What is Conversational Commerce?

November 21, 2022
Time:
8
mins
conversational commerce interaction on smartphone

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 do businesses stand to gain from a conversational commerce strategy? 

And how can you go beyond conversational commerce to provide truly superior customer service?

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

  • What is conversational commerce?
  • The key contact channels for a conversational strategy 
  • The benefits of conversational commerce
  • What comes after conversational commerce?

Let's get started.

customer conversation with agent

What is conversational commerce in business?

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:

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 messaging apps, live chat, and more.

video call interaction

Ecommerce website trends: the past vs the future

In years gone by, most shoppers would follow a simple digital 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, these customers weren't able to enjoy the same level of customer service that they'd experienced in a real-life store.

This is where conversational commerce comes in.

Website engagement technology has come a long way in recent 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 for ecommerce, 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. 

ecommerce website

What are some examples of conversational chat commerce?

Conversational commerce can occur across many engagement 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.

Live chat also builds brand loyalty by giving customers instant responses and personalized assistance during the online shopping process.

It means live chat is a crucial contact channel if you want to create keep customers engaged throughout their buying journey - from initial research through to the all-important sale.

contact center agent using live chat

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 immediate answers to common questions and issues.

And, unlike human agents, chatbots can automatically assist your site visitors 24/7 - regardless of your operating hours.

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

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

AI virtual agent chatbot

Messaging apps

Social media messaging or chat apps like WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger have become hugely popular.

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 make great platforms for conversational commerce, whether you're using chatbots or human-powered customer support.

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.

social media messaging channels

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 gives your customers face-to-face communication and an instant visual idea of your products.

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

Not only does this humanize 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 personalized service while making purchase decisions.

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

customer vide chat with in-store assistant

Voice assistants

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

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.

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 advertize 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.

customer hand and AI hand

How conversational commerce benefits online retailers

At 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 report 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 prioritizes convenient and personalized 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.

magnets attracting customers

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?

ecommerce shopping cart

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.

customer using engagement channels

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.

1. Humanize 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 personalized product recommendations and fast, polite service that's wholly catered around their needs.

customer video chat with contact center agent

2. 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 leads and 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.

happy call center agent

3. 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 customer-facing teams are at providing them with stellar service.

In short, it means taking the time to analyze and improve performance management.

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, measure your progress, and continuously look for ways to improve.

customer service goals target

The takeaway

Conversational commerce is an essential component of today’s digital customer service and will continue to be so in years to come.

However, if you want to truly set your brand apart and exceed customer expectations, you need to go beyond the conversational.

You need to consistently deliver next-level experiences and conversations across all digital channels.

And that's where Talkative comes in.

Our platform was specifically designed to power superior customer service and personalized experiences at every digital touchpoint.

We provide a complete suite of innovative engagement channels that'll empower your customer advisors to connect instantly, and effortlessly, with all your digital customers.

Your advisors will even be be able to manage all customer conversations within a single pane of glass.

As a result, you and your customer-facing teams will be fully equipped to engage and convert more customers than ever before.

Want to learn more? Book a demo today and discover how you can go beyond conversational commerce with Talkative.

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Smiling customer on a smartphone