Why Ecommerce Needs Conversational Commerce to Succeed

What is Conversational Commerce? It is a business concept where interaction is the central theme of all interactions in a virtual environment. Conversational commerce is also called e-Commerce or internet commerce. It is a form of indirect marketing where consumers, businesses and governments can interact with each other through various systems.

The term ‘conversational commerce‘ was first coined by Richard M. Cooper, Senior Director of International Creative Services, in his book, Voice of the Consumer. In this book he illustrated how consumers feel much more empowered to express their opinions online than they would do offline. He said that consumers were no longer comfortable with just reading the features and benefits of products. Consumers used a ‘combined voice’, using a personal computer, mobile phone, the Internet and other tools, to communicate with businesses about many brands at once.

A short time later, John D. MacArthur, Managing Editor of Business Week Europe, articulated the need for a new term to describe ecommerce. He said that it was necessary because many of the traditional business models were no longer working in the digital marketplace. For instance, retailers that offered a simple service such as delivering convenience were losing customers because of their lack of customer service and transaction flexibility. Furthermore, conversational commerce was needed to help consumers make buying decisions and determine which products they should buy.

A few years later, Michael Porter, then-chief executive of Yahoo! Answers, introduced what became the very first buzzword for conversational commerce – ‘personalization.’ He said that it was necessary because people were becoming tired of receiving the same product or services over again. Therefore, when you entered a store, instead of being directed to a page where you could select what you wanted to buy, you would be lead to a different page where you could actually interact with the product or service and ask the associate what they thought about it.

Personalization became the buzzword for conversational commerce, but not all forms of personalization are necessarily helpful. For instance, if you entered a store to buy a DVD, you were still required to walk up to the counter and speak to an associate who may not know anything about your movie. In fact, most customers don’t even give the store attendant much information, let alone a name, because the experience has been so monotonous. Thus, while personalized recommendations may be helpful for brand-new customers, they are not likely to create much interest in repeat purchases.

Another way that conversational commerce helps the consumer is by providing them with more information about a product or service, which allows them to make more informed decisions. For example, you might enter a department store with the hope of finding a particular item that will meet your personal needs for clothing. However, once you find your way around the store, you realize that there are only a few of them, and the clerk is no longer making any recommendations. As you listen to their conversation, though, you realize that there is more than one style and color of shirt available, and you can easily select a simple t-shirt that will match your basic look.

Consumers are comfortable with artificial intelligence chat robots such as Raphie York’s Pepper, yet many shoppers remain skeptical of conversational commerce. One reason why is that many consumers do not feel they can fully trust conversational commerce agents. Another is that they are not good enough at detecting and avoiding spam, which makes them vulnerable to customer complaints. If an agent promotes an unproven product or service, the social media platforms will quickly point out these facts. Even if the customer never voices these concerns directly to the agent, the social media platform will contain the information, and the platforms will enforce their guidelines against the agent.

In fact, even if the ecommerce solution has a solid track record of providing excellent customer support, the customer may not be as satisfied as they would like. Many ecommerce customers do not like being sold something they do not want or need. Others simply do not care, or may be deterred by the prospect of interacting directly with an actual human being. This is where conversational commerce agents come in to save the day! They will literally engage their clients in real time via text, audio, or video, and make suggestions based on the interaction that took place before the customer even enters the store.

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Nikita Anjum

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