Conversational Commerce

What is Conversational Commerce?

Conversational commerce is a term coined by Uber’s Chris Messina in a 2015 piece published on Medium. It refers to the intersection of messaging apps and shopping. Meaning, the trend toward interacting with businesses through messaging and chat apps like Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, Talk, and WeChat. Or through voice technology, like Amazon’s Echo product, which interfaces with companies through voice commands.

Consumers can chat with company representatives, get customer support, ask questions, get personalized recommendations, read reviews, and click to purchase all from within messaging apps. With conversational commerce, the consumer engages in this interaction with a human representative, chatbot, or a mix of both.

On the business side, companies can use chatbots to automate customer service messages. It’s how companies are enabling consumers to buy from them without ever leaving the messaging app they are using. Now companies can send order confirmations in Facebook Messenger, as well as shipping and delivery notifications. Using chatbots, businesses can resolve customer service issues, provide recommendations, create wishlists, and interact with buyers in real-time.

The Market Shift

Consumers are increasingly relying on messaging apps for all forms of communication, whether personal, business, or commerce. Increasingly, consumers are using chat to find and select products and services, and to complete the payment process, all without having to call, email, or even visit a brand’s website. Everything is happening within the messaging app.

Research firm Juniper reported that more than 94 trillion digital messages were sent in 2015, with the bulk being through email. However, instant messaging has just about reached its tipping point, with the total number of instant messages sent overtaking emails by mid-2016.

Messaging apps are becoming the preferred means of communication. According to eMarketer, 1.4 billion consumers used messaging apps in 2015, which is up 31.6% from 2014, and that number is expected to hit 2 billion by 2018.

What That Means for Consumers

Chat companies are now partnering with brands to make it simpler for customers to buy from them. Facebook Messenger, for example, has partnered with Uber to make it possible for customers to order an Uber driver without leaving the messaging app – the conversation. Amazon’s Echo – a voice activated tool – has partnered with Capital One so that the bank’s customers can inquire about their balance, make a payment, or check recent transactions, all through Echo.

Not only is conversational commerce simpler for consumers who, thanks to messaging apps, no longer need to toggle back and forth between text conversations and websites to gather information and make purchases, but it’s also a step closer to the attention you might get from a sales associate in the store. When ordering from a website, you can read reviews to get a sense of whether a product will work for you, but using chat you can ask for help comparing your options – more like the advice you would receive in-store.

Reducing the steps required, and the number of information sources consumers need to turn to, shortens the distance between prospect and purchase.

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