Conversational Commerce Is Going To Be Big - But Could Be Risky

Over the next five years, businesses are going to have to pay attention to conversational commerce – and fraudsters will do to. Cyber security threats in mobile messaging are emerging as more people are using the simple SMS or WhatsApp platforms to explore, shop and contact customer service. A single recent reported messaging identity fraud cost a bank in Singapore US$ 10 million across 790 victims.

Imagine that across the world and with a bigger service penetration. It is time to understand this trend, and to plan for security.  

What is Conversational Commerce?

The first wave of marketing strategy was broadcast (a single advertising message broadcast to all potential customers via magazines, radio shows, billboards and TV). The second wave was the internet (more personalised broadcast messaging via email/targeted ads). Conversational commerce is an evolution of the app economy, representing the third wave of marketing strategy, which elevates the interactivity offered by websites, apps and email to a new level, building lasting relationships through two-way individualised messaging via a unique mix of channels – the channels we use every day in our personal lives. 

Conversational commerce is all about mobile messaging, which has been steadily growing over the last decade: 25 billion mobile messages are sent every day. Over 3 billion people use texting and mobile messaging apps every day. And this is what conversational commerce taps into. Conversational commerce is about ongoing engagement and deep interactivity with brands. It allows customers to speak to brands as if they are real people building individual relationships that stick. 

So far, brands have been sending single messages – the ‘I am here’ message, but with true conversational commerce brands ask you what you want, not tell you what they want. 

As yet, not all companies have grasped the full potential of conversational commerce, but at MEF (the Mobile Ecosystem Forum) we anticipate the market will grow rapidly over the next few years as more businesses register the benefits. And this is the tip of the iceberg. Conversational commerce will fundamentally change how we buy, sell, and serve our customers.

Example

Take a retailer selling barbeques in bricks-and-mortar stores. Typically, they will sell lots of products when the sun shines – June is a big month for sales. But that glut of customers doesn’t last long. 

With conversational commerce, this retailer can understand their customers’ needs (e.g. having a garden party), can service those needs (e.g. informing customers when the weather is likely to be sunny or sharing recipes), and provide ongoing support (e.g. how to effectively clean and service the barbeque).

Basically, the limits of broadcast messaging are being exposed. Sending the same message to everyone works extremely well to build and establish a consistent brand but is terrible when it comes to interaction.

People now expect to have a meaningful conversation about products and services. They want to know what the experience of the brand is like, to really feel it. That’s why influencer marketing is so popular - there is an opportunity to engage with a real person and understand the brand experience.

Handling Costs

Providing an orchestrated omnichannel conversation commerce strategy that looks after every customer’s individual needs would be prohibitively expensive for most businesses. Fortunately, the robots are here to save us. AI can guide customers in the right direction and quickly learn what they need. 

While chatbots have, historically, been unpopular due to their frustrating limitations, many of us are now speaking to chatbots without even realising. And they’re getting smarter every day! 

It’s important not to outsource the entire process to robots, however. While the AI could help and guide customers, it may get to the point where they need to speak to a human being. And this is key to conversational commerce: giving people what they want and need at the right time in the most helpful way.

By bringing all the data the AI has already gathered along on the journey, the human operator can quickly and effectively deal with the issue, allowing call centre staff to get on with the job of customer care rather than focusing on admin and call time targets.

It’s all about finding a holistic approach than brings information together to find the best way to help. 

Dario Betti is CEO of  the Mobile Ecosystem Forum 

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