Conversational Commerce: How is it changing the Customer Experience?

Since we can remember, the phrase “customer care service” has struck terror in the hearts of people. Most of us would jump at the opportunity of dissing the unprofessional outlook of customer care executives who neither have an idea of what is going on, nor do they know how to solve your problem. So they transfer you to another executive in another department, to whom you must explain the problem again. And so the chain continues in a vicious circle of getting an executive assigned, explaining the problem to them, the executive not able to understand the problem, who further delegates it to another person, without a resolution in sight. Yeah, we have all been there and we all know how bitter that makes the customer experience or CX.

That, of course, was not the only issue plaguing the customer. While such issues have been prevalent forever, a new shortcoming was detected in e-commerce in its traditional form. Even though e-commerce is the big deal now, it is not as engaging as brands often want it to be. Navigating page after page for the right product will often exasperate the busy consumer and make them decide there really is no better alternative to going to a physical store and getting the staff there to help you out. When brands realized how much these flaws in the shopping experience were deterring customers from making a purchase they were in doubt about, or returning an item straight up instead of exchanging it, they knew they had to better the customer experience.

Enter conversational commerce, the next generation of shopping experience that combines the assistive support of physical shopping and the anywhere-anytime convenience of e-commerce.

Overview Of Conversational Commerce

If you have ever used a chatbot to make a purchase on a brand website or asked Alexa to order something for you, your tryst with conversational commerce has already started. Conversational commerce or, as any long term in the digital world gets snipped, c-commerce is not exactly new but not that old either. It has been around for some time now, with the concept being christened in 2015 by Chris Messina of Uber in 2015. Since then, the idea has been catching on. You can pretty much infer from the name itself what c-commerce implies. It is the conversational guidance provided by brands through messaging, calls or voice assistants that takes you through the entire process from advertisement, engagement, purchase, follow-up, and retention.

What works for this kind of shopping experience is that it combines the good parts of both conventional physical shopping in stores and online shopping on e-commerce platforms and brand websites, thus eliminating the downsides of each. With physical stores, you have to take time out of your schedule and get there. If your only free time is when the store is closed, it means you have to cut time out of your working hours, which is usually done begrudgingly. Plus, there is a transport cost and the hidden cost that stores take from you for the location maintenance. But you get a store staff on demand to help you out and that is something every shopper needs.

Conversely, with online shopping, you get full flexibility to engage at your convenience and even take a break if you want. But, live assistance is usually not present in online stores, which means you have to depend on intense searching skills and patience or mad luck to pinpoint the product you want, especially if it is not a vanilla item. Add to that the fact that you may not find every detail you need on the site and calling the seller is a hassle due to various reasons, the abandonment rate in online shopping is almost as high as its engagement rate, especially for shoppers inexperienced in e-commerce.

With c-commerce, however, you get your personal assistant on the online platform. This can be through messaging, which in itself is a highly branched avenue, live chat, live call, virtual assistants, chatbots, voice bots, virtual concierges and so on. Through these channels, brands engage with and provide ongoing support virtually to know what you want and locate it for you. These can even gather information regarding your choices, preferences, and interests and use that to help make future promotions and purchases more targeted and tailored to suit your needs.

The Shift From E-commerce To C-commerce

Well, it is not exactly a shift but more of a co-existence. C-commerce can be considered new-age e-commerce, an amalgamation of physical and online shopping that represents something of a predecessor of future virtual reality shopping technology. There is a two-way advantage in c-commerce. The to-be customer has the option of contacting the business in real-time to enquire about a product. Similarly, the business can use the communication channel to construct a personalized campaign for the customer. Both these have been shown to exponentially increase the chances of a purchase being made.

Real World Conversational Commerce Scenarios

The inception of c-commerce was a natural consequence of the social media marketing boom. When you encounter an advertising campaign on social media, there is usually a call-to-action or CTA button that takes you to a landing page with the relevant products or services ready for purchase. But toggling between screens is not a seamless experience. What consumers would prefer is an in-line experience. This can be achieved through the in-app messaging interface, like Messenger on Facebook, DM on Instagram and Twitter or even Hangouts in Google. You can even use dedicated instant messaging apps like Kik or Slack, go the custom eCommerce development route with their own messaging service or integrate your checkout system to other apps, like Domino’s did with AnyWare.

Chatbots can also be placed within your website or app like Starbucks has done. If you have ever made a call where you were given options to press a number on your keypad to choose an option, you have also used a phone bot. Google’s Duplex is the latest, or at least the most exciting, in the newest crop of phone bots for e-commerce development solutions. Along the same line stand voice bots – Alexa, Siri, Assistant, Cortana – you get the drift. However, AI is not yet advanced enough to power entire conversations beyond the limited order, information request and query launch actions. Until that day comes, using AI along with live support is the best service plan for c-commerce.

How Conversational Commerce Enhances Every Aspect Of Your Customer Experience

One of the biggest revolutions that c-commerce is bringing in terms of customer satisfaction would have to be the replacement of multi-channel communication with omnichannel. Have you ever been frustrated about having to explain yourself from the top when you switched from one communication channel to the other? Omnichannel models erase that border between communication platforms, unifying the entire conversation. Earlier, businesses followed the model of autonomous comm channels but now, it is all about the autonomy of a conversation with one customer, irrespective of channel.

What c-commerce has also done is creating a platform based on open communication with the seller, something that goes a long way in building customer trust. It has also given brands a chance to further personalize the advertising and shopping experience through one-on-one mode. C-commerce automates the shopping experience even more than e-commerce. Shoppers need to just inform their needs and the AI or live support staff will do the rest for you.

Is C-commerce The Future?

Forecasts predict so. In fact, studies say 2 in every 5 shoppers start their online journey through c-commerce. Even lead conversion has some whopping numbers when businesses generate them through messaging. It is obvious that customers are enjoying the individualization and brands must evolve to provide the full experience they demand.

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