What is conversational commerce?

If there is one thing that pandemic-imposed social distancing has shown is that humans need and value social interaction. This is why many online retailers are using artificial intelligence, social media tools and personalized customer service strategies to improve the online shopping experience through all channels.  

Following these trends and in order to be helpful to online retailers’ clients while filling the gap left by customer service call centers, conversational commerce was born. With it, businesses are able to value the client as an individual, treating them as if they had just walked inside a physical store.

Conversational commerce: an online trend to adopt

First coined by Chris Messina, the term refers to any kind of real-time conversation happening between brands and customers in messaging apps, be it through chatbots, artificial intelligence or real people, where the goal is to sell or shop. This brings the value of personalized recommendations via human interaction and the convenience of online shopping together, improving satisfaction and putting the end-to-end customer journey into focus.

Conversational commerce goes beyond just using messaging apps for selling products: it is a combined assortment of other services such as inquiries, order updates, payment information and more. In that way, it’s a quick method for customers to find exactly what they need without wasting time navigating through a website looking for specific information. 

It is no small talk – customers do value the possibility of talking to brands if needed. Today, 66% of consumers are more confident about making a purchase when a company is active on messaging apps, according to Facebook research.

How does it work?

These conversations usually begin through call-to-action buttons and messaging links spread over brand channels. It is a very important tool for online marketing as a way to build trust and relationships with customers even if they are not right in front of you. 

New technologies put conversational commerce in the spotlight

Recently, this trend has become popular because of the use of artificial intelligence as a way to provide convenience to both clients and online retailers, shortening the customer waiting time and saving business owners time and money. According to Helpshift, 83% of customers would contact a brand messaging service if it meant they would get an immediate response.

A favored strategy is a mix between human interaction and bots, creating triage steps to understand how to better redirect that customer inquiry. Artificial intelligence and bots are normally used by big companies that need to maintain the same customer service excellence through all channels. Plus, bots provide real-time accurate information on inventory, catalog options, delivery times and more. 

C&A was able to innovate by using artificial intelligence inside WhatsApp, with a chatbot equipped with the knowledge of a well-trained sales associate ready to sell. The company can now offer catalog navigation and an assortment of services that goes beyond traditional customer service – all inside Whatsapp. 

Chatbots are predictable and convenient, but they are also limited. The boom of conversational commerce and its advantages are mostly associated with human interaction and the differences it brings to the table when closing a sale and creating meaningful connections with clients. Even so, the forecast predicts that chatbots will account for 50% of interactions by 2025.

Highlights

Frictionless and easy

Forget the traditional commerce route for a quick second. Customers can now avoid all the downsides of traditional in-store shopping by mixing and matching offered experiences. The store is closed? No time to wait in a queue? No problem, they can still get the personalized experience of being assisted inside the store, which is great news because according to Facebook Insights, 58% of people consider convenience alongside price when deciding where to shop.

It also is a good strategy for businesses everywhere since messaging apps such as WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger and super app giant WeChat in Asia have been gaining traction amongst customers when communicating with brands worldwide. There are over 40 million monthly users on Facebook Messenger and over 75% of users admit to having used the app to talk to one or more brands.

Tailor-made service and data integration

By building trust and loyalty, experience-focused businesses have had successful cases by using conversational commerce as a tool to redefine shopping and expand the personalization of the sales process. Some AI tools can even help identifying customer behavior and capturing feedback by learning from the customers themselves.

Also, conversational commerce is a great tool for providing good and customized after-sales service by retaining customers and keeping a touchpoint of conversation open between both parties. It is the case of FARM Rio, one of Grupo SOMA‘s brands, that asks directly for feedback and also uses WhatsApp as a way to understand why customers abandoned their cart, for instance. In that way, they can offer solutions to why the sales cycle wasn’t complete, log that info and maybe even convert a sale on the spot. 

What comes next?

According to research by the agency Juniper Research, conversational commerce is forecast to grow over 59% over the next four years proving what a great opportunity it is for online retailers everywhere to adopt this ever-growing trend. There are already some VTEX success stories in the making by using this tool.

To get a glimpse of this trend’s future, look over to Asia and Latin America, where access to mobile technology surpasses access to more complex devices when it comes to shopping online. Consumers in the Asia-Pacific region are 1.26x more likely than the global average to use messaging for product research. And in Latin America, people use WhatsApp at levels higher than the global average in general. Just last year, 120 million Brazilians had active accounts on the platform and over 10 million small businesses owners used WhatsApp for Business in order to communicate with clients.

In Brazil, companies like Suiteshare and Octadesk are some of the pioneers when conquering the balance between human and artificial contact by increasing sales and driving revenue while simultaneously helping brands to build their presence and identity.

In the end, the focus is on the customer experience and how to make the buying process as seamless as possible. This is just one of countless ecommerce strategies and integrations at hand that has proved to be very helpful when it comes to offering customer-centric solutions focused on experience. In a post-pandemic digital age, contactless and convenient services are gaining a place in the spotlight and in customer’s hearts everywhere.

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