A recurring focal point in e-commerce is the way organisations interact with their customers. The coincidence of two developments – the increasing popularity of messaging apps and developments related to artificial intelligence – provide opportunities for organisations to communicate with consumers in innovative ways. This movement is conversational commerce.
What is conversational commerce?
Conversational commerce is a trend which was first used in 2015 by Uber’s Chris Messina. He defines conversational commerce as: “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. The net result is that you and I will be talking to brands and companies over Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, Telegram, Slack, and elsewhere, and will find it normal” . A virtual assistant – in the form of a chatbot – is used to help consumers in the decision-making process to purchase a product or service. Using artificial intelligence, the chatbot answers consumer questions. The goal is to provide convenience, personalisation and to support the decision-making process, creating an optimal customer experience .
All major internet and technology companies are currently integrating this kind of artificial intelligence. Let’s take a look at some examples of conversational commerce.
WeChat was created by Chinese holding company Tencent in 2014. The product was created to develop a completely new mobile-first messaging experience for the Chinese market. It is currently the biggest mobile messaging platform in China .
WeChat is a go-to app for everything. It has a lot of features like: hail a taxi, order food, book a flight, pay, meet new people and book doctor’s appointments. Businesses can create free accounts on WeChat and begin connecting with consumers.
Facebook messenger is an app that serves for communication. Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s founder, believes that people should be able to talk to companies in the same way they talk to a friend. In 2015, Facebook introduced integrated peer-to-peer payments into their messenger, and later developed a chatbot API that enables businesses and customers to communicate in a simple way. This would improve the customer experience.
Quartz is a messenger app that serves as a content medium for companies. The app sends messages through chatbots to people who have downloaded the app. This can be used to create an interactive news experience. Companies who use Quartz, are able to send personalised sponsored content and advertising to consumers.
 Medium (2016), 2016 will be the year of conversational commerce.
 Marketingfacts (2015), Conversational commerce: je merk als (virtuele) assistent in het beslissingsproces.
 WeChat (2017), Examples of conversational commerce, chatbots & contextual commerce.