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Growing Conversational Commerce's Impact

Higgins shares four actionable ideas that can help scale up conversational commerce in 2022

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To set the context, let's jump straight to the vision for conversational commerce: You need to buy a shirt for a party. A disco theme party! You open up your favourite messaging app and drop a text message to your regular clothing store, "I need a disco shirt for a party." 

The store replies, "Groovy," and quickly shares two photos – a floral shirt with a wide collar and plunging neckline or a silver sequined mirror ball looking shirt.

You instantly know the floral shirt is perfect, but the waist looks a little tight. Your gym routine has been…. lacking. Again. "How's the fit?" you ask. 

"Yeah," the store replies, "you'll probably need a large size, but hey, it's fun to stay at the YMCA.”

"Ok, send me a large one," you say, "How much?" "Full price Rs 2,000, but on sale for Rs 500." "Put it on my card." "Peace out, sunshine."

That's conversational commerce: the real, natural experience of chatting with a human in a shop but over a messaging app or chatbot. Powered by AI, the system can provide personalised shopping experiences at scale. Like a shop assistant for every customer, the more you shop, the better it gets to know you, providing more personalised suggestions and conversation.

That's the vision.

Are we anywhere near this vision? Hell no

We don't have self-driving cars either, but many people are working to make that happen. Same with conversational commerce. The future of ecommerce will make today's websites and apps look like dinosaurs.

It's not going to happen overnight; it will happen incrementally. Chatbots will keep getting better and better. Personalisation engines will keep getting better and better. Integrations on multiple messaging channels will keep getting better and better. You get the idea.

How do you take steps in the right direction?

Monitor all your channels

Today, many consumers prefer text chat over calling a store (and getting stuck in an IVR system), and they try to select the channel they think will have the fastest response. You might be watching the email inbox, but the consumer feels that Facebook messenger is quicker and is frustrated that it takes days to answer. Either monitor all channels or set up clear instructions or autoresponders that guide the user to the best medium for fast responses.

Start experimenting with a blend of chatbots and human chat operators

Your last few website chatbot experiences have probably been useless. Either the 'chatbot' was just an interactive form, or the AI couldn't understand anything you were asking. But not everything needs human intervention. Success comes from identifying standard queries that a bot can solve versus high-intent queries that benefit from a human. For example, questions generated on the product page are usually higher-intent than questions on the home page. Your careers page probably doesn't need a human to chat if it collects applications.

Measure sales attribution for chat

Many companies still view live chat as a support function and treat it as a cost to be minimised. Conversation commerce needs to be treated and tracked as a marketing and sales initiative. What is the conversion rate of visitors who interact with bot chat versus human chat versus no chat? How does this differ between product types, order sizes, geolocation, device type? Time to repeat the order? Customer LTV?

Your conversational commerce initiative needs to be part of your attribution models. It might turn out to be a high-ROI component of your marketing mix.

Invest in personalisation tools

As today’s customers want a personal connection with the brand of their choice, it has become essential for these brands to communicate with them. They no longer agree to take average offerings and consider customer service as a part of the product they purchase. For example, your local shopkeeper might know your regular purchases, but working at scale requires more data-driven help. Personalisation tools (which help predict the SKUs that a particular buyer will be more likely to engage with) can significantly uplift online sales. At Netcore Cloud, we see this all the time. The same data can help an AI or human chat operator identify the best recommendations.

Conversational commerce generates many benefits for brands and customers alike. Not only is conversational commerce simpler for customers but it also helps in enhancing the shopping experience by bringing them a step closer to the attention that they might receive from a sales associate in the store who knows exactly what they are looking for. This becomes handy especially while ordering from a website where one has to read the reviews in order to get a sense of whether the product is a right fit. By adding a conversational approach, the customer will have the same experience in every channel as one would get in-store. Reducing the number of steps that a customer needs to obtain information, shortens the distance between prospect and purchase. Remember, it will be a journey that keeps changing over the next five years or so. Keep experimenting and learning what works for your brand!

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house. Unless otherwise noted, the author is writing in his/her personal capacity. They are not intended and should not be thought to represent official ideas, attitudes, or policies of any agency or institution.

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Netcore Cloud

Chris Higgins

Higgins is Senior Vice-President – Marketing, Netcore Cloud

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