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How Conversational Commerce Will Shape the Future of Retail

We bet you’ve heard of this tricky Burger King commercial, triggering Google Home smart speakers all over the U.S. It was both notoriously funny and extremely timely—following the sizzling technology trend of ‘conversational commerce’.

The term was first coined by Uber’s Chris Messina in 2015, reflecting the ongoing tendency in e-commerce:

Conversational commerce is utilising chat, messaging, or other natural language interfaces (i.e. voice) to interact with people, brands, or services and bots that heretofore have had no real place in the bidirectional, asynchronous messaging context. The net result is that you and I will be talking to brands and companies over Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, Telegram, Slack and elsewhere before year’s end, and will find it normal.

Time has shown that he was completely spot-on with this prediction.

They Talk the Talk, They Walk the Walk

Not only can you order an Uber ride in the middle of a conversation on Facebook Messenger now, non-tech companies are also keeping up: Pizza Hut launched its interactive chatbot that would like a quick word with you and take your order on Facebook Messenger or Twitter; MasterCard announced partnerships with retailers, enabling chatbot purchasing from within the Messenger.

This seamless, conversational, experience definitely injects new blood into mobile commerce. Traditionally, customers had been extremely reluctant to buy from their smartphones. With the advent of chatbots, everything has been flipped on its head. By enabling people to place their orders and make payments easily within the flow of a conversation and contacting multiple retailers inside only one app, chatbots are making mobile a powerful channel in the omnichannel marketing.

Mobile commerce is estimated to be $700 billion this year. The messaging apps have left social networks in the dust ages ago—Seriously, what more proof do you need?

Speaking of Diversity

Conversational commerce is diverse and vivid, not limited just to the plain text simplicity of the abovementioned chatbots market. Converging with the Internet of Things, it forms the red-hot category of smart assistants. Those AI-powered speakers are expected to be present in 75 percent of U.S. households by the year 2020.

They’re already changing the way we do almost everything—starting from searching for a hotel or booking a flight to ordering groceries and planning our weekly meals.

Retail, obtaining huge amounts of data on which machine learning algorithms feed, may give birth to the next level, more complex and human-like AI. Luckily, ELEKS’ clients in retail own massive amounts of data they might want to decipher and make actionable.
Since natural language processing and AI are both rapidly evolving, the CX (conversational experience) will grow ever better over time, emulating the 24/7 brick-and-mortar shopping where a customer can get more help via a human shop assistant.

Merging chatbots with another much-hyped technology—augmented reality—shifts your customer experience up a notch! Beauty industry retailers are the first to benefit from this trend. Chatbots are already helping you to chose the beauty product you need, serving as shopping assistants inside your Messenger and styling your make-up right on your screen.  In this case, shopping with chatbots exceeds the convenience of brick-and-mortar shops, where goods are packaged and not available for try-on.

Your Turn to Speak Up

As for now, we see that conversational commerce brings many benefits to both parties. For the consumers, it means a significant reduction of cognitive load and the freedom from the necessity of mundane decision making. Without the need for endlessly Googling, browsing and haphazardly choosing the goods and services we need among the millions of propositions, we can have a more satisfactory experience, free from the disappointments of bad buys, and a lot more time spent on something really important.

For businesses, the rise of conversational commerce will bring more meaningful interactions with customers whose positive conversational experience will make them come back for more.

Conversational commerce isn’t the future of e-commerce—it’s the present. It is ubiquitous and fast-evolving. And for any retail business that wants to keep up the pace, it’s a sheer necessity to try and find the appropriate conversational commerce solution for its own particular needs. So if you ever need an efficient, and yet transparent, conversational tool to fit into your omnichannel marketing strategy, we’re ready to talk this through.

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