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What is Conversational Commerce and Why Is It Important?

Illustration of hand holding a smartphone showing messagesA number of online marketing trends have come and gone over the years, but there’s a recent trend that we feel is here to stay: live, branded chat support. Live chat boxes that allow people to message a business directly and in real time are quickly becoming the norm online – especially on e-commerce sites. Their appeal sits at the centre of a concept called “conversational commerce”.

So, what exactly is conversational commerce? Is it just a flash in the pan marketing fad? Or does it provide the ultimate in convenience and personalisation for your customers? Spoiler alert: we think it’s the latter. Let’s investigate…

What is Conversational Commerce?

Conversational commerce is where businesses use real-time, online messaging functions to individually interface with customers as they’re considering a purchase – usually as they’re actively browsing the business’s site. Through these interactions, businesses can answer customer questions, assist with buying decisions, and provide support; connecting businesses with their audiences like never before.

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The goal is to effectively mirror the personalised, consultative experience that you may receive from a shop assistant in a physical store, and effectively bring it online.

Chat or messaging functions can either be presented within an integrated chat window or carried out through third party messaging apps like WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, or iMessage. These conversations may be manned by human operatives, or by an AI-powered chatbot that is programmed to help visitors throughout their shopping experience.

Conversational commerce is also a highly popular contact medium. But conversational commerce isn’t just limited to private chats – many companies have Twitter accounts dedicated to publicly providing support and answering questions – @AmazonHelp and @SamsungUK are great examples of this.

When faced with the choice, 75% of consumers indicated that they would prefer to engage with a brand over private messaging channels than traditional channels.

Source: State of Digital Care results 2019 (UK & US)

A Successful Example of Conversational Commerce in Action

Let’s say you’re looking for a birthday gift for a good friend of yours. You head to an online gift shop, and start browsing. You may look around listlessly, uninspired with the products you’ve been able to find, or perhaps you’re spoilt for choice! Either way, you need assistance.

Then a chat box pops up in the bottom right hand corner – “I see you’re looking for a gift – can I help?”. You respond: “yes”.

Over the next few minutes, you discuss your friend’s preferences in the chat window. The chatbot (or human assistant, who knows?) refers to the shop’s catalogue and makes a few suggestions. They find the perfect gift for your friend, and you check out there and then. Cool, right?

But let’s take a look at how that could have gone without the conversational element. You may never have stumbled across that perfect present on your own, and left the site out of frustration. But because you had that consultative connection with the business in real time, you made a purchase. You’re happy, the shop’s happy, it’s a win-win!

Consumers said they were more likely to be a repeat customer of a brand if the brand responded to their questions on digital channels. (50% in 2018 vs 62% in 2019)

Source: State of Digital Care results 2019 (UK & US)

5 Reasons Why Your Business Should Consider Conversational Commerce

1. Conversation Makes E-Commerce a Warmer Experience

Though the concept of e-commerce was groundbreaking when it first came about, it’s now been around long enough to have become a little staid and formulaic. When you really get down to it, even big players like Amazon and eBay provide little more than a cold, antiseptic database of products.

Nowadays, no person is an island, even online. We’re still naturally wired to crave a personal, human touch, even if it’s secretly an AI chatbot. Ironic that.

2. Asking Questions in Real Time Reduces Buying Risk

It’s a situation we’re probably all familiar with – finding a product online that seems nearly right, but the product description or photography omits an essential piece of information that will make or break the sale.

I get it – when you’re putting together item descriptions or website copy, you can’t physically anticipate all of the specific needs that buyers will have. There’ll always be a question that you didn’t think to answer. But without that information, the buyer may look elsewhere.

Thankfully, with conversational commerce, your prospects will be able to ask their weird and wonderful questions, and potentially get a response, while their buying intent is still high.

3. Chatbots Can Keep Your Customers Engaged 24/7

Conversational commerce is all about striking up conversation when the iron is hot – being there to answer questions at the right time for the customer, whenever that may be. It could be any time of the day or night, especially if you sell globally. This is where AI chatbots can really be worth the investment.

And your investment doesn’t have to be particularly high. On-site chatbots or those that hook into third-party messaging apps are available for a surprisingly minimal outlay. In fact, if you have a Yell listing, your business can dip its toes into conversational commerce with the help of our free Messaging bot, Hartley! But more about that later…

Chatbots and human operatives can work hand in hand. The chatbot can instigate conversation and field general questions, referring the prospect to a human operative if or when a more nuanced approach is needed (much like our Hartley does!).

4. Conversational Commerce Marries Personalisation and Convenience

Nowadays, consumers respond much better to personalised marketing messages. In fact, 91% of consumers say they’re more likely to shop with brands that provide personally relevant offers and recommendations (Source: Accenture).

And with the convenience of the modern internet, we’re conditioned to expect an immediate response wherever we go online. If we have questions, we want answers now – not later. Buying intent can disappear instantly in our distractible world, so letting an enquiry lapse can easily lose you a sale.

Thankfully, always-on chatbots tick both of those boxes. Automated message functions are much more in line with the fast-paced response we expect nowadays and a well set up chatbot can automatically personalise a customer’s experience to the nth degree. Conversational commerce is nestled comfortably between the need for a personal service and the need for technological convenience.

5. Website Chat Functions Can Reduce Bounces and Nurture Sales

As per our example above, conversational commerce can quickly move buyers further down the sales funnel. When a chat session is instigated at just the right time, providing just the right support, it can keep the buyer focused on your brand for longer. Hopefully long enough for the customer to make a purchase!

Without help, people may browse around aimlessly and leave. But with help, they may discover a hidden gem in your catalogue or unearth a lesser known service that you provide – one that may be perfect for their needs.

All in all, companies are using AI live chat functions to serve a very human need that their customer base has – the need to be heard throughout the buying process in a way that is both meaningful and convenient.

Wondering How to Implement Conversational Commerce in Your Business?

Discussing the ins and outs of conversational commerce is all well and good – but if you’re like me, you know it’s the practicalities that really matter.

Join us for a forthcoming blog post where we discuss a few ways that you can successfully implement conversational commerce with little to no budget. Watch this space!

Do you know what conversational commerce is, and is your business making the most of it? Read more to find out how to harness the future of online selling Click To Tweet

Image of Yell's Messaging chatbot, HartleyYou can experience the power of AI-driven conversational selling for yourself now. Yell customers can enable our new Messaging bot, Hartley, on their Yell.com listing – completely free! So when a potential customer finds your details on Yell.com, Apple Maps or Spotlight Search on iPhone or iPad, they can send your business a message which Hartley will respond to asking some initial questions and providing answers before passing the customer through to you directly via the Yell for Business app so you can continue the conversation and secure their custom. Not only will Hartley save you having to answer frequently asked questions, but potential customers will get an immediate response when their buying intent is at its highest.

Download the Yell for Business app from the App Store or Google Play today to get started!

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