What is conversational commerce?
The term Conversational Commerce isn't all that new. In 2015, Uber's Chris Messina already mentioned Conversational Commerce as the 'intersection of messaging apps and shopping.
Uber's interpretation of this was to enable its customers to find and order their Uber driver without leaving the conversation. This means Uber made integrations to enable conversion within the messaging channel Facebook Messenger.
This Uber experience now sets the standard for customer-business interactions across the globe. Consumers' familiarity with messaging channels creates a new market to offer services and experiences, making messaging channels the foundation for success.
Why Conversation is the future of commerce?
With 800 million WeChat Pay users and 5 Million brands with active WeChat accounts, this chat app created an active in-app commercial ecosystem. Besides being a P2P messaging app, WeChat supports real end-to-end Conversational Commerce through features such as Chat, Payments, Wallets, Audio, Video, QR codes and Store Payments. With Conversational Commerce (or: mobile e-commerce) capturing 54% of the e-commerce pie by 2021, WeChat and other messaging apps are perfectly positioned to capitalise on this growth area.
Closed Versus Open Ecosystems
How can chat apps benefit from the expected conversational commerce growth? Let's start by realising that Europe, the US and the APAC region are far apart from each other in their approach to innovate and develop new products. The open platform strategy offered by Chinese vendors drives innovation. Enterprises get access to a frictionless environment to set up their conversational commerce customer journey. As mentioned earlier, with a rich set of features, enterprises do not need to spend valuable development resources to build features themselves. The whole ecosystem accordingly grows with exciting mobile commerce offerings. Chat apps need to enrich their messaging apps with rich features, payment capabilities and 3rd-party provider solutions.
What Conversational Commerce is not: Chat.
The enterprise world is misled, as Conversational Commerce in the US and Europe is being claimed by many vendors as an integral offering. In reality, it is nothing more than a human- or chatbot capability connected on a messaging channel. Driven by traditional UCaaS vendors and the new Customer Contact platforms, they are the first to offer messaging apps in an enterprise world. However, replacing voice calls or customer care with supported bot chat is not necessarily Conversational Commerce. Sorry guys!
Let me elaborate on "Rich features" in chat apps, as this is key to understanding the difference between Chat and Conversational Commerce. RCS (Rich Communication Services) and Apple Messages for Business are native channels providing features such as:
- Quick Button replies
- Location sharing
- Date picker
- Payment button
These features, intelligently combined, will deliver a user experience superior to a mobile website. Conversion rates will improve as the consumer is no longer forced to leave the channel. Not to forget the boost in consumer trust based on the "Verified sender" capabilities these channels provide. Consumers will know incoming messages from these (native) messaging apps are guaranteed to be coming from your actual bank, hotel or airline.
Many Businesses Are Already Using Conversational Commerce
Throughout various sectors, interpretations of the Conversational Commerce principle is possible.
Consider for a minute the restaurant industry. A simple reservation form on your website allows your customers to make online reservations without the need to call, but mobile messaging innovations open up new engagement opportunities.
How Does Conversational Commerce Work?
The basis of Conversational Commerce would be allowing customers to contact your business through their favourite messaging channel and finish the path-to-purchase within that same channel.
Each customer has his channel preference, which means you won't get away with just disclosing Facebook Messenger. It would be best if you had a presence on all of the important messaging channels.
These include -amongst others- WhatsApp, Viber, Telegram, RCS, WeChat, Apple Messages for Business, Facebook Messenger and of course, the always reliable SMS for those internet-scarce moments.
What Do You Need for Conversational Commerce?
To get Conversational Commerce right, you need three building blocks:
- Conversational Messaging: Find a reliable and globally operating CPaaS to connect to all relevant messaging channels your customers are using and start the conversation.
- Data Platform: Offering the best service isn't possible without creating rich customer profiles with data from all connected messaging channels. Using this data can provide a service tailored to their needs and prevent unnecessary repetitive questions like shoe size or the complaint. Data keeps the conversation going!
CPaaS Provides Tools for Conversational Commerce
The modernisation of customer communication is transitioning into mature 2-way communication or conversational messaging. In existing enterprise IT-infrastructures, we usually find CRM systems, contact centres and multichannel marketing hub systems.
Prominent global vendors in these product domains are represented by, for example, Zendesk, Salesforce, Genesys, Avaya, Selligent and Adobe. A CPaaS suite can be projected as an additional cloud communication layer on top of your existing systems, enabling accurate conversational messaging.
CPaaS As a Cloud Communication Add-On
CPaaS vendors provide access to all next-gen communication channels and their existing business applications within minutes.
However, individual SaaS (Software as a Service) vendors don't always keep pace with consumer demands for the ever-changing mobile communication trends.
These vendors are chosen for their expertise in marketing, contact centres or CRM. With a CPaaS suite, there is no need for complex implementation projects or draining of the enterprise IT resources.
Including a CPaaS suite in your existing IT infrastructure guarantees a future proof solution for consumer communication via preferred channels.
Enterprises don't have to worry about identifying the popular channel of next year; they have access to all channels through the CPaaS provider.
Programmable Telecoms Becomes a Reality
If cloud communications platforms only provide access to communication channels, it is questionable if using a CPaaS vendor contributes enough to your business objectives.
However, a mature CPaaS vendor has more to offer via Application Programming Interfaces (API), Software Development Kits (SDK) and Graphical User Interfaces (GUI).
- High scalability via public or private cloud infrastructure
- Visual builders
- Complete solutions (2FA, Campaigns, Fraud Management)
- Up-sell and cross-sell via actionable URLs or buttons
- Integrated solution with payments and identity services.
These are off-the-shelf solutions readily accessible via CM.com. CPaaS vendors with these types of intelligent modules provide significant added value to your existing IT infrastructure, and they will continue to do so.
Enterprise Ready CPaaS vendors
Initially, CPaaS vendors found traction with digital natives. Their shared DNA for innovation helped them to grow their business.
However, in a similar way that enterprises qualify CRM or contact centre vendors, they will seek full vendor qualification for a future CPaaS vendor.
This will create a division between the Tier 1 vendors who significantly prepared their platform on par with enterprise required performance and other vendors.
The enterprise-ready CPaaS vendors can be identified as follows:
- Direct operator connections
- ISO certified
- Private and public Cloud infrastructure offering
- Channel offering SMS, VOICE and OTT (minimally)
- Enterprise security connections (VPN, 2WAY SSL, etc.)
- Experienced working in regulated industries (Telco, Payments, Identity, etc.)
- Enterprise sales, implementation, services and SLA.
Impact on Resources
Enterprises with limited development resources can leverage the intelligent modules provided by CPaaS vendors.
Complete end-2-end solutions are available through APIs or visual builders. Brands can effectively run from a CPaaS platform or their existing business applications the following:
- Marketing campaigns in bulk SMS, Mail or Messenger
- Reduce fraud via telecoms geo-location
- No-show reduction via agenda reminder in RCS
- Late payment reduction via a payment link in Viber message