Digital transformation in commerce has existed for long, but it witnessed an accelerated growth during the pandemic.
As millions of people were confined to their homes, the footfall in brick and mortar stores ceased, and people turned to e-commerce. One noticeable change digitisation of businesses brought was the complete removal of the human element.
Brick and mortar stores provided customers with an option to physically interact with brand executives or sales persons who could help shoppers with ideas and choose the right product. It’s not uncommon to see sales representatives or customer service agents follow through with the customers’ purchase process and work to remove bottlenecks.
For now, the joy of walking out of a store with a shopping cart full of merchandise, multiple shopping bags, or duty-free shopping will have to wait.
Amid a prevailing ecosystem where shopping has become a private activity made by the user on their smartphone, conversational commerce (c-commerce) is gaining traction. Where consumers use a tool or voice interface with the brands.
Intelligent Voice Assistants are a good example of technology that’s used in c-commerce. Even text-based messaging platforms such as WhatsApp come under the ambit of c-commerce when used to communicate with the customer during the sale.
In 2015, the term conversational commerce was coined by Chris Messina, the man behind the idea of using hashtags on social media platforms. In his blog, Messina wrote about the multiple voice assistants provided by major digital players suggesting that conversational commerce is growing.
Fast forward to the present day, c-commerce has become a business imperative.
C-commerce uses a mix of martech and artificial intelligence (AI) like chatbots, personalised push notifications, robotic process automation (RPA) to help brands facilitate sales and engage customers by delivering a premium customer experience (CX).
Digitisation brought the store to customers’ smartphones, but without the helpful store manager or sales representatives, customers often spent time in a merchants’ online business platform and “bounced” soon after. Engaging the customer throughout the sales journey requires careful analysis of customer data. Marketers today try to be omnipresent for their customer, to ensure a smooth hassle-free transaction. To achieve that, adopting an omnichannel engagement and data collection model is the only way to establish and truly understand the connection between customer behaviour, thought, intent, and the brand. Knowing the difference between what customers want, vis-a-vis what they expect can result in a successful conversion.
Improving CX through the use of c-commerce has helped brands sustain traction in new customer segments. It has helped businesses support newly discovered purchasing behaviour, and leveraged customer habits to increase sales. The focus must be on the fact that relevant messaging and communication is key to successful c-commerce.
Give space, but don’t lose sight of your customer.
There is a subtle difference between being aloof and giving space. While the former can be seen in cases where merchants have tried pacifying customers with a one-size-fits-all solution that have resulted in significant churn, the latter approach of giving space, yet being available at the customers’ beck and call, requires an AI-powered e-commerce engine When customers have questions, answering them proactively impacts businesses and an AI-powered c- commerce is the future for online commerce.
Multiple lockdowns have dampened the spirit of shopping in brick and mortar stores, at least in the near future. In this scenario, brands started looking for solutions to stay relevant in the business. With an omnichannel engagement strategy brands started deploying digital strategies that accommodate and keep store sales relevant. We know c- commerce, with the use of AI and machine learning (ML), can help online marketers. Let’s see how it can help retailers.
Conversational commerce helps marketers bypass a lot of challenges and go straight to customers. Using c-commerce tools, brands today can create a phygital experience by offering discounts for in-shop purchases, loyalty points, and more to drive business growth.
Brands today personalise their messages to customers, connect with them on social media, participate in their social activities, become their trusted partner and simplify while exemplifying the shopping experience.
The best space for this integration of customer experience and sales is social media. Social commerce as we know is poised to take over the traditional e-commerce space. But did you know that social commerce is a part of conversational commerce?
With the right tools, social commerce providers are equipped to host and manage the entire shopping experience for customers on their platforms. Customers, too, are happy with the integration of social media, product discovery, payments and shopping all coming together in one platform.
Also Read: The Two Hosts of eCommerce
Customer service and experience management platforms create solutions for brands by analysing the various customer engagement channels and the volume of communications handled by each platform. Creating solutions unique to the social media platforms, customising them as per individual preferences — based on AI algorithms — and integrating the complete customer knowledge network in a centralised system that is continuously updated with the latest customer data helps brands to realise the full potential of conversational commerce. Customers talking to robots and chatting with bots is just one of the aspects of c-commerce. What is interesting about c- commerce is the fact that customers today can transact on their social media platform or e-commerce platform, browse product catalogues, chat or text with a live customer service representative, get help during the payment process, and complete the entire shopping experience without moving out of the window they are in. Now, that is a personalised shopping experience, which is both personal, safeguards customer privacy and yet gives the merchant a bird’s eye view of the complete sales process.
Whether you want to indulge in retail therapy at 2 am, or would like to order your favourite takeout at 2 pm, c-commerce allows brands to be there for you.
The pandemic is reshaping buying behaviour in a big way and is likely to be more personalised. To understand that, marketers have to understand customer signals and then choose the most appropriate platform to connect with their customers. The industry is poised to grow at a steady rate and is likely to be the mainstay of retail. Needless to say, conversational commerce is the next business imperative. Marketers, it’s time you heed this conversation.