How AI based Conversational Commerce is transforming Marketing and Sales
Recent years have seen very interesting developments in cognitive technologies, especially the implementation of Artificial Intelligence applications in business. In 2019, for instance, British luxury brand Burberry made headlines when it launched R Message, a new chat platform for the brand’s top customers to connect directly with sales associates. Marking the brand’s launch into conversational commerce in retail for sales and marketing, the platform facilitated payments through Apple Pay, while streamlining other activities such as order tracking, product recommendations, appointment setting etc. (Source: MDS, Sep’2019)
Conversational commerce or chat-based shopping has given new direction to how brands interact and engage with customers. From customer service to lead qualification, AI based bots have made businesses reconsider their strategies and adopt AI in faster and committed ways. Artificial Intelligence for personalization especially for improved customer engagement, higher sales and brand loyalty is a natural practice today, and marks a shift in shopping behaviour as customers move to an online, chat-based platform.
What is Conversational Commerce?
In 2015, the term ‘Conversational Commerce’ (or cCommerce) was first coined by Chris Messina of Uber. Simple to comprehend, the meaning of conversational commerce essentially extends to optimizing the customer experience through chat-based conversations. That is, the technology facilitates brands to interact with their customers through conversational platforms, namely Voice Assistants and Chatbots, so as to drive sales and conversions. Widely used in eCommerce, conversational commerce marks a remarkable shift in how customers shop and engage with brands.
What are the Types of Conversational Commerce platforms?
Conversational commerce technology has brought about a new dimension to how shopping is done. Gone are the days of visiting physical stores, or being in call-waiting to be answered by agents. Buyers today prefer instant and human-like exchange, and brands have realized the benefits of acting upon it.
With the aid of AI software and NLP platform development services, today brands have the option to choose between several top chat-based conversation platforms. Some of the more popular types of chat platforms for business include:
- Messaging Apps: Commonly integrated with social media apps, like Facebook Messenger, or with communication apps like WhatsApp, Telegram, Slack etc. messaging apps support instant communication, personalized conversations and customer engagement. These are cost-effective and easy to integrate and work as a brilliant add-on to conventional email communications. Most brands today prefer to integrate messenger apps considering the global consumer shift to social media. With WhatsApp leading the race with 2 million monthly users, Facebook Messenger at 1.3 billion users, and WeChat recently hitting the 1billion user mark (Source: Statista, as of July 2020) mobile messenger apps are rewriting marketing and growth strategies in the business world.
- AI Chatbots: Along with Live Chats, AI based Chatbots keep conversations secure, instant and accurate, and can easily be integrated into websites and mobile apps. By referring to historical and programmed data, these bots can add value to conversations through personalization. They can further engage customers to boost sales by making relevant product recommendations, cross selling, up-selling and more. The benefits of AI powered chatbots in 2020 expands into numerous services, and are most popular across the Banking and Financial industry, Education and Healthcare, for customer service, lead generation, review and feedback, and more.
- Voice Assistants: Conversational commerce in eCommerce found a new definition with AI based voice assistants. With the benefit of customers being able to ‘talk’ to smart devices instead of typing on the keyboard, these chat-platforms are able to answer queries, find information, schedule tasks and even support sales with recommendations based on user preferences, buying patterns, price etc. Eg. Amazon’s Alexa
How businesses use Conversational Commerce to improve Marketing and Sales
When it comes to making purchase decisions there are several factors that come into play. Marketing and sales after all is a mix of strategy and emotions, and businesses need to work on multiple factors to offer buyers with solutions that cater to their specific pain points. Machine learning techniques for price optimization are already being implemented in business and we can only expect more tech-integration in the future.
- Real-time customer engagement: With the number of online eCommerce platforms mushrooming, it takes seconds or a single bad experience for customer loyalty to shift. With Chatbots, brands are able to tackle this challenge in a more cost-effective and efficient manner. Unlike human counterparts, Chatbots are available 24×7 and can answer product/pricing queries instantly. Advanced AI based bots can even make data-backed product recommendations, offer ongoing discounts etc. to prompt instant conversions and sales.
- Lead Generation and Qualification: The benefits of conversational commerce in business can also be seen in lead generation and qualification. By engaging users in conversations, chatbots can effectively collect user data (name, phone number, email address) and specific data so as to make personalized sales recommendations. Based on the level of AI maturity, the bots can also be trained to qualify leads.
The question no longer is whether or not to build chatbots, but the level of advanced technology the bots are to be built with. AI based chatbots and AI Virtual Assistant services have already changed the equation, with Forbes predicting VA’s to be mainstream in corporate America, whereas Gartner predicts 85% of all customer interactions to be powered by Artificial Intelligence by 2020.
- AI based Outreach for Sales: Businesses often lose track of lead contacts or fail to accurately categorize them into lead buckets. This is where automated prospecting with AI enabled chatbots can be of help. This not only gives brands edge over competitors but helps to retain customers and not miss any lead.
With AI based Sales Assistants, sales cycles can be streamlined and quickened. AI chatbots can systematically collate leads from different data points (eg. emails, social media, SMS), segment them and schedule marketing activities to connect and engage with them. With conversational chat-based commerce platforms, brands can benefit by leveraging multiple opportunities at sales.
For example let’s have a look at AI chatbots and the buyer’s journey: Chatbots can engage with customers, comprehending their purpose and familiarizing them with the brand’s products/services or simply answering queries (Awareness); it can further make recommendations based on their expressed preferences or trending or best-selling products and collect their personal information like email/phone number for personalization (Consideration); the customer can further be engaged through planned email campaigns, based on conversations, with special offers etc. so as to help him/her make a purchase or even be guided on the sales process without the intervention of a human representative (Decision); and all of this done along with continuously providing customer support to ensure customer satisfaction.
Is Chat-based Conversational Commerce the future of Retail and eCommerce
The year 2020 has been a first in many ways. This is the first time in recent years that buyers are naturally preferring online shopping to visiting stores, there is a rapid shift to mobile wallets and contactless card payments etc. In short, this is the year of change and we can expect it to be no different when it comes to conversational commerce in 2020.
As an AI startup and Chatbot development company, at Day One Technologies we believe that chatbots are the future and will be redefining how brands engage with their customers. There’s already enough evidence of customers preferring to engage with bots instead of calling, or preferring voice commands instead of typing. All suggesting that technology in the truest sense can be used most intelligently to add to the overall customer experience equally in eCommerce and retail sales.