The concept of selling through conversation is nothing new. It’s probably one of the oldest forms of commerce in the world. But in a 2015 post on Medium, hashtag inventor Chris Messina was the first person to use Conversational Commerce to mean eCommerce by way of a text chat. In 2021 this chat can happen on a website, through an OTT messenger like Viber or iMessage, RCS, and SMS. The chat can be with a human agent or an AI-powered chatbot, with the latter becoming more and more common.
A chatbot can answer questions at any time of the day or night, so no more waiting for opening hours for your customers to ask questions. On top of this, using conversational commerce has been shown to increase conversion rates by up to 400%.
But how can you use conversational commerce? Most products or services can be sold through conversation, but food delivery or event ticket booking work particularly well. Say you’re looking to book tickets to a sporting event, you can talk to an agent at your pace via messaging and they can tell you what seats are available and what packages you can get. Similar to buying a product in a retail store from an expert salesperson, you’ll get more information and the option to ask questions to clarify details of your order.
When implementing conversational commerce, you won’t get instant success, but here are a few best practices to keep in mind to give you the best chances.
One great implementation of conversational commerce is H&M’s Kik bot. H&M’s bot would ask a few multiple-choice questions before moving into making recommendations based on the answers. Users can vote on the clothes they like or dislike and then make a purchase if they want.
Why is making a recommendation essential? It allows you to personalise your replies and lets you understand more about what your customers want for targeted advertising in the future. Recommendations like this will also remove barriers for your customers. Why do they need to wade through hundreds of items of clothing on a competitor’s site when your agent shows them just the items in the style and colour that they want.
Once your customer has opted in to receive messages from you, then you can send them follow up messages at a later date. It’s crucial that these messages are infrequent but relevant. You do not want to be seen as spam.
The most natural method to share an offer with a customer is during the conversation. You will often get openings where an offer will convince somebody to buy something, but you can also return to the conversation thread at a later date with one.
For example, if your user has been talking about booking a flight for a specific date but does not, why not come back to them in the run-up to that date with an offer for a discount on a flight that would fit their needs. This offer is likely to be welcomed by the user as it is relevant and timely.
Make the purchase smooth and simple
One of the hardest things to do in the sales process is the handoff from an agent to a purchasing process. Keeping this procedure seamless is hugely important to both you and your customer. In fact, 75% of business buyers say that connected processes are essential to winning and keeping their business.
You can do several things to keep this handover from the agent over to your purchase process simple. One way to do this is to cut out the purchase process entirely and allow the customer to place orders in the chat. With Dominos’ pizza delivery bot, customers only needed to log in once, and then from there all orders could be completed without ever leaving the conversation.
Just because you’ve made a sale doesn’t mean you should stop your conversation with your user. A majority of conversational commerce will have a natural follow up to keep the lines of communication open.
- Food Delivery – you can update your customer on the status of their order, when the driver has left or prompt them to review their food.. You can also reopen the conversation at the end of the month when they may have just been paid and are looking to treat themselves again.
- Flights & Vacations – if your customer purchases a flight from you, why not send them a reminder chat a week before they fly to ensure they’ve got everything they need for their trip. You could remind them of the baggage allowance for the flight and offer an extra bag, or you could see if they want to upgrade their flight to a first-class ticket. If they bought a vacation package, maybe they want to upgrade their room or buy an activity.
- Clothes Orders – check in with your customer to see if everything they bought fits well and looks good on them. Maybe they need a different size or colour?
- Retarget with further offers – as we discussed above, retargeting a user later with a promotion or offer is always a smart idea, but such prompts need not be limited to users who don’t make a purchase. Think about the H&M example. If you know the style of clothes that they like, why not let them know when some items in that style are on sale?
Show Your Personality
So many companies when getting started with conversational commerce skew too heavily on the professional side. A conversation with your brand should feel like a text chat with a friend, which you can do by injecting your brand’s personality into your messages.
A great example of this is Marvel’s chatbot, which was used to promote one of their big annual events. The bot played the role of Spider-Man, Marvel’s most popular character, and would run you through quizzes and puzzles themed around the comic books before guiding you to your local comic shop to buy some Marvel products.
But the bot didn’t just talk to you like a standard customer service interaction. They took the quippy and flippant tone that Marvel fans would expect from Spider-Man.
While your business might not have a specific character for you to emulate, you can add some personality by doing things like giving your bot a name or using slang terms or even sharing gifs and using emojis.
Finally – Don’t Just Set It And Forget It
All of the above tips might not apply directly to your business, though there’s probably something to take from each point. But we have one final thing that will apply to every single business that engages in conversational commerce, and that’s not just to set up your chat service and forget about it.
To get the most out of your conversational commerce platforms, you’re going to need to check in on them regularly and see how they’re performing. If you’re losing 90% of your customers at the handoff, you need to change that process. If your customers don’t like the suggested items, you might need to ask more questions or change some details behind the scenes.
You might also do fantastically right out of the gate, outperforming every target you had. But you cannot sit still while the consumer landscape keeps moving. The advertising techniques you were using five years ago wouldn’t work today, and conversational commerce is the same. When consumers get tired of the techniques your agents use, your conversions will drop. Don’t be lulled into a false sense of security just because you have some initial success.