The Ultimate Guide to Conversational Commerce

For a long time, we’ve been living in a product economy where brands compete with one another to deliver the best products at the lowest prices. That race hasn’t been easy, though. Amazon has already taken nearly half of the US ecommerce market share, leaving much less space for smaller players.

Does it mean that the odds are against you if you aren’t a global giant, and can’t afford to undersell your quality products without harming your business? Not necessarily.

The latest trends show that it’s not products or prices that have the biggest impact on conversion but, instead, it’s the positive customer experience a brand delivers. What’s more, data shows that over 80% of customers are willing to pay more for getting a better experience.

Luckily, you can put a fresh spin on your customer experience by using a very old, but still relevant, commerce strategy. Simply put, by starting a friendly conversation with your customers, you can improve the customer experience.

What is Conversational Commerce?

Conversational commerce, also known as chat commerce or conversational marketing, is a way online retailers unleash the potential of conversation to sell their products and services. It doesn’t matter whether the conversational experience is delivered to a potential customer via a chat app, a chatbot, a voice assistant, or through a messaging platform. As long as customer communication is personalized, helpful, and moves the consumer faster through the sales funnel, it serves the purpose.

The term conversational commerce gained popularity in 2015 thanks to Medium’s article written by Chris Messina, an American blogger and the inventor of the hashtag. In his post, Messina drew attention to the trend towards selling products and services through messaging apps.

This turn toward the messaging platforms was caused by, and is still favored because of, the growing number of their users. WhatsApp is the number one messaging app with over 2 billion active users. Messenger has fewer users, around 1.3 billion, however, it’s the most popular app on the US market. It’s followed by the Chinese-owned WeChat, with 1.2 billion users, GG, Snapchat, Telegram, Kik, and many other smaller players.

These numbers made brands realize that the most inexpensive and successful way to connect with their potential customers is to meet them where they are. In other words, they don’t need to be forced to visit a brand’s site.

“Whether the customer wants to contact us via Chat, Facebook, or WhatsApp, as a company, we need to be wherever our customer is, and that’s what a conversational platform offers us.” Nikolai Berenbrock, Product Manager at E.ON

What’s more, conversational commerce allows brands to compensate for the lack of a personal touch in their online stores. That doesn’t apply only to the physical lack of a helpful shop assistant but to the type of content customers get, too.

Many times, online retailers have to choose between matching their content to users’ tastes or optimizing it for search engines. In the latter case, an ecommerce store might get higher ranks and increased traffic. However, SEO-friendly content can be boring and impersonal. On the other hand, conversational commerce enables brands to make up for that gap. It lets you focus on SEO requirements and still personalize your commerce experience. Plus, shoppers get the chance to communicate with brands whenever they need to through apps available on their mobile devices.

“Conversational commerce is about delivering convenience, personalization, and decision support while people are on the go with only partial attention to spare.” Chris Messina

How Does Conversational Really Work?

Conversational commerce gives ecommerce stores the chance to connect with customers at every step of their customer journey. Unlike aggressive pop-ups and banners, this form of selling opens a dialogue between you and your potential customers that lets you establish much better relationships.

The customer journey map can be divided into five stages: awareness, consideration, decision, retention, loyalty, and advocacy. By using proper conversational commerce tools and tactics, you can connect with your customer at each of these stages, improve commerce experience,  and turn each encounter into a long-lasting relationship.

Let’s see where you can meet your customers during each stage.

1. Awareness.

This stage begins when a customer realizes they have a problem. They start to look for ways to solve it, and they discover you in the process.

The awareness stage is considered to be the most important stage of the entire funnel. You can sell great products and design beautiful pages, but how can customers purchase from you if they don’t know who you are?

Conversational tools let you connect with customers who have just begun their journey and are searching for providers like you. You can use those tools to show customers that you understand their issues and know how to solve their problems.

2. Consideration.

At this stage, customers have already conducted preliminary research and learned a bit about you. However, their hunt for information hasn’t stopped yet. They’re still looking for more information, comparing you with available competitors, and reading user reviews. At this phase, you can use the power of conversation to provide customers with even more details to help them get to know your offer.

3. Decision.

This is the moment when the customer is ready to purchase. But, even if they chose you, you can’t rest on your laurels. You need to assure the customer that they are making the right choice so that they don’t change their minds. At this stage, you need to keep the conversation going to strengthen the customer’s decision. Provide social proof, and resolve issues instantly if any appear.

4. Retention.

If the customer has arrived at this stage, it means you’ve provided all that they’ve needed so far. That doesn’t mean you can stop doing your best. Actually, taking special care of customers who have arrived at this stage is extremely beneficial. Data shows that it’s five times cheaper to retain an existing customer than to acquire a new one. To maintain a good relationship with your customer, you need to send messages from time to time and respond to their messages, even if they are negative.

5. Advocacy.

This is the last stage of the customer journey. It’s also the one that’s the hardest to arrive at. At this point, the customer becomes your brand ambassador who eagerly recommends your products to their friends and family. It’s your well-deserved reward. Customers wouldn’t have climbed so high if you hadn’t done a great job during their whole journey.

But you can reap more benefits. If you continue the conversation with customers, you can ask them for testimonials or product reviews and make them feel a part of your team. By doing so, you’ll surely strengthen those relationships.

Types of Conversational Commerce

You’ve already learned where and when you can connect with your customers. Now, it’s time to find out how you can do that. Luckily for you, there are quite a few good options you can choose from.

1. Live chat.

Live chat is one of the most popular communication channels. It’s easy to use and lets customers get answers immediately through the retailer’s website. This feature gives it a big advantage over email or phone. Live chat enables one agent to chat with two, or even three, customers at a time, and because of that, brands can reduce the wait time and boost customers’ satisfaction.

Live chat apps have huge ecommerce potential, too. You can use it to proactively engage customers visiting your website and to connect with customers who are shy and who otherwise wouldn’t ask for your help. After the ice is broken, you can guide the customer on your website and offer personalized recommendations that can help them choose the product.

2. Chatbots.

A chatbot is software that helps users by providing answers to their questions via text messages. Chatbots can chat with multiple users at the same time and provide information within seconds around the clock. What’s more, you can implement them on both websites and messaging platforms. This allows for delivering a conversational experience at different stages of the customer journey via channels that are natural for particular stages.

All these functionalities have made chatbots a very popular form of conversational commerce, too. Brands use it to connect with customers with relatively low effort. Additionally, unlike traditional apps, chatbots don’t require users to learn how they work. You can ask them about the status of your last order, reschedule your flight, or check the location of the nearest store in a matter of a few clicks. This has made them more popular among less tech-savvy customers.

3. Messaging apps.

A messaging app, like Messenger or WhatsApp, is a chat platform that lets you exchange instant messages. Consumers are eagerly using them because of their private communication, to contact brands, or for online shopping. These apps have actually outpaced social networks. They are getting 20% more users than social media platforms.

Moreover, popular messaging tools allow for using memes, GIFs, videos, and emojis that helps to keep the conversation light and boosts customer engagement. That’s why brands use messaging apps. They help create much more personal and natural customer communication, and that translates into higher conversion rates. Data shows that Data shows that 70% of emotionally engaged customers spend twice as much with brands they have an emotional connection with versus those who they don’’t.

4. Voice assistants.

A voice assistant is a type of software that is activated by voice commands and that answers users’ questions. Voice assistants, such as Google Assistant, Alexa, Cortana, or Siri, are becoming a more and more popular feature in many electronic devices. Customers love them because they are convenient, bring fun, and let them multitask.

The growing popularity of voice assistants encourages brands to use them in their marketing and customer service strategies. Voice assistants can offer fast answers or direct searchers to your website, which will help you to increase your brand awareness.

Curiously, some voice assistants can recognize a user’s voice. This function is especially useful when one device is shared by multiple users like, for example, a family. Thanks to machine learning, artificial intelligence and natural language processing, the voice assistant can learn about a particular user’s interests and recommend solutions that match their previous choices. Marketers use this opportunity to create personalized voice ads and build greater intimacy with customers.

Conversational Commerce by the Numbers

Messaging apps, chatbots, and voice assistants are changing consumers’ habits and their expectations towards brands. Let’s look at some interesting statistics to better understand the trends.

  • The data shows that 75% of customers are more likely to spend more with a brand if they can message them rather than call them. By offering live chat or Messenger support, you get a chance to touch base with this group of customers and nurture them.
  • According to a study completed by Reckless Agency, in-app messaging had a startling 75% open rate. That’s over 45 times higher than email and nearly three times higher than push notifications. If you dream about increasing your open rates, consider switching from email to messaging.
  • Only 22% of consumers are happy with the level of personalization they receive from brands. There’s still room for improvement. If you implement outstanding conversational services, you’ll stand out from the crowd.

5 Benefits of Conversational Commerce for Online Retailers

Conversational commerce lets you recreate the experience your customers get in a typical corner store. The difference is that they don’t have to leave their comfortable couch for that to happen. By taking special care of your customers, you can achieve your business goals faster, too.

1. Reduce cart abandonment.

No online business wants to struggle with cart abandonment. Unfortunately, up to 70 % of shopping carts are abandoned.

To fight this problem, you must find its source first. One of the most common reasons why a customer doesn’t finalize their purchase is the high shipping prices. Oftentimes, customers are also discouraged by the requirement to create an account or a confusing checkout process. Do some digging to find what makes your customers leave their carts.

Additionally, very often, consumers treat the shopping cart as their wish list. They collect multiple items there to find out how much they cost, and then they leave the cart to compare similar lists at other sites. How can you reduce the rate of abandoned shopping carts with conversational commerce?

  • Send proactive greetings via live chat to customers who have gathered items in their carts but haven’t purchased them yet. Offer your support to help the customer complete their order.
  • Make use of the Facebook Messenger Checkbox plugin. It detects active Facebook sessions which allows you to connect with users who haven’t finalized their order. You can offer customers a discount to incentivize them to come back to your site and place an order.
  • Use the Facebook Messenger Marketing app. It lets you send abandoned cart messages via Messenger. The tool lets you also gather customer phone numbers using a popup so you can message them using SMS.

2. Helps close potential leads.

Conversational commerce is a great way to support customers who are considering a purchase. What’s more, 71% of consumers say that they would spend more with a brand that gives them a message option rather than call.

  • Send customized live chat greetings. Let customers know about your seasonal discounts, or offer them your expert advice. Give customers all the information they need to make a purchasing decision.
  • Use a chatbot on the checkout page. 47% of respondents are open to buying items using a chatbot. Let it answer all the questions concerning your delivery options or refund policy. Offer the option to transfer to a human agent so that the chatbot can easily connect the hot lead with a sales agent when needed.
  • Use chatbot reminders. They enable users to use the bot to monitor the price of products and get notifications when they are lowered.

3. Gather feedback.

Collecting feedback from your customers through natural conversations is much more effective than using typical web forms.

  • Use a Facebook post reply tool. It allows you to send a chatbot message to every user who comments on your Facebook post. You can, for instance, create a post promoting your newest offer and promise to provide more information to users who leave a comment. The chatbot can send every commenter a dedicated message and follow up with feedback questions.
  • Use a live chat post-chat survey. It lets you collect customer feedback after they finish up the conversation with a chat agent. By asking customers about their opinion right up front, you can double your chances of getting their feedback and learn more about your customer’s needs.

4. Upselling and cross-selling opportunities.

Upselling and cross-selling strategies can give you a chance to double your profits by selling more to customers who are already considering purchasing for you.

  • Provide personalized product recommendations via LiveChat. According to the statistics, 59% of US consumers who have experienced personalization believe that it has a noticeable influence on whether they’ll purchase a product.
  • Use a Messenger chatbot to proactively connect with customers who have ordered from you in the past. For instance, a chatbot can let the customer know that you are now offering a product that complements their previous purchase, and that can help to cross-sell your products. It can also remind them that the face cream they bought is probably out and needs to be replaced.

5. Helps build customer loyalty.

You only get one chance to create a good first impression. Offering a helping hand to a customer who has entered your store for the first time lets you seize this opportunity. By supporting customers through the next steps of their customer journey, you can establish much better customer relationships and build trust. According to HubSpot, 90% of consumers are more likely to purchase more from businesses they love.

  • Use a chatbot to share promo coupons. Customers love getting promo coupons and more often engage with brands that offer them.
  • Use a voice assistant to support your customers. It can help them search for information or to easily order your products. Give it a nice name and the type of character that reflects your brand’s values. By designing memorable interactions that resonate with your customers, you can win customers’ hearts much easier.

5 Examples of Conversational Commerce

All right, enough with the theory. Let’s see how online retailers put conversational commerce into practice.

1. Anchor & Crew.

Anchor & Crew, a British manufacturer of bracelets and accessories, uses live chat to connect with customers and help them purchase products. What’s more, the retailer uses live chat greetings to inform customers about current promotions or purchasing options.

2. American Leather.

American Leather is a Texas company offering customized leather furniture. The brand uses a chatbot on its ecommerce website to answer popular questions regarding their products. But, there’s more to it.

The company took advantage of a chatbot to deliver a conversational experience after the purchase. The bot helps customers check their order status, access order receipts and invoices, or check the warranty terms. This type of support is very convenient because customers can obtain important information any time they wish.

3. The Human Solution

The Human Solution is a BigCommerce merchant that sells ergonomic office furniture. The company supports their website visitors through live chat. Their customer service team offers advice at the checkout to ensure customers get all of the information that is necessary to make an informed purchase.

4. Natori.

Another BigCommerce merchant, Natori, that offers elegant apparel, home accessories, lingerie, and home decor, supports its customers on Facebook Messenger. By offering real-time responses, the brand helps customers find suitable products and supports conversion.

5. Kettlebell Kings.

A provider of high-quality kettlebells, Kettlebell Kings, streamlines its customer service with a chatbot available on both their website and their Facebook Fanpage. The chatbot generates leads by encouraging visitors to sign up for their workout service that will help them improve their training skills.

Steps for Getting Started with Conversational Commerce

Rome wasn’t built in a day and neither can your conversational commerce strategy come together in 24 hours. You can achieve great results and stand out from the crowd only if you pay attention to the smallest details. Here are five steps that will help you take the first steps with conversational commerce.

1. Analyze your business needs.

Before you implement your conversational tool, think about the problems your team and your customers are facing. Set realistic goals you would like to achieve. Maybe you want to increase sales? Reducing shopping cart abandonment will help in achieving that. Maybe you would like to deliver faster, more convenient customer support that will help you improve brand loyalty. You name it.

After your dream list is ready, group and prioritize your goals to decide which of them are the most crucial for your business. This is important because you might not be able to turn all your processes around at once. Sometimes, it’s better to introduce novelties one by one and test how they work.

2. Do your research.

Before you decide on a specific solution, set your benchmark. Do some research, and check out how other companies operating in your industry utilize the potential of conversational commerce.

Then, list all of the available solutions you can choose from. Ask for demos and sign up for free trials to learn about each solution’s pros and cons. If you already have a specific solution or a channel in mind, get to know what the most popular and outstanding examples you can draw inspiration from are.

Don’t forget about your customers’ opinion, too. Dig up your customers’ reviews to find out what they are missing from your services. You can also interview some of them to better understand their current needs.

3. Identify a partner.

Choosing a reliable conversational solution that easily integrates with your ecosystem is half the battle. The second half is to implement and manage it effectively. This may not always be possible without having specialized people on board.

For instance, if you decide to use live chat, you need to train your team to deliver high-quality live support via text. Keep in mind that an average live chat response time is 47 seconds, and some customers get angry when they have to wait longer. If you can’t offer fast service, maybe it’s better to use a chatbot platform. However, that would require some conversational design knowledge, too.

Consider how you can solve your aches and pains with the resources you have available. Maybe it would be easier to hire an agency that would implement your tool and manage the conversations?

4. Launch your conversational commerce tool.

You’ve already selected your conversational tool. What a relief, isn’t it? Still, there’s one thing left, and that’s your key performance indicators (KPIs). This could be the number of customer conversations, the satisfaction score, or conversation rates. Your KPIs will help you measure your success, give you hints on which of the solutions brings the best results, and tell you which should be reconsidered or improved. When everything is ready, you can hit the road and start using conversational commerce.

5. Measure success.

Even if you’ve tied everything up in a bow, you still need to monitor your performance. Good, real-time metrics can help you evaluate your performance and improve your conversational activities at every stage of the customer journey.

Wrapping Up

That was a long ride but I hope you’re now ready to begin your conversational adventure. Creating your new strategy will probably take some time. Managing your conversations might be challenging, too. But every great relationship starts with a little, casual chat. Don’t overlook yours when it comes!

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