As ecommerce becomes more common, businesses are looking at customer experience from a new point of view. The traditional brick-and-mortar store’s customer experience is based on our social nature and our desire to connect with others, while ecommerce is focused on convenience and accessibility. But what if there was a way to integrate the social aspect of traditional shopping with the convenience and accessibility of online shopping?

From this idea, Chris Messina from Uber coined a new type of commerce: conversational. You can think of it as a marriage of real time messaging and commerce, where businesses use either chatbots or humans to engage in back and forth dialogue with customers. Within these engagements, customers will be able to ask questions, gain insights and even complete their shopping – simply by chatting.

Moving away from the basic idea of conversational commerce, let’s look at some ways in which you can benefit from this new style of commerce.

 

Back to the basics with ecommerce: The human touch

Retailers spend lots of money investing in optimizing their landing pages, ensuring their inventory information is synchronized across all channels and making sure their online presence is up to par. But something important is missing that used to make shopping more engaging and memorable. No, it wasn’t the line ups. It was their floor staff.

When people enter a brick-and-mortar store they start by browsing products. After a few minutes, an employee will approach you and assist you in finding the product you’re looking for. With the assistance of floor staff, customers get recommendations about products and gain insight. Not only does this fill the customer’s desire for connectivity, but it also made shopping more efficient.

Instead of spending hours looking at every product in a store, a clerk would be able to show you exactly what you’re looking for. Ever wonder which shirt would go best with your favorite pair of pants? Or if there is an accessory that would go well with the outfit you are looking to buy? When shopping online, you don’t have access to that type of assistance. Instead, you’re alone staring at a screen wondering if the blouse you want matches that jacket or if those pants fit like all the others. With the use of live chat, businesses can help customers have a more enjoyable and memorable shopping experience by engaging in back and forth dialogue. Which do you think would be the fastest way to find the product you are looking for – asking an expert or personally searching? Giving customers the option to ask for assistance when they need it will reduce frustration or abandonment.

Nordstrom is a company that recognizes the importance of assisting their customers, both online and in-stores. With their live chat function, online shoppers can connect with customer service specialists in real time. Whether you’re looking for the latest style trends, advice for your upcoming wedding, or an expert’s opinion on your style, Nordstrom’s customer service representatives can help.

 

Hey, don’t forget about the other guy: AI

Conversational commerce doesn’t only refer to human interactions, but also artificial intelligence in the form of chatbots. Today, computers are getting smarter and learning faster than ever before. With such advances, businesses are recognizing this as an opportunity to bolster their online retailing presence. Their ability to pull massive amounts of data in a short period of time will help provide customers with reliable insights almost instantly. Not only does the customer gain information about products that would suit them, but it also provides businesses another avenue to cross-sell by building richer customer profiles.

The North Face and IBM’s Watson have created an innovative way to use a chatbot and questionnaire in order to provide shoppers with a way to conveniently find the perfect jacket. By answering questions such as where you will use the jacket or what you will be doing with it, Watson can quickly provide you with the best options without ever needing to scroll through their online inventory.

Chatbots can also provide assistance to businesses’ customer service call centers. Customer requests for assistance aren’t always limited to within business hours so why should a business’ ability to help them be? By using chatbots, companies can address the limitation of accessibility. No more worrying about calling during business hours or waiting on the phone for service representatives. Customers will have the ability to ask for help when it’s convenient.

 

Parting Note

The transition from traditional commerce to ecommerce was a big change and has provided many businesses and consumers with benefits. Conversational commerce looks to be positioned for similar success. But we must recognize that both humans and AI have their limitations. Having humans working in live chat is a large added expense. While AI looks to be superior, it is still developing and chatbots are not yet able to complete complicated requests. Moreover, people may be hesitant to accept assistance from a chatbot as it lacks a human feel. For conversational commerce to be utilized to its full extent, a balance of human and AI should be used in order to provide customers with the best online shopping experience. One thing is for sure, conversational commerce will further blur the lines between the digital and physical experience.