Artificial Intelligence, financial services

A beginner’s guide to conversational commerce

24 Aug, 2017
6 Min Read Dan Ward

A beginner’s guide to conversational commerce


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Throughout history, ‘conversation’ and ‘commerce’ have always gone hand in hand.

When you visit your local shopping centre, you’re surrounded by friendly sales assistants ready to answers questions, provide options and help you make a purchase. Even if you find yourself saying, “No thanks, just browsing,” it’s nice to know they’re there.

In more recent years, the soaring popularity of online shopping has led companies to adapt brick and mortar stores to online catalogues. Catering to consumer desires for a quick, efficient, and mobile-friendly shopping experience, brands have raced to develop engaging websites with intuitive and easy-to-use features.  

Unfortunately, customer service has struggled to keep up.

With no friendly sales assistant to chat with, customers have had no choice but to use disparate platforms (such as email, contact forms, and social media commenting) to find the help they need. And while the quality of these mediums has improved, communication often still feels delayed and disjointed.

Customer service plays catch up

Tech companies tried to fix this problem using website plugins that pop up and facilitate instant chats between customer service reps and customers.

Over the last two years, however, it’s become clear that the solution is to integrate with the world’s most popular apps: instant chats and messaging. Despite the fact that there are over 4.2 million apps available on Google Play and Apple’s App Store, sources such asSimilarWeb reveal that the most downloaded apps are for messaging.

WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, QQ Mobile, WeChat, Skype, Slack and Snapchat are catering to consumer desires to stay constantly informed and communicate faster and easier than ever before.

The rise of e-commerce messaging

Applied to e-commerce, these apps represent an ingenious way for companies to communicate seamlessly with potential customers.

A customer should, for example, be able to ‘invite’ a business into a chat and ask questions, get product recommendations and make a purchase effortlessly. Consider two friends messaging back and forth about which restaurant to book. They make a decision, and can then invite the company into the chat, book a table and receive confirmation all in the same conversation. Or someone wanting to buy a gift for a friend can message the company from their chosen app, ask for recommendations, get answers, choose the product and make a purchase instantly.

Otherwise known as ‘conversational commerce,’ this clever way of facilitating digital communications has been heralded by many in the industry as the future of e-commerce. Most of these features are already available, and an increasing number of big brands are now integrating with popular messaging apps.

Bring in the bots

For companies, instant communication with customers would seem invaluable.

However where traditional brick and mortar stores only needed to cater to customers in the immediate area, global websites frequently reach and interact with tens of thousands of customers every day. Handling customer chats on this scale could prove difficult and costly.

Enter the chatbot – an application or computer program designed to simulate natural conversations with human users.

With advances in artificial intelligence and machine learning, leaders in the tech world are now creating chatbots which can be taught to:

  • Chat with customers

  • Answer questions

  • Provide support

  • Facilitate sales

And though it may seem futuristic to anticipate that the next interaction you have with a company could be with a chatbot, research over the past few years indicates that customers are less likely to care or notice who or what they’re interacting with – as long as their needs are met quickly and efficiently.

Bots now allow companies to set up concierge-style services for complex information tasks such as online shopping or research activities. And by providing a convenient and personalised support structure, it frees up valuable time and resources for both the customer and company.

As we head into this new age of conversational commerce, more businesses will seek to add bot-enabled customer service messaging apps to their digital toolbox, in order to facilitate interactions between real people, brands, products and services.

The disjointed approach to customer communication is dissolving, as consumers become empowered to connect and communicate with brands whenever and wherever they please.

To learn more about conversational commerce, and get practical steps on how to benefit from this unique technology, download our white paper: