Conversational commerce, a term first coined in 2015 by Uber’s then lead developer Chris Messina, is the concept of retailers and businesses providing customer service assistance via either messaging and chat apps or through voice-based technology.

How it all began

The idea of conversational commerce first came into existence when online consumption became native to mobile phones. This gave rise to a generation comfortable with mobile messaging apps as a mode of professional interaction.
In 2015, Messina had said that she will be talking to brands and companies over Slack, WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, Telegram, and elsewhere before year’s end, and will find it normal.
Timely inflection points are also to be credited for the onslaught of conversational commerce as it enabled 90% accuracy in artificial intelligence understanding user requests without human intervention.
According to Gartner’s research director Stephanie Baghdassarian, “Bots can go as far as enabling transactions, ensuring delivery, handling payments and providing customer service.”

How it works

Businesses today use messaging apps like WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, and WeChat to interact with their customers. This can entail answering simple questions, helping them pick customized products or even solving a ticketed complain.
Depending on the type of interaction, businesses can either hire people to chat with their clients or use chatbots that can be programmed to provide automated and standard responses.
This means that customers could get product information, confirmation, and tracking and shipping details all inside third-party messaging apps. This also means that companies are actually garnering sales and receiving payments through API gateways without even letting the customer visit the brand’s website.

Why it works

The benefits of such social commerce are multifold. First, it is a convenient and seamless mode of communication. It makes easier for both the parties to raise and solve queries or schedule appointments.
Second, it gives an illusion of 24*7 availability to the customer. If it is not a real-time interaction, a potential client can still simply type out what they want to convey and receive a reply after some time.

Is conversational commerce really the future?

To put the scale of it all into perspective, research firm e-marketer reported that 1.4 billion consumers used messaging apps in 2015, which is was a 31.6% increase from the previous year.
Further, according to data by Business Insider, the user base of the top four chat apps combined, had become greater than the user base of the top four social networks combined in 2016.

Success stories

Facebook Messenger, the spear header for permanent in-app business collaborations, started allowing travellers to book an Uber cab from inside the app in 2015. Following suit, Amazon Echo partnered with Capital One in 2016 to enable users to run their bank-related errands like making payments through voice commands.
In fact, this is why WhatsApp removed its nominal annual fee of $1 in early 2016 because it started making money through conversational commerce.
In the latest addition, Starbucks has partially launched a feature, called My Starbucks Barista, on its mobile app that lets users place orders with a chatbot or through a voice command.

Messaging apps have become a convenient and clutter-less one-stop-shop for users. They have no reason to not avail these machine learning technologies that can easily provide customer service, sales support, and other commerce-related functions along with the promise of privacy protection.

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