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Conversational commerce: a beginner’s guide.

We’ve entered the Digital Era and it’s changing every aspect of our lives. New technologies have become inherent facilitators of business and personal matters.

When it comes to e-commerce, entrepreneurs have to be extraordinarily open-eyed for innovations because this industry relies entirely on the Internet.

One of the upcoming trends for online stores is the conversational approach. It’s a next step towards the most pleasant and convenient customer service, therefore it will probably become a standard solution for e-commerce in no time.

What is conversational commerce?

Imagine you’d like to buy a fancy blue dress for an upcoming party, but you don’t have time to manually search through e-stores, compare prices or check delivery methods.

Instead, you can just ask your personal assistant to look up for the desired product for you. That’s the dream of every customer: to get an instant answer which can help with the purchasing decision. Technological innovations enable that!

This is now possible thanks to conversational commerce, which is e-commerce via various means of conversation (such as live chat on a website, messenger or chatbots, voice assistants, etc.In the next few years, it’s going to be technologically developed to minimise human engagement in this process.

Why is it worth using?

On one hand – almost every innovation leads to additional spending. On the other hand – conversational commerce seems to be a must-have solution for e-retailers. These days when the localisation doesn’t matter, customers can order items from stores all over the country or even from the other side of the world. What’s crucial is product price, quality and customer experience.

Here you can find a few numbers to prove the need and effectiveness of conversational commerce:

  • 43% of consumers prefer companies that personalise their experience,
  • 85% of all customer interactions will be handled without the need of human agent by 2020,
  • AI has been able to handle 45% of customer’s questions on live chat alone in 2018,
  • 25% of customer support and services will be integrated with virtual assistants by 2020,
  • 69% of online shoppers attributed their good customer service experience to a quick resolution of their problem.

As you can see, conversational commerce is an undeniable trend for the upcoming years. To achieve success in online shopping, it’s now crucial.

The technology behind conversational commerce.

How are these innovative solutions able to interact with people? Artificial Intelligence technology (AI) enables provision of answers to customers’ questions and therefore solve their problems.

Thanks to its specific branch – Machine Learning – systems can use data to get familiar with information about their interlocutors and use it in the conversation.

AI will remember everything that a person did and said and continuously improves the interaction based on that data. Their goal is to understand what a customer means, identify their needs and meet them. That’s how consumers can order favourite products and get the system’s recommendations.

Neural networks simulate the human brain so that conversation can be pleasant and natural for people. Innovators use natural language processing to make it possible.

Less complex systems can function without the use of Artificial Intelligence, which are instead based on a set of rules. In many cases, inquiries are predictable (with a similar concept to a FAQ section), so that entrepreneurs can program an app to answer according to different scenarios.

For example, customers often ask about the delivery date, so in the messenger (operated by chatbots) they can ask when they’ll receive a product they purchased and he chatbot can ask for the number of the order and instantly reply with the information.

Conversational commerce in use: chatbots

The most popular implementation of conversational commerce we can experience is in chatbots. Usually they’re used in customer service, but they can also be implemented in information acquisition or lead generation. How does it change the customer experience instead of interacting with people?

Among the advantages in favour of chatbots, we can list the speed of the answers. Robots automatically reply in no time and at any time of day (so you can provide customer support 24/7). Moreover, they commit fewer mistakes than humans and handle crises better, as they don’t have emotions.

Let’s face it – answering the same question over and over again is nothing exciting for your employees (that’s why you should always remember to measure the engagement of employees) . They won’t have to do it anymore if you apply chatbots to your business. Last but not least, chatbots gather data about customers’ patterns etc. so it’s easier to track them and analyse to evaluate performances.

Nevertheless, chatbots need to be configured correctly, so that customers can communicate smoothly with them. Otherwise, they can cause frustration and e-commerce businesses can lose clients as a result. Some interlocutors are not even aware of the fact that they talk to robots, so they can be very irritated if a system won’t reply reasonably.

Chatbots can not only be used for customer support, but also for many more applications. For example, people can use it to schedule a meeting with a representative of the company, order food, get notifications (i.e. about stock market trends), stay up-to-date by getting news relevant to them, or even find love (i.e. a chatbot version of Tinder).

How to make a chatbot? You can program it on your own, but if you don’t have programming skills you can use intuitive tools dedicated to it. There are many platforms which enable creating and implementing bots with step-by-step tutorials on how to do it. The most popular ones are BotSociety, ChatFuel, BotFrame, BotMock, Typeform Chat, Botsify, TARS and MobileMonkey.

Where can you implement your chatbot? Of course on your website, so customers interested in your products can quickly and easily get the information they came for. Another idea is to get a chatbot implemented in Messenger. Thanks to this you can reach clients who use Facebook and Messenger for communication rather than other platforms.

Moreover, as Facebook supports conversational commerce, you can even set up some automatic replies natively in the social network and have a Call to Action button on sponsored posts that encourage people to send a message. These solutions make the interaction between brand and customer really accessible.

The future that becomes a reality.

Conversational commerce is an emerging technology that is a part of the technological trend starting today. The future of e-commerce seems reminiscent of a „Black Mirror” series as every episode shows an image of what could happen in a few years time. Some of the inventions look like solutions taken directly from this popular show.

For example, Eternime is an app now in beta testing phase that enables people to be „virtually immortal”. The idea is to create an avatar of a person that will allow interaction with a chatbot, which should simulate a conversation with a beloved person who has died.

How? You ask. The system collects data from a smartphone, and moreover, a chatbot asks questions and downloads data from external apps (i.e. Facebook) to get as much information as possible.

As mentioned before, the more data an app has, the more efficient Machine Learning technology is, so that conversation with a bot is becomes similar to interaction with a particular person.

Using such an app can be seen as having a journal and creating some kind of digital alter-ego. But this and similar solutions are not only technological but, more importantly, ethical challenges.

Personalisation and instant answers thanks to automation will be essential in the customer experience in the upcoming years. Instead of just watching the technology growing – implement it in your business and benefit from it!