Michiel Gaasterland
Michiel Gaasterland
Chief Brand Officer
Mar 30, 2020

Trend #7: Adapt to Conversational Commerce

conversational commerce

This is the last post in our series of Seven Customer Service Insights for 2020 and Beyond

So far in the series, we’ve covered many of the essential trends a company must be on top of to deliver competitive levels of customer service in 2020 and beyond.

We’ve explained why you need to fix self-service, start getting chatbots right, why you should learn to love Live chat, and even how to start preparing for hyper-personalisation.

With our last post, we’ve reached our final destination: conversational commerce (also known as c-commerce). Conversational commerce is an all-encompassing term that embraces many of the trends we’ve talked about previously and others too. You 

So, what is conversational commerce? What does it mean for brands and businesses? Will it really be that big? How should you prepare?

What is conversational commerce?

“All of the big trends in commerce over the past couple of decades have been moving to where your customers are. Rather than forcing your customers to come to you, you go to where they are. The next generation of that is conversational commerce. It is inevitable that everyone is going to have to incorporate conversations inside of Messenger, and into social media platforms, in order to sell things more effectively.” — Phil Libin, Founder of Evernote and All Turtles

Conversational commerce is consumers interacting with brands and businesses through chat and messaging apps, such as Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, or through voice-activated assistants such as Alexa and Google Echo.

Conversational commerce employs tech such as speech recognition, natural language processing and other AI technologies. The voice component of c-commerce is growing like wildfire. Depending on which figures you prefer, around 60% of conversational commerce is currently done via text, but according to eMarketer, 112 million people — that’s one-third of the US population — will have used a voice assistant at least monthly in 2019. 60% of all US smartphone users have tried voice purchases [Capgemini]. And according to OC&C, $40bn will be spent through voice commerce by 2022 in the US ($5bn in the UK), representing 6% and 3% of all online spend.

Conversational commerce is set to be huge.

Thanks to advanced data techniques such as machine learning, customer conversations will be a mix of automated, and semi-automated conversations where rules and AI trigger handover to humans when needed. Conversations will be triggered instantaneously, and held in real time.

Thanks to the smart internal use of customer data and integrated systems, conversations will be highly personalised and include tailored messaging and suggestions, personalised recommendations and bespoke solutions.

All this will be done through any number conversational interfaces such as chatbots or assistants. This means that a customer won’t have to swap from a text conversation to a website chat, for example, to gather info, get a problem solved, or complete a purchase. Instead, they can do anything they want to do from whichever channel they happen to be on at that time.

To facilitate more of the customer journey, messenger and chat apps are currently expanding their functionality. They are expanding into product discovery, personalised recommendations, tracking the status of orders, personal customer service, and more.

The end game is for brands and businesses to be able to cater to the full customer journey. The net result is the ultimate customer experience for customers — with minimum effort for them, and maximum value for brands and businesses.

We have only touched upon all the possibilities of conversational commerce. As this megatrend assimilates augmented and virtual reality, we’re into a whole other universe. There will no doubt be more to come. But for now…

What does conversational commerce mean for brands and businesses?

“We’re seeing businesses large and small drive tangible results using messaging as a marketing channel — from acquiring new customers to driving repeat sales. Businesses are turning to Messenger to help their customers find the perfect gift, book appointments, get personalized deals, receive shipping updates and so much more. Messaging helps businesses and their customers connect in a personal and productive way — all at scale.” — Andrew Kritzer, Product Manager, Messenger Platform.

Humans have been selling goods through conversation since time immemorial. And we’re damned good at it. So the potential commercial benefits of conversational commerce is enormous.

In essence, conversational commerce allows companies to give shoppers all the benefits of fast, effective and personal service via a real-time conversation with a rep — human or otherwise — but from the comfort of their own home. As a result, retailers, for example, will be able to convert more, sell more, reduce returns, improve loyalty.

There are operational benefits too. A Conversation Console such as ours, allows teams to manage all customer service and sales conversations from all channels, in one easy-to-use platform. No more skipping around from channel to channel for your reps, trying to keep on top of multiple streams of messaging. Productivity goes up as a result — and service level performance too. Plus, improved automation and self-service means you reduce workload as well.

By analysing valuable customer data from conversational interfaces you can start getting to know their customers’ preferences and make headway into personalising customer service.

Conversational commerce is huge, and moving fast…

As Adweek notes, messaging is the single most frequent digital activity that a person does — period. In 2018 alone, the four largest mobile messaging apps (WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, WeChat, Viber) had 1.3 billion more users than the four largest social networks (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn) combined.

1.3 billion people use Facebook Messenger alone each month, and more than 20 billion messages are sent between people and businesses every month. [Facebook]. Finally, in January 2020, WhatsApp announced that 100 billion texts were sent in a day on record-breaking New Year's Eve 2019. 100 billion!

Voice commerce is growing incredibly fast, too. In 2018 there were an estimated one billion voice searches each month. [Alpine.AI] ComScore predicts that 50% of all online searches will be voice searches by the end of 2020.

The number of households with smart speakers is set to increase exponentially. OC&C Strategy Consultants predict that 55% of all homes in the US will own smart speakers by 2022.

Voice commerce sales in the US rose from 1.8 billion USD in 2017, and are projected to be over 40 billion USD by 2022 [OC&C]. That is more than a 2000% rise in five years. It looks like there’s no stopping it.

And it’s not just eCommerce, the same basic trend is happening globally, across markets and verticals.

CapGemini recently said that conversational commerce is now estimated to be worth as much as $35 billion for retailers alone. They go on to say…

It is no longer a question of whether you want to compete at Conversational Commerce, but it is a matter of when and how.

We have a take on that.

The takeaway Join the ROBIN Program! With our Conversation Console, data warehouse and data-driven coaching we’ll help you get your customer service house in order, improve service SLAs, and sell more. Once you have things under control, we will help you scale towards conversational commerce with our Growth suite — one step at a time.

Seven Customer Service Insights for 2020 and Beyond

Introducing Seven Customer Service Insights for 2020 & Beyond

#1 Customer Service Just Changed Forever

#2 Measure What Customers Value

#3 Fix Customer Self-service

#4 Get Chatbots Right!

#5 Learn How to Love Live Chat

#6 Prepare for Hyper-personalisation

#7 Adapt to Conversational Commerce

Conversational Commerce


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