Way Dialogue

With the rise of conversational commerce, the way consumers interact with brands is changing. Rather than brands talking at their customers, this intersection involves a two-way dialogue.

It is important to note the difference between customer service and conversational commerce. While customer service also involves a conversation, the difference lies in the role the conversation plays in the customer’s journey. Think of conversational commerce as a form of guided selling.

Guided Selling

The goal of guided selling is to lead a customer to make a specific purchase through a conversation, often involving multiple touchpoints.

Envision this scenario:

Susan arrives home and goes to feed her dog. She realizes that she’s running low on dog food. With her iPhone resting on a nearby counter she calls out, “Hey, Siri, what pet stores are open near me?” Siri responds with a list of nearby options. Susan then fires back “Siri, which pet stores nearby offer curbside pickup?” Once Siri has listed a couple of options, Susan finishes feeding her dog, grabs her phone, and hops on Facebook. Here she looks up one of the closest options and shoots a message to the business via Facebook messenger. Susan asks if the store sells a particular type of dog food her dog requires. The business responds with a list of options available that would match her needs. Susan taps on one of the options and is taken to a shopping cart where she places the order and selects curbside pickup. Yet, as you will read below, this scenario and the customer-brand interaction has only just begun. Conversational commerce is clearly different from traditional digital marketing which simply placed an ad for dog food in front of a consumer. Instead of messaging that is static and pushed at a customer, it involves a natural form of communication and should be persistent across platforms.

Where Does Conversational Commerce Take Place?

In the example above, it is easy to see that conversational commerce is a multi-channel experience, taking place in many locations.

Social Media

Social media is where conversational commerce got its start. By its very nature, social media channels make conversation a natural choice.

The power of reaching consumers through social media is incredible. According to Statista, Facebook has over 2.7 billion monthly active users and WhatsApp has approximately 1.6 billion monthly active users.

This means that brands looking to engage in conversation with their customers must build a strategy around these social media mammoths.

SMS Marketing

Another powerful tool for conversational commerce that must not be overlooked is the use of SMS marketing. The following stats indicate the incredible opportunity SMS marketing provides:

  • The average consumer spends about four hours each day checking their phone
  • Around 42% of millennials check their text messages 10+ times per day
  • Roughly 84% of consumers have already received an SMS message from a business and around 70% of consumers see SMS marketing as a great way for businesses to gain their attention.

The beauty of SMS marketing is that not only are customers open to the concept, already engaged in it, and easy to reach via their phone, but SMS marketing allows for true conversational commerce to take place.

Sixty percent of customers want to be able to respond to SMS messages that they receive from a business. This has a huge impact on customer journey optimization and gives businesses an incredible opportunity to join a conversation that a consumer is willing to initiate themselves.

 

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What To Consider When Implementing Conversational Commerce

While it is easy to see the incredible opportunity that conversational commerce presents, brands interested in diving into this arena must carefully consider all of the following factors before interacting with their consumers.

Quality Is Key

While quality should always be integral to the customer experience, when it comes to conversational commerce, this is particularly true.

For brands that do not implement this tactic well, the ramifications are long-lasting. Setting up a voice interface can unlock incredible opportunities for brands, but it has to be done in a manner that builds trust with users.

In fact, around 41% of voice assistant users have concerns about privacy and passive listening. This means that brands need to be careful to build trust with their consumers and avoid a creepy or invasive style of conversation.

Think Natural Conversation

The power of conversational commerce lies in the iterative style of communication. People are no longer looking for simple guidance to a product, but they are looking to establish a relationship with brands.

Think back to the example above with Susan and her search for a specific type of dog food. When Susan arrived to pick up her order curbside, she was greeted with a text message. An associate was ready to bring out her food but also asked if she needed any kidney-safe treats for her dog as well. Susan was pleased to see that the associate had taken note of the special kidney care dog food she had ordered and responded with a smiling emoji and asked about the options they have for kidney-safe treats. The associate offered to call Susan and explain their options. From here, a natural conversation took place in which the associate learned more about Susan’s dog, including her dog’s name, breed type, and even adoption date.

Gathering all of this information, the associate was able to recommend a perfect add-on to Susan’s order and asked if Susan would like to join their rewards program.

Susan happily signs up and a week later, she gets a text message wishing her boxer a happy adopt-a-versary with a coupon for a free kidney-safe pupcake.

In this way, brands can create a true relationship with consumers building loyalty through a natural ongoing conversation.

Why Your Business Might Benefit

For brands interested in leveraging conversational commerce, the benefits are significant.

Increase Sales and Satisfaction

Brands that engage with customers through conversation can increase sales and customer satisfaction. With the incredible advancements in AI, even something as simple as implementing a chatbot can improve sales. In fact, according to a survey by Worldpay, roughly 15% of consumers have made purchases using a messaging or chat app, with around 81% of those saying they would consider doing so again.

Omnichannel at Its Finest

Conversational commerce is truly omnichannel at its finest.

A well-built-out conversational strategy will be optimized for a customer across every channel. Think back to the example above with Susan and her dog. Susan first found a business through a search. She then chatted with an associate via a social media messenger. Later, she responded to an associate via text. Finally, she had a quick phone conversation rounding out the experience. In every single instance, there was a seamless transfer of information and communication. In the follow-up text she received, her dog was mentioned by name and an important date called out, a true example of how conversational commerce is an integral component of omnichannel strategies.

The Start of a New Era

Conversational commerce is the start of a new era in which consumers can engage with a brand by asking questions and receiving meaningful guidance as a reply. During digital interactions, it’s about filling the void of the salesperson you once chatted with when visiting a retail store.

Start Strategizing Today

While the concept of conversational commerce was first conceived over 5 years ago, its implementation is only in its infancy. When done well, it can reinforce a brand in a consumer’s mind and lead to higher satisfaction and increased sales.

If your brand is interested in implementing conversational commerce as a part of your customer journey optimization, Vaimo is here to help. We can assist you in creating a strategic approach to optimizing your customer omnichannel experience. 

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