What is Conversational Commerce?

Conversational commerce is the practice of using social interaction to sell products or services. Chatbots and voice assistants have long been offering customer service help and now they’re branching out into sales, too.

A number of top brands and retailers are beginning to use conversational commerce to add a more personable touch to their online sales strategies and consumers are reacting to the experience positively. Here’s what you need to know about this tech, from how it works to the benefits it could hold for your company.

Conversational Commerce: What’s it all about?

The term “conversational commerce” was coined in 2015 in a Medium post written by Chris Messina. Messina is perhaps best known as the inventor of the hashtag.

Messina first mentioned the phrase when describing a new ecommerce experience, which centered around messaging and voice technology. Using existing technology, conversational commerce would seek to connect brands and retailers with consumers through chatbots and similar apps, helping to drive sales by providing a friendlier, more tailored experience. 

Discussing the trend and how it might shape ecommerce, Messina explained:

“Over an increasing period of time, computer-driven bots will become more human-feeling, to the point where the user can’t detect the difference, and will interact with either human agent or computer bot in roughly the same interaction paradigm.”

The Growth of Conversational Commerce Tech

Conversational commerce technology has gone from strength to strength in recent years and now provides a seamless, efficient service that consumers are taking full advantage of. With an increasing number of brands and retailers adopting the tech, consumers are beginning to make use of it in greater numbers than ever before.

The world’s most popular messaging apps regularly announce new developments designed to enhance the opportunities of this new form of communication, from introducing new payment methods to designing more realistic, human-like chatbots. Many cutting-edge chatbots can also be integrated into analytical software to provide more information on customer preferences, ready to be put to use in future communications and marketing campaigns. 

The use of messaging apps is becoming more common amongst consumers, and overall consumers are spending more time on them. Global Market Insights has predicted that the worldwide market size of chatbots will surpass $1.3 billion by 2024, with the technology soon becoming “a recognized driving force behind communication in ecommerce.” 

Research published by Facebook goes some way to explaining the rapid rise of this trend, explaining that “69% of US consumers who message businesses say that being able to message a business helps them feel more confident about the brand.” And this confidence is translating to sales with businesses enjoying huge upsurges in their profits as a result of using conversational technology.

The Power of Human-led Interactions in Commerce

The heart of conversational commerce is in human interaction. Improvements in technology-driven customer service such as chatbots have only come from a growing desire for more human-like interactions in online channels. In 2019, physical stores were still the site of 90% of retail transactions indicating that in spite of the speed and convenience provided by ecommerce technology, customers still benefit from an element of human interaction when shopping.

When buying online, customers are significantly less likely to complete a purchase than they are in physical stores, simply because they lack the presence of a store associate to provide advice, answer questions, and give them the confidence to buy.

Conversational commerce aims to fix this problem by offering the convenience of online channels along with the human-element of in-store interactions. HERO® brings human connection into ecommerce by forming a direct link between customers browsing online and associates working in stores. Through text, chat, and live video, customers can interact with stores in real-time, asking questions, viewing products and getting recommendations that will encourage them to follow through with transactions.

This is the future of conversational commerce and what makes it so powerful.

The Benefits of Conversational Commerce

Conversational commerce offers a broad range of benefits for businesses. Companies looking to capitalize on the technology can offer their customers a far superior experience to the one they had been providing without having to massively increase staffing levels or budgets. These are just a few of the key benefits that conversational commerce provides.

Personalized Recommendations

Conversational commerce is an opportunity to give customers a completely personalized experience. Text, chat, and live video give store associates the chance to reach out to customers one on one, allowing them to find out preferences, likes and dislikes and provide them with tailored recommendations that suit their exact needs. Stores can also refer back to past online interactions and use these to inform recommendations going forward.

Real-Time Support

Consumers now expect lightning quick support from customer support teams so it’s vital that brands are able to offer this. Conversational commerce technology enables companies to do just that by enabling associates to form an instant connection to online customers, answering simple questions and resolving problems. Should a customer have even the smallest question or issue an advisor is always on hand and available to help—no matter where the customer is.

Bring In-Store Personalization Online

A personalized experience is always more impressive than a standardized one and that’s what conversational commerce is all about. Solutions such as HERO® are bridging the divide between online and in-store, bringing the sought-after human element of brick-and-mortar retail into ecommerce. With real-time access to store associates, customers can be greeted, helped, and made to feel valued as they browse available products.

Speed and Convenience for Modern Consumers

Convenience is key to any online shopping experience, and with many brands going above and beyond to provide this it pays to be one step ahead. With conversational commerce, consumers are offered a quick and efficient service that leaves a lasting impression. Consumers can ask questions and get quick responses, and resolve any issues that might have stopped them from making a purchase. By clearing obstacles like these, retailers ensure that customers are happy and that nothing is standing in the way of them submitting their order.

Is Conversational Commerce the Future of Retail?

Ecommerce businesses are currently enjoying rapid growth, and with increasing numbers of consumers making the switch to online shopping this trend shows no signs of slowing down. However, if the longevity of the physical store has taught us anything it is that customers want human interaction when they shop. 

Conversational commerce seeks to bridge this gap, helping brands build real relationships with valued customers, while also providing a top-rate shopping experience. By offering real-time contact with in-store associates, brands can effectively bring together the power of brick-and-mortar retail with the convenience of online shopping, creating an altogether more powerful retail experience.

In addition, conversational commerce is helping boost physical sales and increase foot traffic in stores. With the technology in place, brands are finding online customers are using sessions with store associates to scope out product choices that they later go on to buy in physical stores. In this way, conversational technology presents a huge opportunity for brands and retailers to enhance the customer experience and maximize sales across channels. 

Watch this space—great things are coming from the world of conversational commerce.

About HERO®

HERO® is the #1 virtual shopping app for stores, powering Nike, Levi’s, Deciem, rag & bone, UNTUCKit, and more. Our technology makes it effortless to text, chat, and video call with customers—growing ecommerce sales while converting online visitors into offline customers.

Read next: What is a Virtual Store?