What is Conversational Commerce?

Chris Thomas
November 22, 2021
Read time:
8
Minutes
Omnichannel
Chris Thomas

Conversational commerce is changing the face of online retail.


In fact, some experts believe that it'll become the main channel for future e-commerce shoppers!


But what does conversational commerce actually entail? 


What can you expect from the improved customer communication that conversational commerce promises? 


And how do you even get started with such a strategy?


In this article, we'll be taking a deep dive into all these questions and more. We'll cover:

  • The defining factors of conversational commerce
  • The contact channels used as part of a conversational strategy 
  • The key benefits of conversational commerce
  • How to implement conversational commerce for your business 

Let's get started!

What is conversational commerce?

The term conversational commerce refers to the strategy of selling products by communicating via customer-facing contact channels.

As you might've guessed from the word 'conversational', it's all about creating and delivering:

Who coined the term?

The term conversational commerce was coined by Chris Messina, Google alumni and current developer at Uber.


Messina wrote what many consider to be the definitive piece on conversational commerce in 2015 for Medium.


In it, he sums up the aim of this growing trend: 


Instead of enticing customers to the point of sale, we can now bring the point of sale to them - thanks to intelligent communication channels like live chat, video chat, and more.

Ecommerce trends: the past vs the future

In years gone by, most shoppers would follow a simple journey when visiting an e-commerce store.

Once they'd arrived on site, the customer would browse the items available before making a purchase - if they found what they were looking for, that is.


But there's a massive problem with this kind of approach.


If the customer encountered a problem during the buying process, their only recourse was sending a message to a customer support email address.


It means that these customers would often grow frustrated when shopping online. 


And if their problems weren't solved effectively? They'd quickly lose interest in purchasing at all.


In essence, customers from years past weren't able to enjoy the same kind of customer service that they'd have experienced in a real-life store.


This is where conversational commerce comes in.


Website engagement technology has come a long way over the last few years.


Modern consumers are now incredibly familiar with a whole host of digital tools - tools that they use as part of their daily lives.


In fact, 95.2% of internet users now use at least one type of chat or messaging platform every day. 


So, by leveraging these tools and adopting channels like live chat, video chat, and more, online businesses can now deliver instant assistance to their customers - wherever they are.

In simple terms, platforms like these used to be tertiary to a company's main website.


Now, they're the first line of contact for your business.


Let's take a look at some examples to explore further. 

What are some examples of conversational commerce?

Conversational commerce can occur across many channels, from live chat and chatbots to video chat and voice assistants. 


Let's take a look at the most critical channels in turn. 

Live chat

Live chat is an excellent tool for stimulating customer conversations.


In fact, deploying live chat is one of the easiest ways to get started with conversational commerce.

By embedding live chat within their website or app, many brands have improved customer satisfaction and built brand loyalty by giving customers instant responses and personalised assistance during the online shopping process.


It means live chat is a crucial contact channel if you want to create an omnichannel customer experience that keeps people engaged as much as possible throughout their buying journey - from initial research through to the all-important sale.

Chatbots

One of the most common examples of businesses embracing conversational commerce is the use of customer service chatbots.


By embedding this technology within their online store, AI virtual agents and scripted chatbots can provide the same kinds of assistance as their human agent counterparts.

However, unlike human agents, chatbots can automatically assist your site visitors regardless of your core business hours.


What's more, these bots can even be used across social media platforms like Facebook Messenger too.


It means that these chatbots can bring the point of sale to your target audience - whenever or wherever it suits them.

Messaging apps

Messaging platforms or chat apps like WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger are hugely popular for a good reason - they're a free and easy way to keep in touch with friends and family.


But with consumers being so familiar with these platforms in their daily lives, these apps' conversational format makes them particularly useful for marketing and customer service exchanges.


It's why messaging apps of all shapes and sizes make great platforms for conversational commerce - whether you're using chatbots or human support agents.

For example, thanks to WhatsApp API integration, you can now trade instant messages with your customers wherever they might be.


It means customers don't need to download a new app or visit a website.

Instead, they can enjoy a seamless interaction within WhatsApp itself - an app that they're already comfortable using!

Video chat

Deploying video chat for customer service is one of the most potent ways to engage online customers with conversational commerce.


This is because video chat is the most direct digital method for demonstrating your products and delivering convenience online.

Unlike messaging apps or web chat, video chat can give your customers an instant visual idea of your products.


At the same time, contact agents can build a more personal connection while providing answers to queries.


Not only does this humanise your sales funnel and your digital customer experience, but it also helps customers to feel more confident during the purchasing process.


It's why more and more brands are using video to boost customer engagement through virtual shopping experiences.


In turn, their customers receive more personalised service while making purchase decisions.


At the same time, the business itself can increase sales via a more human, conversational approach.

Voice assistants

Voice assistants and smart devices have become immensely popular over the last decade.


In fact, nearly a quarter of the population used such a device in the last week.


The reason why is simple: they take the hassle out of the simple search queries that we once made online.


Instead of taking to Google on our desktop, smartphone, or tablet, we can now use voice commands in their place.


So, with convenience built into their very design, it makes sense that voice assistants have become a key technology for conversational commerce too.


It's why Amazon has seen great success in deploying their voice assistant Alexa as a tool to drive sales and advertise current promotions.


While customers might mainly use these devices to send messages, listen to music, or ask for updates on the news, they've become a valuable resource for finding products too.


For example, potential customers can use their voice assistant to ask for advice on a new product that interests them.


They can even use these devices to order their chosen item or re-up on a previously purchased subscription.


From there, these smart devices can then answer questions on order status, as well as provide other typical services you'd expect to be available from online stores - such as the ability to leave a review.

How conversational commerce benefits online retailers

As the intersection between digital communication channels and online shopping, there are many ways in which conversational commerce can benefit online retailers and e-commerce stores. 


Let's take a look at a few examples of how conversational commerce could provide a welcome boost to your business.

Conversational commerce can boost conversions

40% of online shoppers stated that conversational chat was how they started their recent online shopping experiences.


It's proof that adopting a conversational commerce strategy is a fantastic way to boost sales and conversions.


This is because the conversational approach prioritises convenient and personalised service - not pushy sales tactics.


For example, you can leverage live chat interactions to inform customers about discounts while visiting your site. 


Chatbots can also help serve your customers at a convenient time for them. For instance, they can be scripted to nudge your customers if it looks like they need help during their customer journey. 


For a final example, look no further than video chat's effects on boosting online sales. 


Thanks to the personal connection experienced during face-to-face transactions, shoppers using Talkative's video chat are 4x as likely to make a purchase!

Conversational commerce can reduce cart abandonment

On average, 70% of customers abandon their orders when browsing online. 


In many cases, these shopping cart abandonments occur following a sense of confusion or a lack of understanding on the customers’ part.


Perhaps they're facing a confusing checkout journey. Maybe they can't find the correct item for them.


So, what if these customers could chat with your customer service representative to complete their purchase?


What if they could connect instantly on their favourite channel of choice?


It might sound all too simple, but providing your customers with more ways to converse with you is an invaluable way to boost sales and reduce abandonment.


After all, you'd never leave your in-store customers without any assistance, would you?

Conversational commerce can improve the customer experience and build loyalty

70% of customers state that an excellent customer experience should be fast, convenient and helpful. 


If your customers don't experience these virtues when dealing with your business, they won't stay loyal for long. 


However, when customers can communicate easily with your company, they're much more likely to remain loyal - all thanks to the sense of convenience and helpfulness you provide.

Conversational commerce best practices

Now that we've covered the key definitions and benefits of conversational commerce, here are a few best practices you'll want to keep in mind if you're thinking of embarking on a new strategy.

Humanise customer interactions

Automation and AI do have their place in conversational commerce.


However, there's a key consideration to remember when you're trying to improve customer engagement through the messaging app or chat platform on your online store:


Speak to each customer as an individual person!

This doesn't just mean taking advantage of the GIFs and emojis that you'd send to your friends and family.


Instead, it entails offering your customers personalised product recommendations and fast, polite service that's wholly catered around their needs.

Keep the conversation going

Not every customer interaction finishes with a sale.


Depending on the type of customer you’re dealing with, sometimes your customer might just be browsing. Sometimes, they might be on the cusp of making a purchase but hesitate at the last minute.


And that's okay. Because with conversational commerce, you can continue to build trust and entice that customer back with friendly follow-ups and continued communication.

For instance, virtual clienteling strategies can help you keep in touch with the customer over the following days and weeks.


Discount updates and shopping cart reminders are a great way to invite customers back to your site too.


The fact is, conversational commerce isn't just about generating sales. 


It's about improving the customer experience and providing added value wherever possible.


So, showing genuine interest and support for your customer is paramount. 


Always remember to keep the conversation going and build authentic relationships by seeking to solve their pain points and meet their needs.


If you do, the chances are all the more likely that these customers will return, providing you with excellent upselling and cross-selling opportunities during their next purchase!

Track your metrics and measure your results

One of the most critical steps towards success is measuring your performance.


This applies not just to your conversational commerce strategy but to all of the work that you undertake as a business owner.


You need precise data and feedback to know what's working and what needs improving. You need to understand what your customers want and what you can do to provide it better.


So, what does this mean for conversational commerce?

It means examining how many chats are initiated by customers through messaging apps or chat platforms on your online store.


It means inspecting what channels consumers are using and how successful your contact agents are at providing them with stellar service.


In short, it means taking the time to analyse, analyse, analyse! 


These days, every metric imaginable can be measured, from your social media performance to your overall customer perception.


So, make it a habit to track your customer service goal metrics and measure your results.


They'll prove just how beneficial genuine customer relationships and conversations are to your business.

How do you get started with conversational commerce?

Conversational commerce is all about leveraging communication channels to convert more customers.


So, to get started, you need a reliable contact solution for your business.


It's why leading industry names trust Talkative's suite of connectable contact channels.

With each channel fully customisable to your needs, you can choose one for standalone deployment or a full selection of channels. 


Either way, they're all seamlessly embeddable within your website or app - no plugins or downloads required.


For example, you could deploy live chat or chatbots within your website.


You can deploy chat across social networks like Twitter, Facebook, and WhatsApp too.


Or how about providing video chat for a virtual shopping alternative that'll rival shopping in an actual store?


Whatever your target audience and whatever channels you want to target, Talkative is a solution that's flexible around you.


So, if you're looking to get started with a more conversational approach to online sales, book a demo with Talkative today.


We can help you get talkative with your customers.

Want to get started with Talkative straight away? Start a free trial now!

Download the ‘Inner Circle Guide to Video & Next-Generation Customer Contact’

Discover use cases, implementation tips, and ROI for video chat as a contact channel

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