Getting conversational about conversational commerce

All consumers are now more digitally connected than ever. For millennials and younger consumers, 65 per cent say they now communicate more digitally than they do in person[1] – and conversational commerce helps facilitate these digital connections. When it comes to purchasing behaviours, 20.7 per cent of consumers globally prefer to buy most products and services completely digitally[2], never having to speak in person with a human; it has become their preferred way of communication.

By 2020, there is no doubt that customer experience will overtake price and product as the key brand differentiator and the key to success for retailers will be providing and delivering an outstanding customer experience[3]. Brands who crack the code on how to engage these new users will experience tremendous growth.

Conversations will eat the world

Conversational commerce is defined as the ability to communicate with brands through conversations, from any device, and on consumers’ own schedules. This new frontier of brand-to-consumer communication enables retailers to forge more immediate, impactful relationships with their customers and maintain a continuous connection with them at every step of the customer journey.

Looking at the way that Singapore businesses are embracing AI, brands are in a spectacular position to leverage AI capabilities to look at intents and sentiments and recommend the next best action for a conversation. In Asia-Pacific, Singapore is probably the most advanced in terms of investing in this technology. Companies are more willing to experiment, and they like to satisfy the high expectations of the nation’s tech-savvy citizens. Brands such as Jetstar, which launched its Ask Jess virtual assistant in November 2013, have already jumped on the chatbot bandwagon, and we are expecting more brands to follow.

Is your business bot-ready or bot-powered?

Despite the rise of AI adoption in Singapore, some businesses are adopting conversational commerce faster than others. The reasons are broad, but it’s clear that shoppers crave a human, or human-like, connection. According to a 2016 study by Salesfloor, 58 per cent of consumers say that online shopping lacks the level of experience received in brick-and-mortar services. It is this desire for digital concierge-level customer service that has led to the development of conversational commerce as an industry. It works because it uses the most intuitive interface of all: a conversation. It just takes AI and humans working together to deliver it at scale.

However, it is all easier said than done. At the end of the day, strategies will need to be implemented in order to reap the actual benefits. With conversational commerce, consumers can converse with brands and make purchases through the digital channels they already know and use with family and friends, such as Facebook Messenger, iMessage and WhatsApp.

No, AI will not take your jobs

Brands are wrong if they think pure automation is about replacing people. The capabilities that conversational commerce delivers are a harmonious blend between AI and human intelligence. Instead, AI should be seen as a huge opportunity that brands need to leverage in order to stay ahead. A typical sales chat agent that converses with consumers on a brand’s website typically handles 70 conversations per shift, whereas a bot manager – a sales agent who has been equipped with AI technology to handle tasks – can oversee 200 conversations within the same time frame. This allows the agent to focus on high-value activities such as selling product value or delivering customer experience, which has allowed brands to increase average sales order value by 20 per cent.

Conversational commerce isn’t the future – it’s happening today. As brands increasingly pair messaging with automation, they increase efficiency, decrease costs, improve customer satisfaction and increase revenue. Conversational commerce, which assists businesses across many industries to unlock greater potential revenue and growth, will be the way forward.