6 facets of conversational commerce

In the vein of Talking Heads, you may ask yourself: "what is conversational commerce?!" It is both something old and something new. Old, because old-school human to human sales pitches are ideally conversations.

A bad salesman is someone who never listens, never exchanges thoughts and ideas with their (prospective) customer. A good sales rep knows how to converse to convert. It is an art as old as time itself.

1 – E-commerce gets conversational

But what is most often meant today when people mention 'conversational commerce', they mean e-commerce. This is made possible because of the ubiquity of messaging apps, digital payment systems and – first and foremost – voice-activated assistants like Apple's Siri, Microsoft's Cortana or Amazon's Alexa.

This technology is expected to mature further in the coming years and actually starting to become AI-capable. What they do right now is not true AI yet (although they are branded as such). Despite the – sometimes hilarious – errors produced by these systems, the future looks bright.

2 – The rise of the chatbot

However, chatbots may mature earlier and faster than voice-activated assistants because masses of textual data are somewhat easier to learn and interpret for a program than voice. There are many platforms that offer chatbot tech to companies, ranging from Chatfuel, ManyChat to Intercom. In this space, you will also find chat channel aggregators like CleverChat (disclaimer: the team behind Sayl Retail also built CleverChat).

A chatbot linked to an e-commerce platform can narrow down what people are looking for, without them having through browse through an entire webshop. This part of what's known as 'contextual sales' and is especially relevant to mobile shopping, where speed and ease of use are even more of the essence than on desktop.

3 – One step beyond

But what if you created a chatbot, or you've put a chatbox on your website (e.g. with Intercom technology) and you want to monetize your chats. With the Sayl Retail plaform, you can precisely do that.

Whether you created a fancy chatbot, or if you implemented a cool chat scenario on your own website, you can smartly link that to such a Sayl Retail pop-up shop, and make it contextual relevant depending on the input in the chat.

4 – The all-in-one proposition

Despite being only a few years old, the Chinese platform WeChat counts 700 million users, and the app is used for countless other services other than chatting. This includes many e-commerce applications such as retail shopping, food ordering or hailing a cab.

ChatbotsMagazine writes: "it is becoming increasingly popular for small businesses to only have a WeChat account, forgoing developing their own website or mobile app completely. US technology firms, in particular Facebook, are taking note."

5 – It's the interface, stupid

Robert Locascio, CEO of LivePerson, notes: "There is something ingrained into our psychology that inspires confidence to spend money when our questions are answered. That's why there's so much buzz around bots and artificial intelligence (AI) right now. They tap into an inner understanding about how things get done — through conversations — and they hold the possibility of these personalized conversations happening at large scale."

If the interfaces keep improving and if questions on security and privacy can be robustly answered, the future of conversational commerce looks good indeed. New features will include ever-more personalization so that the chatbot is aligned with the brand, as well as true AI capabilities as noted in the beginning of the article.

6 – Conversational commerce as a complement

All of this is not to say the average salesperson should fear for their job. In fact, what we'll probably see is that the e-commerce chatbots and shopping assistants will act in complement with traditional salesforces because their behavior is opposite (even if their goal is the same).

A salesperson is proactively looking for leads and hunting for opportunities. They are equipped with pitches, stories and have a sales funnel. They make appointments (discounting door-to-door salesmen, which is a dying profession anyway).

A conversational chatbot or shop assistant waits for a customer to approach them and departs from the customer's own questions to guide them through the customer journey. Moreover, the bot is available 24/7. Perhaps it won't be salespeople who will have to reorient their career, but shop clerks.

We'd like to hear from you

Have you got anything to add or do you have a question about conversational commerce? Or perhaps you don't agree with our take – we'd love to hear from you! You can shoot us an e-mail or reach out to us on Facebook or LinkedIn… or you could try out one of our chatbots and see for yourself.

Apart from CleverChat, our parent company has also built AskEmma, a chatbot that helps guests and patrons in hotels and restaurants with ordering and room service.

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