Conversational commerce explained

Way back in 2015, Chris Messina coined the term ‘conversational commerce’ in a short (but set to become hugely influential) article. The term was a quippy notation of a drift he had spotted towards chat-led digital purchasing.

Now, conversational commerce is an everyday part of business lexicon. And, beyond a trend, it has become an established online shopping format. But it’s still little-understood.

So, we delve into the growing ecommerce trend. Here’s conversational commerce explained.


What is conversational commerce?

Modern messaging and chat options have changed the way we communicate. Not just with friends and family, but with businesses too. Enter conversational commerce.

Conversational commerce is where messaging conversations blend with consumer-business interactions. It’s about carrying out the customer journey through tech-enabled conversation.

This means using apps, live chat channels and other messaging tools to interact with your customers. In it, consumers interact with both human representatives and automated technology. And, importantly, conversational commerce applies not only to providing customer service but to every part of the customer journey.

As the name suggests, a conversational experience means customer interactions happen within the context of a conversation. (As opposed to, say, via static forms, or more detached contactless purchasing.)

So, customers would find products, ask questions, get recommendations and complete transactions – all within or alongside a chat interface. 


What prompted the rise of conversational commerce?

The age of the customer brought with it the drive to go where your customers are and be where they want you to be. Conversational commerce is the next step in this trend. It comes from the rise in two key areas: messaging and technology.

First, there’s the continued rise of messaging and chat. Now more than ever, we’re choosing to communicate through chat and messaging. The telephone is in decline, emails are too formal. The instant gratification and convenience of chat has seen it take over websites around the world. Today, websites that haven’t adopted chat feel outdated and inaccessible.

Alongside this change in our communication habits is the rise of supporting technology. In particular, the mixture of real-time contact and automated conversation abilities. For example, think messaging apps, voice recognition, live chat and chatbots.

Before these tools, there was only a limited ability to conduct conversational commerce. Most options weren’t scalable. But, with these tools, it’s now possible to offer conversational commerce on a widespread level.


Chatbots and conversation

A conversational experience is, simply put, your customer journey transposed into a chat interface. So, a good way to get started is to picture a typical customer journey. Then, think about the ways that a conversation could improve the experience of each step.

Automated technology, particularly chatbots, are the key to modern conversational commerce. Your chatbot should be able to handle a wide range of tasks. So, whatever stage of the customer journey your consumer is in, it can help them. For example, it could:

  • • Ask questions and help customers find the products they’re looking for
  • • Answer simple FAQ about the products
  • • Give personalised recommendations based on their interests
  • • Let customers place orders and complete transactions through conversation
  • • Keep customers up to date with their order progress
  • • Ask for feedback or reviews
  • • Proactively alert customers to offers, deals and promotions that apply to their interests

And so on.

But, it’s not enough to just deploy a chatbot. Chatbots alone can’t handle every element of a great conversational experience. They need someone to write their rules and messages, tweak their tone, and keep them up to date. And they need support when they get stuck, too. So, you need to back up your chatbots with a human support team, ready to help via real-time chat too.


Why is it so popular?

Conversational commerce humanises your brand. Chatting feels human, and so it can help your customer feel a stronger relationship with your brand. Plus, you interact within a private channel primed for personalised experiences. This can further the sense of a human connection.

Crucially, conversational commerce removes the associated hurdles of other forms of commerce.

Think of it this way: finding an item is as simple as asking for what you want. Completing a transaction or repeat order is as painless as writing a few sentences. Leaving a review is as easy as replying to a message. And talking to customer service is no more convoluted than messaging a friend.


The future of commerce

Conversational commerce offers a boost to both convenience and accessibility for your customer. It appeals to people in a rush and puts you exactly where your customers are.

So, are you ready to join the future of commerce? To find out how we can help, get in touch today.


Useful links

From chat rooms to chat software to chatbots: the rise of instant messaging

Chatbots: what are they good for?

The falsity of the chatbot vs live chat debate