What is conversational commerce, and do you need it?

Conversational commerce might sound like yet another something-commerce for you to worry about, but it is a simple and organic evolution of consumer channels. Many commerce tools work to create a more frictionless customer experience, connecting customer touchpoints and adding convenience for the user. Conversational commerce is a business’s use of existing consumer communication channels to assist the customer and sell products.

Messenger services and voice assistants like Siri and Alexa are already on people’s phones. Brands can use these tools to meet the customer where they are, to connect with and support consumers on their own channels. Unlike a normal customer service chatbot that is programmed within narrow Q&A parameters, conversational commerce offers personalised recommendations, reviews, and purchasing functions within the messaging app. They imitate, either with human or AI support, the level of attention a customer would get from a sales associate in a physical store to give them the confidence to buy the product.

Business messenger accounts

Businesses are now expected to have their own messenger accounts and integrated apps. WeChat, WhatsApp, and Facebook Messenger are some of the most popular choices. Unlike call centres and website chatbots, messaging apps offer real-time, often human, support on a channel that is easily accessible and convenient to consumers.

China leads the way with WeChat, which had 1.24 billion monthly active users in Q1 of 2021 (Statista). However, according to the Economist, there are now over 1 billion people outside of China who interact with businesses via chat. The rapid growth of this business tool has removed the distance between consumers and companies, making businesses as accessible as anyone else on your friends list.

Some companies choose to develop their own apps that still use the live chat feature. Apple, for example, has its ‘Apple Support’ application which helps customers chat to a customer support agent from their phone. However, companies that choose to go down this route undertake additional work in developing a user experience as popular as the existing messenger apps and do not address the need for a separate application for this one purpose. Apple might be able to get away with this, but it does not meet the customer on their own channels. Research shows that in 2020 the average person had 40 apps installed on their phone but used less than half of them, so most brands cannot rely on creating their own app.

Zero-party data

Brands that do offer conversational commerce don’t just offer improved customer convenience; they also stand to benefit. Particularly in a post-cookie world, gathering customer data is increasingly difficult. In conversation with chat assistants, customers share their product preferences, providing companies with zero-party data. As well as getting to know their customers well, this data can be used to train AI chatbots, increasing the accuracy and response options from automated chats instead of humans. Using natural language processing, AI programs can be trained to understand more complex questions and deliver more accurate and satisfying responses. This includes sentiment analysis, whereby the chatbot interprets the customer’s mood rather than just the question itself.

As chatbots become more intelligent, they offer greater customer utility, like personalised product recommendations. For this to be as accurate and useful as possible, companies need to ensure that their customer data is integrated, not scattered across business units. For example, customers may ask to see product recommendations, reviews, order tracking, order changes, leave feedback, and more. For the experience to be as seamless as possible, data siloes must be removed.

Tag’s eCommerce services include multilingual customer support across email, phone, social, live chat. We also develop automated chatbots and provide monitoring and reporting services for all channels. Combined with our customer journey design and implementation specialists, we map where your customers are and how best to serve them.

The path to purchase

Integrated purchase options within the chat feature are what differentiates conversational commerce from customer service functions. Tech companies know that the simplest path to purchase garners the best results. Facebook and Instagram shops have brought social commerce to the mainstream, but they focus on the browsing and social elements of shopping, rather than the personal assistant features of messengers.

WhatsApp offers a simplified shopping experience. When booking a flight with Cathay Pacific, you can message their WhatsApp account with your membership number, and they can make all manner of changes to your booking. From buying extra luggage to rescheduling your flight, it can all be done within the chat function.

Some may prefer to see the chat function as a feature within an eCommerce app or website, however, in areas of poor internet connection, messengers provide a faster and more personalised service. Rather than viewing conversational commerce as a separate area of commerce, it should be viewed as a sub-service of eCommerce that contributes to the wider, more integrated customer experience.

At Tag, our customer journey design and implementation specialists map where your customers are and how best to serve them. Our eCommerce services include integrated multilingual customer support across channels, as well as chatbot development, reporting and more.