The way e-commerce companies communicate with their customers has changed dramatically in recent years. Certainly in 2021, as a company you have to be in many different places at the same time and meet high expectations. One of the most important changes is how conversations with customers are increasingly moving from traditional channels such as email and telephony to messaging apps. In this article you can read all about the future of e-commerce: conversational commerce.
Many e-commerce companies have been sticking to old trusted communication channels such as e-mail, telephony and live chat for years. That worked well for them ten years ago and it actually still does. They have seen the rise of messaging apps such as WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger, but do not see the added value or are afraid that they will spend too much time on it. Sooner or later, however, companies with this mindset will run into the light.
The relationship between customers and web shops is becoming more valuable by the day. Customers nowadays expect to be able to actually engage in a conversation with a company, without such a conversation feeling like a sales pitch or a ticket that must be dealt with quickly. This is a lot easier to achieve via a smooth WhatsApp conversation than via e-mail, for example. It makes the experience for the customer faster, more direct and above all more personal. And for this, the customer is increasingly willing to pay a higher price.
Enter conversational commerce.
What is Conversational Commerce?
In 2016 Chris Messina used the term conversational commerce for the first time in an article on Medium. He described it as follows:
“I want to clarify that conversational commerce (as I see it) largely pertains to utilizing chat, messaging, or other natural language interfaces (i.e. voice) to interact with people, brands, or services and bots that heretofore have had no real place in the bidirectional, asynchronous messaging context.”
With conversational commerce you place commerce in the personal and accessible context of messaging apps such as WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger. Via the messaging apps, customers can chat with an employee, receive support, ask questions and receive tailor-made advice.
Why is conversational commerce so effective?
Online shopping naturally has many advantages, but there is always a downside: it is a lot less personal than in a physical store. Messaging apps make it easier to simulate that feeling of having a chat in an old-fashioned store. Especially if you keep the response times short and the tone informal.
Furthermore, in the era of instant gratification, customers want to have to navigate as little as possible. When they come across an ad on Facebook, they want to be able to ask you all about it via Messenger. They do not want to be redirected to your website, e-mail address or telephone number.
Ultimately, it’s all about ease of use. Technology has improved the average customer experience to the point that an old-fashioned online customer experience can quickly feel cumbersome or tedious. And when that happens, the customer drops out.
So where do we start?
1. Select the correct channels
First of all, it is important to choose the right communication channels. Which channels does your target audience prefer to use? Many companies often do not think about this well enough.
Imagine that you have a Dutch webshop and want to expand with a webshop focused on China. You currently have e-mail, live chat and WhatsApp as communication channels and that seems sufficient. Never change a winning team, right?
But as you can see above, WhatsApp is not the most popular messaging channel in China, but WeChat. If you are not present on this app, a conversational experience is no longer possible.
In addition to the country where your target group is located, there are of course many more factors to take into account, also within Dutch national borders. Consider, for example, age and education level. For example, with an older target group it is not necessary to follow every new app hype, while it is important for younger target groups.
It is therefore essential to research which channels your customers prefer to use, rather than forcing them to use your existing channels.
2. Bring all channels together in one overview
Managing multiple communication channels with one team can be quite overwhelming. Who checks which channel? Who picks up which conversation? Before you know it, you will spend more time monitoring all those channels than you are actually talking to customers.
Manage all your channels from one overview. An omnichannel team inbox is a good solution for this. Whether it’s WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger or email: in an omnichannel inbox, your team doesn’t have to click back and forth between different tools. This way you keep the focus on the most important thing: the conversation with the customer.
To make the customer experience truly conversational, every conversation must be able to move seamlessly from channel to channel. In an omnichannel inbox, the conversation through multiple channels therefore remains visible in one thread. This way the context remains clear and colleagues can easily take over a conversation from each other.
3. Focus on the complete experience, not (just) sales
In a conversational experience, the customer journey, as the term suggests, turns into a conversation. Such a conversation starts with the awareness phase and continues to customer service after the purchase. It’s important that the conversation feels personal and genuine throughout that customer journey.
So if customers have a question about delivery times or a return, you need to be as enthusiastic and helpful as if you can sell something. When customers find that it is all your business to make the transaction, any sense of authenticity will disappear and they will feel unappreciated.
And that appreciation is just as important, as you can see in the image below:
Create your own chatbots
Chatbots can also play a role in your conversational commerce strategy. A bot provides product advice, tells the customer how much stock is left, answers questions about the delivery and can eventually also take care of service-related questions. This makes the workload on your team a lot more bearable and the customer receives a response more quickly. A win-win situation.
Nowadays, chatbots can no longer only be set to the live chat on your website, but also on WhatsApp, Messenger and Telegram with an omnichannel inbox. In addition, there is no need for a developer to create a bot, you can easily do that yourself.
If set up properly, chatbots can really be a relief for customers. However, I regularly come across bots on some websites that mainly cause frustration. They do not help me further and are ultimately a hurdle I have to overcome before I can talk to a customer service representative.
In the opening message of your chatbot, be honest with the customer about what to expect, how the bot can be of service and when the customer will be connected to an employee.
Deliver the best possible customer experience
Want to learn more about how an omnichannel team inbox can help create a conversational customer experience? Then visit the website of Trengo.
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