Conversational Commerce and The Rise of Chatbots–Automation with a Personal Touch

While mobile devices have always served as tools for communication, the way we interact with these devices is quickly changing. Personal calls and texts are commonplace activities but more and more, online time is spent in communication between consumers and retailers. Increasingly, new tools are allowing brands to communicate with customers through mobile devices in new, innovative and personalized ways.

The idea of conversational commerce, coined by Uber’s Chris Messina, speaks to this growing trend of communication between businesses
and consumers through messaging apps. Rather than just clicking through pages on a website or emailing and calling companies to get information, users can now communicate with businesses instantly and in real-time through chatbots (automated chat agents), for a more personalized and conversational experience.

The explosion of online mobile device use in recent years has forced businesses to reinvent how they engage consumers; mobile devices accounted for almost 2 in 3 minutes spent online in December 2015, and more adults accessed the internet via mobile only than desktop only. While most adults still use both platforms, one in five Millennials (18-34) are mobile-only.  With this move to mobile, messaging apps like WeChat, WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger have become the go-to for communication on mobile phones. Thanks to advances in artificial intelligence, we can easily converse with chatbots (automated chat agents) in our messaging apps, much like we would any other contact. They can assist with everything from online shopping, to calling a cab and order food for delivery. We also interact with digital assistants like Apple’s Siri, Google’s Now, Microsoft’s Cortana and Amazon’s Alexa. Essentially, consumers are getting used to talking to machines

A big reason chatbots are increasingly popular, is the fact that people are tired of downloading an app for everything. With the exploding popularity of messenger apps, an alternative to creating yet another new app is to offer your service inside an app they already have. Sites like Facebook, WhatsApp and Twitter are introducing integrated bots to help with shopping, booking and customer service. These chatbots will answer customer questions and serve as a first point of contact for a brand, through text or even voice.

While chatbots offer a solution for ecommerce business owners to manage a high volume of one-to-one conversations, there are risks. Bots can lack personality and conversational flow, and often can’t deviate from a programmed script.  Also, when a bot launch goes wrong, it can be pretty embarrassing, like Microsoft’s chatbot Tay on Twitter.  Many retailers are experimenting with a mix of live support staff and automation for customer service, sales support and other commerce-related functions. Chatbots are intended to improve the user experience, not replace real people, and the right mix can make all the difference.

Ecommerce is becoming increasingly integrated into our lives in a more personalized and conversational way. Businesses are creating new and innovative touch points to reach consumers and sell their brand. With the amount of time consumers spend on mobile devices every day and the huge popularity of messagin

Ecommerce Trends – The 2017 game changers!

It’s another bright and shiny new year, and ecommerce continues to evolve with new and innovative trends. Online spending is growing and is expected to exceed $400 billion per year in the U.S. by 2018 and nearly $40 billion in Canada by 2019. In order to actively engage customers and stay ahead in today’s competitive market, consider the following game changers affecting ecommerce in 2017.

Mobile Engagement

While consumers have been using their smartphones and tablets to shop online for a while now, to date they’ve been less likely to convert on purchases than desktop users. However, according to think tank Gartner, by 2017 ecommerce-driven mobile revenue in the U.S. will increase by at least 50%. This creates huge potential for motivated retailers to improve the performance of their mobile sites and increase mobile conversion rates. Just think—if you’re not offering your customer an effective and engaging mobile shopping experience, you’re missing out on a huge audience for your brand, and potentially losing sales.

More Pay Options

Offering customers quick and easy online payment options results in more conversions and improved customer retention. Rather than entering payment and shipping information over and over, digital options store the information for repeated use on the site. Most ecommerce sites at the very least offer a mobile payment option for PayPal.

Another incentive for mobile engagement, mobile wallets will play a big role in how consumers pay going forward, often replacing traditional wallets altogether. They hold information about credit and debit cards, store coupons, loyalty programs and more. Some of the most common mobile wallets used by consumers include PayPal, Google Wallet and Apple Pay. In addition to smartphones, consumers will now be able to make payments from other accessories like watches and rings.

User-Centric Shopping

The best way to gain and retain a customer is to deliver content that is relevant to that individual. Customer-centric technologies let retailers track past orders and anticipate future needs, allowing them to focus advertising, sales and location-based deals at a highly personalized level. Companies like Kissmetrics offer software that delivers real-time analytics of detailed consumer shopping behavior. This allows retailers to provide a unique online shopping experience to each consumer, increasing conversion rates and repeat business.

Virtual Sales Force

Expect to see more virtual sales teams on ecommerce sites in the coming years. Addressing customer questions and concerns in real time allows a shopper to get information at anytime, anywhere, without delay. We’ve already seen success with chatbots (fully automated chat agents) and digital assistants like Amazon’s Alexa, Apple’s Siri and Microsoft’s Cortana. Live online sales assistants, however, offer a truly personalized shopping experience. Spending and conversion rates are shown to increase following live chat sessions.

Faster Delivery Times

In today’s world, not only do consumers want to easily make purchases from anywhere, they want products delivered quickly. Amazon Prime led the way and other retailers are following suit, working through the logistical issues that arise with such quick turnaround times. Startups like Postmates often begin by offering same day service in select cities, with the aim to expand in time. And Amazon’s idea of a crowdsourced delivery system where regular people will deliver packages for a small fee could change the way businesses look at shipping in the future.

These are just a few of the ecommerce trends that will continue to pick up steam in 2017. Ecommerce selling is becoming increasingly personalized and interactive; engaging customers in real-time and customizing their experience has never been more important to sales and brand loyalty.