Each month, consumers exchange more than 2 million messages with businesses via Facebook Messenger. And that’s just through Messenger; it doesn’t include all the interactions through other chat apps or the chat boxes that now regularly adorn web sites and ecommerce stores.
If you aren’t already familiar with conversational commerce, now is the time to learn.
What is Conversational Commerce?
The term, “conversational commerce,” is nothing more than interacting with buyers via live chat software.
First used by ex-Google employee Chris Messina in 2015, it refers to facilitating online sales in a more convenient, conversational manner over real-time communications. Live chat software on web sites counts. Chatbots count. Live video counts. Social media chat such as WhatsApp and Messenger count. Any real-time communications that facilitates a purchase.
“Conversational commerce is about delivering convenience, personalization, and decision support while people are on the go, with only partial attention to spare,” noted Messina when he coined the phrase.
Why You Need It
You need conversational commerce because conversion rates on websites suck without it.
Really. Start Insights found that conversion rates are less than 3 percent. So even after you get potential buyers to your website through the brutal combat that is modern online marketing, your business still misses the sale most of the time.
Conversational commerce helps improve those numbers because it helps businesses address the buying concerns of an online shopper in the moment of the buying decision. When a potential buyer is weighing the pros and cons of a purchase, and debating various details and whether they will be part of that three percent that buys, in steps a customer service representative or sales staff to answer questions and assist with the decision.
Having real-time support during the purchasing phase of a buyer journey makes a world of difference.
But conversational commerce is about more than just assisting customers with questions or concerns.
Buying Habits are Changing
The way that people shop has changed dramatically since the days of brick and mortar shops. Customers now do far more research on their own before a purchase, and they both shop and research via mobile phone. This changes the buying equation, and it is a big part of why businesses need to embrace transactional commerce.
Let’s start with the research component.
Before the average customer makes a purchase, they surf around and learn about the various product options. This includes visiting comparison sites, looking at customer comments, and scrutinizing the web sites of the brands that make the products they are considering.
In the past, potential buyers would go into a store and just pick the best product. Early on in the evolution of ecommerce, buyers would inspect products in stores and then order online. But now everything is online. And the problem with this situation is that businesses aren’t talking with customers during this buying journey. The customer looks, compares, decides…and there is little opportunity for encouraging a sale through feature highlighting or handling objections and concerns.
Conversational commerce helps reintroduce sales and customer service in this new buying journey. When a live chat button is prominently featured at the bottom of a web site, shoppers know they can quickly interact with a brand and ask questions as needed.
Mobile Shopping Demands Chat
There’s also the issue of mobile ecommerce.
Since so many buyers now use their smartphones for shopping, the constraints of the device are starting to be felt by ecommerce shops.
Despite buyers using smartPHONES to shop, calling a business during mobile shopping doesn’t work well. Nobody does it. They just don’t; it disrupts the flow of online shopping and research. So sales and customer service phone numbers are functionally dead as a way to help buyers in most cases (they only return as a support method after the sale).
This is another important reason why conversational commerce has emerged, and why businesses must embrace it. With phone support gone and email too slow, chat has become the preeminent way for mobile shoppers to interact with a brand during the buying decision.
The Future is Conversation
This trend of conversational commerce is good for business. It lowers the bar for interaction with customers, and it opens the door for deeper interaction and conversation with customers.
Conversational commerce also reduces sales and support costs, because staff can often service more than one potential buyer at the same time—as anyone who has chatted on Facebook Messenger will understand intuitively. Businesses can provide sales support 24 hours a day through conversational commerce when it would have been prohibitively expensive to physically staff stores or keep call center staff on hand around the clock in the previous era.
So the trend of conversations via chat during the buying process both increases engagement and reduces costs at the same time.
That’s a pretty neat trick.