What Is Conversational Commerce?
In many ways, mobile communications — especially texts and chats — serve as a best-of experience for consumers. They can combine their favorite parts of both in-store and online shopping. Consumers can chat with a store associate, ask about options and inventory, and make the purchase — whenever and wherever they want — right from their mobile device. This is conversational commerce.
From a business perspective, the concept goes by similar names, such as conversational ecommerce, conversational marketing, conversational shopping, etc. Despite the names and newness, the foundation of conversational commerce is based on tried-and-true strategies — having a conversation and thinking customer first.
It’s All About the Experience
Consumers no longer prioritize price or product. But they do love a good experience and will reward companies with their loyalty. A suite of solutions that includes conversational commerce — which may comprise tools such as AI or chabots, or a complete end-to-end solution — can help deliver engaging, frictionless, multichannel shopping experiences (with a personal touch). These new channels and real-time context bring intelligence and insights, which can help drive customer acquisition, engagement, and loyalty.
Well, It's About Timing Too
According to Juniper Research, conversational commerce channels will reach $290 billion by 2025. And Think with Google notes that 60% of shoppers prefer to choose brands that offer convenient communications like chat.
Since consumers crave one-to-one connections with a business, there’s no better time to add conversational commerce solutions as part of an overall omnichannel retail strategy.
For you, this means a personalized consumer channel to conduct fast transactions on impulse purchases, automate transactions and payments, and build and strengthen a customer relationship.
The result? When shoppers have formed an emotional connection with a brand, many will spend twice as much with those brands.
Why Is Conversational Commerce Important?
Conversational commerce follows the trend of the general population — and in particular, consumers — being more comfortable and sophisticated with technology. From emails to instant messaging to texts, folks want to be engaged. When they go shopping or work with a service, they want a fast and engaging experience.
That’s why voice searches have become popular. Consumers can just ask for help in their natural voice. The results, with the chance to purchase, are just a few clicks or taps away.
Conversational commerce follows the same path. Since consumers are comfortable to chat with a business, it’s an ideal moment to turn that conversation into a sale. Need proof? Consider L’Oréal, which hosted a 12-hour virtual beauty festival and generated a month’s worth of online sales in 24 hours.
So yes, conversational commerce is important. But is it specifically relevant to you? Think of these common pain points and how the solutions can help you:
Leverage social messaging or sell through social channels. Conversational commerce can enhance a virtual, omnichannel experience. You can deploy AI conversational bots, assign in-store sales associates, or combine the two to manage the interactions and sales at scale.
Manage the customer experience. Consumers want choices and control. So let them shop through a chat or instant message — and be there to help them on their schedule.
Complete both in-store and online sales. There’s a great duality with conversational commerce. Consumers can start research over a chat, and then come into the store to complete the purchase. The immediate engagement helps to nurture these consumers, which could possibly increase the sale and loyalty.
What Are the Benefits of Conversational Commerce?
It’s a constant challenge to compete for consumers and their attention. Any edge can serve as a huge win, starting with the nurturing, timing, and other benefits of conversational commerce, including:
Conversational commerce provides a customer-centric shopping experience by allowing instant access to your products or services. This mirrors in-store sales associates, who make personalized recommendations and guide consumers through their purchases. In addition, AI chatbots can direct consumers with questions and suggest appropriate products and options.
When consumers can complete purchases from their messaging apps, it helps to improve satisfaction rates. Not having to leave a chat or platform simplifies the purchase and instills that all-important control — and together, convenience and control drive the overall experience.
Improved marketing campaigns
You can tap into your customer information for insights on purchasing habits based on consumer conversations. From there, you can introduce personalized ads and automated marketing content that speak to their interests. For example, if you have an inventory surplus, you can use the messaging apps to curate posts as needed.
Think of conversational commerce as a win-win. You reduce cart abandonment and improve conversions. And you make the experience easy for your customers.
What Are Examples of Conversational Commerce?
Outside of visiting your store, consumers can still engage with you in a number of ways. And each presents a unique conversational commerce opportunity:
Service chatbot. By anticipating questions (such as shipping information), flagging items for follow up (perhaps inventory or color), or routing for next steps (maybe an in-store visit with a sales associate), an AI chatbot can effectively nurture consumers through the purchasing cycle.
Messaging. There’s a personal and immediate quality to a message, chat, or text. Consumers are declaring their interest in your business by reaching out on these platforms. Having a conversational commerce solution in place — to answer questions, follow up, or complete the sale — puts you in the right place, at the right time.
Personal shopping assistant. Modern consumers are comfortable using virtual assistants to learn more about products and services. They are not, however, comfortable with complicated phone trees and long hold times. Thankfully, an AI virtual assistant can complement the human element by generating personalized messages to engage this audience and help increase sales opportunities. AI can offer both self-service for consumers to place orders directly or route for next steps, such as scheduling an in-store visit.
What’s the Future Look Like for Conversational Commerce?
Based on findings from the Vonage Global Customer Engagement Report 2021, consumers look for digital immediacy when shopping:
48% of consumers have increased their digital engagement with retailers and ecommerce platforms since the outbreak of COVID-19
consumers under 40 years old (Millennials and Gen Z) are set to increase their digital engagement more than those aged over 40
87% of consumers will not go back to the way they engaged with businesses and service providers before the pandemic (this includes phone and email)
nearly 50% of consumers use WhatsApp to connect with businesses
SMS remains a popular way for consumers to reach businesses, with the consumer preference for messaging apps doubling since the outbreak of COVID-19
Again, these follow the trend of consumers being more comfortable and sophisticated with technology. In fact, it’s not hard to imagine a group of like-minded friends gathered together for a watch party. Drop a well-placed and well-timed post or text, and you have a group chatting, initiating the FOMO, and encouraging everyone to follow along. Say hello to group sales.
Ready To Start or Boost Your Conversational Commerce Strategy?
Conversational commerce can wonderfully lessen staff demands and improve the customer experience. You are right there, at the peak moment of interest, and the immediacy and service you provide can help close the sale. Here are steps to help guide your strategy:
Step 1: Define your business goals and specific needs
Social selling – engage customers through an AI conversational bot that directs them to an in-store sales associate
Customer experience – provide quick answers, such as inventory, store hours, directions, etc.
In-store and online integration – provide the personal attention of an in-store visit with the convenience of online shopping
Step 2: Evaluate the specific solution that would provide the most benefit
How do your customers contact you? By phone, email, website, in-app chat, text, or other messaging service? Then think of the typical customer questions. A service question will have a different intent or follow through compared to a potential sale. As noted earlier, you can deploy AI conversational bots, assign in-store sales associates, or combine the two to manage the interactions and sales at scale.
Step 3: Select a partner or solution that works best for your needs
There are many things to consider, including geography, social channels, payment methods, etc. You also need the ability to seamlessly integrate with your website, product catalog, and ecommerce platform. Be sure the partner or solution can meet your needs.
Step 4: Define a roadmap routed in an actual strategy
Everyone wants everything, now. Is that realistic? That depends on your diligence across the previous steps. Identifying channels, questions, and partners can help you formulate a roadmap. Just as important, define your definition of success — more sales or foot traffic, fewer abandoned carts, an increase in social engagement, etc.
Step 5: Launch the campaign, measure, and optimize
Related to Step 4, think of realistic milestones. Also highlight key dates to effectively measure, perhaps against seasonal sales, new product launches, reengagement initiatives, or other specific activities. The milestones and dates provide comparisons and metrics. From there, you can optimize against campaign success, edit campaign variables and relaunch, etc.
Conversational Commerce Solutions From Vonage
Just about every conversation or channel is an opportunity. With the right suite of solutions, you can engage and convert customers on their preferred channels — think web storefront, Facebook Messenger, Instagram, WhatsApp, SMS, and more. And Vonage brings you conversational commerce tools and APIs to embed messaging, voice, video, and customer insights into every interaction — all to simplify the buying journey.
For those looking to quickly integrate conversational commerce, an end-to-end solution — such as Jumper.ai, the Vonage conversational commerce application — is a great route.
For more complex requirements, Vonage communications APIs can help you build a customized solution.
Learn more about the conversational commerce solutions from Vonage, including Jumper.ai and communications APIs.