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Conversational Commerce and the Customer Experience

Conversational Commerce and the Customer Experience

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I think one of the fascinating trends we’re seeing in our industry right now is something called conversational commerce and Chris Messina was attributed with coining this term. Basically what conversational commerce implies is a new way for customer interaction with brands and technology. To understand conversational commerce, it helps to just take a step back and look at two trends that are fueling this conversational commerce concept. On the one hand, is messaging. You’ve got people just spending time in messaging apps. We all use messaging apps, Whatsapp, Facebook, Kik, SMS. We live in these messaging apps. According to BI intelligence, there are more monthly active users in the top four messaging apps than in the top four social networking apps combined. So, think about that. We spend more time in messaging apps, than in the social networks. The second trend that’s fueling conversational commerce is the rise of bots, chatbots. You can’t go anywhere without seeing the hype of bots and chatbots and machine learning and artificial intelligence and natural language processing and for good reason.

We’ve made tremendous leaps and bounds in artificial intelligence. Machine learning has reached scary new proportions and bots are becoming ubiquitous. You know, there used to be an expression, there’s an app for that. Now, it’s there’s a bot for that. So, thanks to these platforms opening up and the developer community springing up around it, we’re seeing a tremendous influx of custom bots to do really anything we could imagine. The Economist, had a great term, they called it the Bot Economy. So, on the one hand, we see this rise in messaging. We’re all using messaging apps and on the other hand, we see this rise in chatbots. And this is really what conversational commerce is, it’s this intersection, or nexus of the two technologies.

Take for example, your mobile phone. How many applications do you have on your phone today? Twenty, 50, 100, apps on your mobile phone. Each one of those is providing a discreet function and it might be to order a cab or to order food or to check your account balance. But, there are multiple apps and each one is performing this discreet function. And conversational commerce says, why can’t we take all of that functionality of all those apps and really hide it behind a conversational interface. So, people can interact with their customers, the company’s, the organizations with brands and even interact with technology via a conversational interface. We’ve already seen that we spend all this time in messaging apps. It’s an intuitive interface, so let’s use this same concept to interact with everything we do.

If you think this is kind of crazy or out there, look at WeChat in Asia. They have over 700 million monthly active users and they already support conversational commerce. With this chat interface, I can order my cab, I can order food, I can customize and order a pair of sneakers. I can host a conference call. And of course, I can chat, but I do this all through a simple chat interface, so I don’t need 50 applications on my phone. And this is the promise or the allure of conversational commerce, is to bring all of this into that chat interface.

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