Viewpoint: The growing trend of conversational commerce
"The only thing that is constant is change," mused the Greek philosopher, Heraclitus, of the late sixth century BC.
What would he say today, in 2018, as world, business and social views continuously change, owing to new discoveries and innovation from the likes of social media and renewable energy, to automation and artificial intelligence (AI), to much more?
With this in mind, it should come as no surprise that both contact centre and marketing employees need to be prepared to do a well-recited dance of metamorphoses and about-flips as part of their routine day jobs.
One such trend that is gaining vast traction is conversational commerce, brought to you by none other than what is now permanent part and parcel of our lives: the virtual assistant.
"Conversational commerce is a paradigm shift in marketing. It nimbly moves us from selling to helping, from transacting to building a relationship, and from an often-annoying monologue to constructive dialogue," states dataconomy.com author Igor Mikhalev.
"Humans prefer expressing what they feel and desire in their natural language, so conversational commerce technology allows brands to converse with customers in their platform of choice, and therefore takes channel expressiveness, relevancy and personalisation to the next level."
In short, this means it's not about a hard sell, the limited offer, or the latest great deal. It's about a conversation with a client, virtually but in real-time, to assist with the most relevant answer that meets your customer's needs. It's kind of like bringing the face-to-face familiarity of the little shop on the corner onto a digital platform, such as Facebook Messenger, Twitter or WhatsApp. It's also about integrating digital channels so that, once a solution to your customer's needs has been met, it can be brought to fruition.
For example, say you are booking a holiday and would like to explore possibilities. You would type your request in everyday language and receive the best options for you. This then integrates with a ride app to book your transport or a travel activity app to book your tickets. Consider that last minute birthday party gift your child forgot to tell you about. Just explain your dilemma to your messenger app (as you would frantically across the dinner table), and voila, a solution: relevant, personalised, immediate.
Excitingly, as AI improves, conversational commerce extends to voice too.
As with most trends in the digital age, conversational commerce has gone from hype to reality in a very short space of time, meaning that if companies are not on board yet, they should be sorting out their strategies in this regard. This one has staying power, and big brands are already investing heavily in it.