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Section 508

May 26th, 2017

Conversational Commerce – the ‘Beyond Apps’ Revolution

We all acknowledge that it’s a lot tougher to get new users to download and stay engaged with apps today than it was five years ago. This requires new strategies and approaches. Forrester calls it app+ and Gartner the post-app era. A critical element of this is Conversational Interfaces or Conversational Commerce.

Why Conversational Commerce Is Key to Success

Conversational commerce is defined as interacting with your customer in an automated dialog via voice or text. Consumers are becoming more and more comfortable with dialog-style interactions via Siri, Google voice search, and Alexa.

One in every seven people in the world interacts with either Facebook Messenger or WhatsApp. 38 percent of millennials prefer texting as their number one form of interaction according to a study from Think with Google and have elevated this type of communication to an art form.

Most popular mobile messaging apps worldwide as of January 2017, based on number of monthly active users (in millions)

Most popular mobile messaging apps worldwide as of January 2017, based on number of monthly active users (in millions). Source: Statista

This is a huge opportunity for any brand to communicate and engage with customers.

Chris Messina at Uber, who was probably the first to use the term conversational commerce, said:

“[…] utilizing chat, messaging, or other natural language interfaces (i.e. voice) to interact with people, brands, or services and bots that heretofore have had no real place in the bi-directional, asynchronous messaging context. The net result is that you and I will be talking to brands and companies over Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, Telegram, Slack, and elsewhere before year’s end, and will find it normal.”

And these services, as well as newer ones such as Amazon Alexa and Google Home, are constantly improving. From June 2016 to February 2017, the number of commands (“skills”) that Alexa can respond to increased from 1,000 to 10,000 and Siri, Google Voice, and Microsoft Cortana have experienced similar improvements

Who Is Leveraging Conversational Commerce Today Other Than Uber?

  • Starbucks believes voice ordering will become the next big thing in retail. The coffee giant says its heavy focus on technology is enabling it to embrace conversational commerce “very rapidly”, allowing consumers to order coffee at home or in their car using smart devices such as Amazon Echo.
  • At the Shoptalk conference earlier this year, eBay President and CEO Devin Wenig announced the launch of eBay’s new chatbot called ShopBot, which advises customers on items they might like to buy via automated chat dialog.
  • JD.com has developed a conversational commerce platform on top of WeChat where potential customers have the opportunity to consider a wide variety of items to choose from.
  • H&M launched potentially the most impressive eCommerce conversational commerce bot to date on the Kik marketplace.
  • 1-800-Flowers.com was one of the first companies to embrace conversational interfaces and CEO Chris McCann believes retail’s future will take place via messaging and other natural language interfaces.
  • Taco Bell launched a chatbot for Slack brilliantly named TacoBot. As a conversational commerce platform, the TacoBot can take orders for your office directly from the Slack extension.

And there are many, many more such as Marriott Starwoods, KLM and Amazon that we’ve mentioned in previous blog posts and updates that use conversational interfaces every day.

Why Do Consumers Communicate through Conversational Interfaces?

Generally, they have a problem or need that they want to solve. Rather than searching on Google or browsing a website they use their favorite messaging client or the chat window on the brand’s website to ask the question.

Typically it’s one of the following use cases:

  • Researching for information about a product or service
  • Evaluate alternatives. E.g. “Does Amazon sell the product? What are the reviews and ratings? Will I get a good price if I buy it directly?”
  • Purchasing decision. “Should I buy it?”
  • Post-purchase activities (recommendations, upgrades, etc.)

How to Implement Conversational Interfaces

  1. Learn from existing chat conversations with customers by phone and text
  2. Train machines to answer and once they get as good as the human automate the process {see previous blog on machine learning about how to do this}
  3. Enable authentication to identify who the customer is
  4. Enable commerce to drive transactions directly through the same interface
  5. Collect data, analyze and improve
  6. Enable for more platforms over time (e.g. Start with Facebook and your own website/apps) then expand to Siri, Amazon Echo, Google Voice, WeChat, etc.
A couple of points of advice:
  • It doesn’t have to be perfect
  • Think about how you can solve problems for your customers and your business through conversational interfaces and not how you can launch a chatbot
  • Bots are not humans and human language should not be emulated
  • Always stay focused on providing a great customer experience

Still Skeptical?

Roughly a decade ago, the mobile sector and social generated little to none of website traffic. Remember how quickly the mobile and social media revolutions took hold? We believe that conversational interfaces will have a similar impact but this time it will happen even faster.

Next Steps

Conversational interfaces are happening now and they will start to have a substantial impact on revenue towards the end of 2017 and for sure in 2018.

Want to learn more? Contact us for more information or a free workshop.

Tags: Alexa. Amazon Echo conversational commerce conversational interfaces customer experience Google voice Siri

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