Let's chat: how conversational commerce could be the key to more sales
For years, the path to purchase in eCommerce has been relatively solitary (see our guide on what is eCommerce).
A visitor lands on your site, then slogs through pages and pages of products before checking out (or abandoning your site) on their own.
But change is now afoot. The path to purchase is becoming a lively street party, thanks to the growing popularity of conversational commerce.
Conversational commerce represents a fundamentally new mode of eCommerce marketing—one that’s responsive, direct, and, dare we say, fun.
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What is conversational commerce?
Conversational commerce includes various modes of selling (across many types of businesses) that involve direct one-to-one exchanges with shoppers in (near) real time. This two-way dialogue helps zero in on shoppers’ needs and enables timely, hyper-personalized responses.
Conversational commerce transcends “call center customer service” and includes a mix of human support, voice technology, messaging apps, and more.
The best experiences use these technologies to guide shoppers through the entire customer journey, from the moment they inquire about a product, to when they’re ready to check out or want to make a return.
Conversational commerce channels
The goal of conversational commerce is to be able to serve customers wherever, whenever, and however they prefer to interact. Formats include:
Live online chat - More than a quarter of shoppers now prefer to contact customer service through live chat, HubSpot found, and chatbots can boost your GPV by 27%, according to Wix data. By offering real-time text or video dialogue on your site through tools like Wix Chat, you can help customers conveniently find products and resolve their questions.
Social messaging apps - While Facebook Messenger may be the most recognizable messaging app, there are a host of others to choose from, like WhatsApp, Telegram, and Viber. The latter go beyond simple text messages, enabling communication through rich media like video, “sticker” graphics, and GIF memes. All told, nearly 74% of Internet users globally use some form of social messaging, according to eMarketer, making it a potentially effective way to reach new audiences. (Fun fact: Wix Chat enables you to continue on-site conversations in WhatsApp.)
Chatbots - Whether through on-site chat or social messaging tools, AI chatbots or virtual agents can provide quick responses to simple queries. VentureBeat reported that two-thirds of consumers would prefer to use a chatbot than click through a website to find answers.
SMS messaging - In addition to issuing status updates and deal alerts via texts, some retailers are experimenting with AI features to enable swift and simple direct ordering, such as Walmart’s “text to shop” feature.
Voice shopping - While far from a widespread habit, more than one in five shoppers under the age of 35 have used their “smart speakers” to place orders, and 9% order by voice regularly, according to eMarketer. The promise of digital commerce untethered from keyboards is inspiring innovative experiments. Wix merchant Evolve Clothing Gallery offers voice-powered search on its site, enabling menswear shoppers a hands-free way to summon products that match their interests.
Livestream shopping - Live online shopping events have long been popular in Asia and are catching on in the U.S., with the market projected to reach $20 billion this year and accelerate sharply through 2026, according to CoreSight Research. Unlike TV shopping shows of old, livestream viewers can interact live with hosts and each other via accompanying chat windows, making for a festive shared experience.
Phone customer service - Usage of traditional phone support dropped during and after the pandemic, according to Forrester, but phone support is still a must-have. Giving call center reps access to digital customer profiles, order histories, and AI-powered recommendations enables them to provide savvy guidance that takes into account the full spectrum of callers’ past interactions with the brand.
In-store consultations - With the benefit of face-to-face interaction and the ability to interpret non-verbal cues, store associates are potentially the ultimate conversationalists for your brand. To boost effectiveness, equip them with digital access to customers’ past orders and product resources (such as reviews and ratings) through tools like the Wix Retail POS.
3 key benefits of conversational commerce
Conversational commerce is an eCommerce technology trend that has caught the attention of various entrepreneurs. Already, it’s been found that implementing one or more conversational tactics can bring benefits, such as:
01. A superior, personal customer experience
Despite a pandemic-induced spike, eCommerce still hovers between 14% to 20%, according to various sources. The digital realm seems to fall short of the multi-sensory experience that physical outlets offer, especially the encounters with knowledgeable store staff who can assist with finding the right items. But, conversational commerce simulates that personal touch, helping to tailor customer service to each buyer and drive deeper connections.
02. A wider presence, starting on mobile
Conversational commerce brings your brand to where customers are already gathering and interacting online, especially on mobile devices. Three-quarters of today’s consumers prefer to browse products on their phones, according to Hubspot, and many conversational tools are designed with hand-held devices in mind.
In addition, by using automated conversational tools, you can offer round-the-clock customer service. AI-powered chatbots and pre-scripted responses can resolve simple requests when asked outside of store or call center hours.
03. Time savings for you and your customers
Digital conversational channels are more efficient for customer service reps to manage. Depending on their experience level, agents may be able to handle as many as six simultaneous live chat sessions, compared with a single caller for phone customer service. AI-powered chatbots can increase that efficiency exponentially; there’s no limit to the number of simultaneous users that they can help.
It goes without saying that time is of the essence when it comes to customer service. Many of your consumers are looking for the speediest resolution to their requests, even if that means interacting with automated virtual agents. That’s especially true for straightforward requests, such as looking up order status or store hours.
And given that up to half of all customer service calls often consist of the question “Where is my order?” (also known as WISMO), these automated digital responses can reduce call center volume significantly and focus human agents’ efforts on more complex challenges.
5 tips for getting started with conversational commerce
As with any customer service offering, conversational commerce requires plenty of planning and a deliberate approach. To avoid disappointing customers, set clear expectations and don’t take on more than you can handle. Specifically:
01. Don’t try to be everywhere all at once
Choose one or two conversational channels that align with your audience’s existing preferences and focus on developing high-quality, differentiated service in each before launching more services. Not only should responses be prompt, but they should also reflect the unique attributes of the individual channel.
In other words, avoid using overly generic cut-and-paste language. If you’re conversing with a customer via a messaging app, remember that he or she is looking at a small screen. Keep your messaging concise, and use emojis and stickers tastefully.
02. Communicate transparently
You don’t have to provide live, human-operated service around the clock, but you should state your hours of operation prominently across your conversational channels and explain what alternatives are available when agents are offline.
If you opt to use automated chatbots, don’t attempt to pass them off as human agents. Instead, give these virtual tools a catchy name and profile picture that clearly indicate that they’re a robot or artificial entity. If a live agent eventually takes over, the agent should introduce him or herself to ensure shoppers are aware of the transition.
03. Connect conversations
Use unified customer profiles to log interactions and ensure conversations don’t loop and stall. Repetition is a pet peeve: 44% of shoppers resent having to start their conversation all over again when a human agent takes over for a chatbot, according to Zendesk, and 54% believe they shouldn’t have to repeat themselves when trying to resolve an issue.
Connecting conversations across channels also ensures consistency. Callers on the phone should be offered the same promotional deals as customers on social messaging apps, provided that they share similar spending profiles.
What’s more, by logging and sharing feedback across channels, you can identify patterns and create the appropriate training materials and scripts to arm your customer support teams. Recurring customer suggestions can even help guide future product, site, or service enhancements.
04. Don’t be passive
Proactive prompts are one of the unique features of digital conversational commerce, so be sure to use them. Rather than waiting for customer service calls to come in, offer to help online visitors in real time when they appear to have reached a dead end.
To develop the right triggers, study your eCommerce site analytics or social commerce performance to discover where and when shoppers typically stall. Devise business rules to ensure that they receive just one conversation prompt per session, and avoid bombarding visitors with a series of repeated invitations.
You can achieve this using Wix Automations. Set your triggers, conditions, and chat frequency—plus automate any follow-up actions you desire.
05. Personalize using data
As you engage with customers, make sure to use the data at your disposal to personalize your messages. When using Wix Chat, for example, you can view a visitors’ site activity as you’re providing live support. This can provide context for your conversation, plus lead to quicker, more relevant solutions.
From Wix, you can view customers’ current and previous site activity, the device they’re using, location, and more. So, rather than sending your customers an exhaustive list of questions, you can recommend products or services that match their familiarity with your brand and their expressed interests.
Good conversation makes lasting connections
There’s no shortage of demand for fast, personalized experiences among shoppers. Conversational commerce provides an avenue to satisfy that craving.
Customers can resolve questions and transact more easily than ever, while simultaneously experiencing one-to-one interactions. This potent combination can help you to build brand trust—and ultimately wins sales.
Editor, Wix eCommerce
Allison is the editor for the Wix eCommerce blog, with several years of experience reporting on eCommerce news, strategies, and founder stories.