Why​ ​Conversational​ ​Commerce​ ​Matters


June 30, 2016

We’ve all been in this scenario: the online shopping cart is full, the credit card is out and in sight, everything is ripe for a checkout. And yet…something feels off. “Will that green dress really look good on me or will it look as if I’m wearing a lettuce leaf?” “I wonder what the fabric feels like.” Doubts. There is nothing more dreaded to a retailer than the delicate dance of second guessing a purchase. We’re all guilty of having second thoughts, doubts, or even feelings of pre purchase regret creep in when checking out. It shouldn’t be so complicated and yet buying anything often feels like a big decision, especially in an economy where expendable cash is hard to come by.

As a whole, consumers are becoming much more discerning when making a purchase. Friends need to be consulted and confided in. Experts need to be touched upon for straight facts. Prior buyers and reviews need to be checked out tirelessly to ensure satisfaction and quality. Even if a consumer pulls the trigger and hits the often elusive checkout button, they still need answers to logistical questions and delivery times. The sense of “need to know” and “what do you think” and “should I” is stronger than ever. What’s a retailer to do? Look for the common thread.

What binds all of these potential scenarios together is the need for chat, conversation, and total security. Conversation and security cannot exist without the other. Lose one and the whole team falls apart. In commerce, if conversation and buyer security are not handled well at any stage of the purchase cycle, the retailer risks a preventable loss of sale. The best way a retailer can engage and handle customer queries is to enable highly responsive chat options. Chat options not only increase sales and the rate of conversion, but it forces retailers to forge a bond with their consumers through conversational tone. A buyer who has engaged in a satisfactory chat with a brand will likely return to that brands site in the future and make far more frequent purchases (with peace of mind) than on sites that don’t offer chat. Chat seems a simple fix, but most retailers have yet to take the plunge, especially in the US and the UK.

Chat requires a complete rethink of the consumer shopping experience. Chat based commerce has long held a place in the online retail game in China where chat features such as Flipkart, Ping, Quikr Next, Shopo, and Helpchat have been thriving and raising conversion rates for several big Chinese brands. Where China has embraced the need for chat, many traditional shopping sites are finding it slightly more difficult to take the plunge.

Traditional sites tend be nothing more than glorified product catalogs, wrought with specs, and a buy button. Companies assume that by pre-providing information on fit, fabric, that a buyer is more than capable of making a buying decision without any help. However, buyers are not robots privy to an algorithm. They are flesh and blood human beings with emotional and social impulses that can often play a far bigger role in a purchasing decision than the actual specifications of a product. Sure, those things are nice to know and very helpful, but they don’t play into trust, comfort, and vanity. All things that aid in a true sales conversion.

Chat addresses these needs effortlessly by catering to the human factors that go into making a purchase decision. There are five categories in which chat can be used to enhance customer retention and brand loyalty:

• Seller/trainer chat: Sellers chat with trainers to improve sales
• Buyer-friend chat: Buyer chats with their friends about a particular production
• Buyer-buyer chat: Buyer chats with other buyers of the same product for insight
• Buyer-expert chat: Buyer chats with a product expert and has all questions answered
• Buyer-seller chat: Buyer negotiates with the seller

Implementing chat for e-commerce, should be simple, but unfortunately isn’t. Unstructured plain-text messages can prove expensive and non-scalable, offering few options other than for an e-commerce site to hire a large team of agents to manage chat conversations. This can aschew the bottom line quite a bit. This form of chat is also privy to using Artificial Intelligence based on language processing, however as many of us found out in the early 2000s with text bots, AI only works in very limited contexts. More often than not, NLP cannot handle diverse languages, slang, poor grammar, and misspellings.

The best option according to most experts, and as seen in China, is structured messages. Unlike plain-text messages, structured texts can render interactive elements within the message and can easily be programmed to automatically handle a user response. When a consumer contacts the support team, a series of structure prompts can automatically be sent to guide the user and solve the problem. Structured messages can make chat less ambiguous and more approachable. It allows for automated flow, which is both scalable and cost effective.

A messaging platform currently using structured chat is Teamchat. It’s smart messages have structured fields and a bevy of handlers that can be customized and relegated to suit any situation. The framework of the platform allows for easy response automation and advanced workflow. Teamchat also enables e-commerce sites to seamlessly (and inexpensively) integrate smart messages and chat into their website or mobile application. These smart messages are so effective that they can also be sent via sms or email for users who don’t use an e-commerce sites app.

Without question, chat is the next big thing that will radically transform the way we shop. E-commerce will not only offer a more traditional in-store experience by offering expert advice and allowing individuals to rely on the opinions of their friends/fellow buyers, but it will deliver higher conversion rates and customer satisfaction. Where will chat take e-commerce? Anywhere the online retail business wants to go. With technology, the sky is the limit.

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