What should be expected from conversational commerce?

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Expectations from conversational commerce.

How can online commerce be simplified? More and more start-ups are offering the option to make purchases with a simple text message. It is now possible to order tickets for shows or flowers by simply texting 'OK'. What kind of user experience can we offer in a simplified environment? What initiatives are there in this sector and what good practices should be taken into account when taking the plunge?

A new buying experience

A concierge service like clacdesdoigts.com (using getmagicnow.com's US concept) works using this very simple system: you send a text message to a mobile number and a link is immediately sent to you to set up an account and add a payment method, and then everything goes through your messaging service: there is no website, no app and no e-mails.

Although more messages are exchanged through messaging apps than text nowadays, this channel has not gone away. It is therefore becoming a vehicle for transactions, with notable initiatives such as Callfrank, MeetPeter, Digit or HelloJam. Here we can talk about an Invisible App, as there is no specific User Interface. Is No UI the new UI? It is by relying on tools whose primary function is diverted (or increased) that we can now create interaction in a completely new way.

The success of these initiatives depends on these three factors: simplicity, instantaneousness, personalisation.

With a very high penetration and usage rate of messaging apps (more users than 'social' apps like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram), it has huge potential and is a huge opportunity because none of the 3 'historic' social networks has been able to monetise other than through advertising. What was just a simple service for exchanging text, images and videos has quickly turned into a complete ecosystem with APIs and developers to make it possible to create 'micro-shops' on these channels.

By far the most advanced initiative in this sector is WeChat, which has quickly become much more than a Chinese version of Whatsapp. WeChat is a pioneer in the field and has opened up its platform to developers to help brands offer innovative user experiences, in particular by enabling them to sell products or services via the application. Indeed the platform allows brands to create and administer a micro-shop quickly in order to offer a selection of products for sale. The advantage for the end consumer is that they do not need to come out of the app to finalise their actual purchase. Interaction can therefore be very significant.

Rolling out excellent customer service

The arrival of new sales channels, in addition to the purely technological aspects, above all raises the question of customer service specifically in the conversational and one-to-one discussion context. When the number of points of contact increases, it is all the more important to have a central tool which makes it possible to manage customer relations from a single place. Despite the arrival of M for Messenger, or Microsoft's Cortana bots for Skype

(a combination of AI, machine learning and human involvement), it is still difficult to delegate 100% of customer management to machines.

The proof of which can be seen with Sephora, which has just launched a conversational bot on Kik enabling you to find a suitable product by offering advice and multiple choice questions which make it possible to fine-tune the interlocutor's cosmetic requirements. Even if there is a conversational experience, the 'robot' effect of the discussion is too noticeable: automated responses, repetition of questions, one-track discourse. In addition, to purchase a product visitors are redirected to the brand's mobile commerce website. This does not mean that the experience is deceptive, but it seems to be incomplete and impersonal.

Also, before machines completely replace humans, establishing convergent solutions which make it possible for one or several operators to handle all CtoB requests is essential for handling these new channels.

Less than a year after the acquisition of Bringr, the French company iAdvize is offering a 360° customer interaction solution across all on-site (website, app, mobile) and off-site (Facebook, Twitter, Whatsapp, Messenger, etc.) points of contact. And this via all vehicles (message, video, voice) while relying on a customer service or community of ambassadors at the same time.

It is no accident that iAdvize has just unveiled its new positioning: 'The Conversational Commerce Platform'. The California firm Zendesk is a Messenger partner with the Zopim tool to assist companies on the platform. It is therefore highly likely that there will be movement in the coming months in this sector with the arrival of new players and the adaptation of solutions which are already in place.

Innovation in the service of mobile commerce

Conversational commerce is not aiming to replace traditional e-commerce, but this paradigm will make it possible for companies to experiment in a less burdensome and quicker way by focusing on the substance (the offer, the product, the service) rather than the style (the app, the UI).

Relying on a judicious balance between bots and humans for a quality and personalised interaction will offer many opportunities. This could become a new sales channel which can be integrated into an e-commerce development strategy. The choice of the destination platform is formative, but is still at the experimental stage at the moment. The establishment of a new era of online commerce will make it possible for brands to create more links with their consumers, with the challenge of being continually more responsive without being intrusive.

If the huge amount of traffic on mobiles is anything to go by - which despite everything offers a conversion rate still well below the expectations of online sellers - it is without doubt through innovation and analysing their mobile strategy that companies will succeed in conquering mobile commerce.