As a business, you should of course be connecting with all your customers, wherever you are. Usually this is through your website, phone and email. However, unless you have a huge budget for a customer service center, as a business owner you can’t be everywhere at once.
Enter conversational commerce. Your customers can interact and shop with your messaging app, and for most enquires, it can all be automated. For more complex questions, you can then have your chat bot contact you or a small customer service team to continue the conversation … just like in the “real world” where customers browse, then ask a salesperson a question if they need more help!
Chatbots Mean Business
Messaging apps are taking businesses to a new level. Years ago, you could only chat with your family, friends and colleagues. Today, you can now look at Burger King’s menu on Facebook Messenger or other chat service and order your favorite meal. You can browse for shoes and clothing without having to go a website.
Imagine your customers inquiring by Messenger what’s new at your store. You don’t have to drop everything to reply. Your chatbots will attend to their inquiries. Images and features of your new products are sent instantly. If they find something they like, they can click buy. For now, a link directs them to a website for final purchases … but soon, customers won’t even need to leave their messaging app to complete transactions.
Will using interactive apps and chatbots scale your business? Can they help have a “conversation” with your customers? They not only can, they also open a brand new channel for you to expand and increase your sales. Like voice search, conversational commerce is here to stay.
Read on and find out if it will work for you.
What Is Conversational Commerce?
According to Chris Messina in 2015, “it’s about delivering convenience, personalization and decision support while people are on the go, with only partial attention to spare.” It’s the new way of interacting with your target market, and only now is it becoming much more mainstream.
Businesses already use messaging for product updates, advisories, reminders and even birthday greetings. It’s usually just a one-way communication. Conversational commerce changes everything, by going both ways.
Just like a sales call or a customer asking a salesperson about a particular problem in a store, you can now do this digitally and get the same results. Your chatbot can initiate a dialogue as if you’re having a casual chat with a friend. It’s usually how you should be treating your customers anyway … as friends and family.
You can make your messaging much more interactive now. No more cold greetings like “To all our subscribers or customers.” Knowing your customers’ buying habits and preferences, you can personalize your message to start a conversation. “Hello John or Mary, we have the latest version of X product you bought before. Would you like to see it now?”
Awareness can lead to conversions in a short time. Once your customers know you can deliver quickly, they won’t hesitate to contact you first.
Why Is It Relevant For Business?
Have you heard of conversational leadership? It’s basically the concept of open communication between management and employees. More companies are adopting this concept in their daily operations to improve business and social value. This opens the doors to better two-way communication within organizations.
It’s no surprise these companies are also adopting conversational commerce. Prospecting now isn’t that different from a salesperson in a department store. Instead of marketing physically, it’s all done online with messaging apps.
As of October 2020, WhatsApp, first in popularity, had 2 billion users monthly. That’s 700 million more than FB Messenger and 800 million more than WeChat. In 2014 Facebook bought WhatsApp, and it’s now in the process of being integrated with Instagram and Messenger (not without blowback and negative press, though. We’ll see how that plays out this year.)
This means you can soon cross-communicate through these platforms – no more switching between the three. Will this eventually lead to cross-marketing as well?
Privacy issues aside, shopping and business communication via messaging apps are definitely here to stay. Making the buying journey smoother is everyone’s goal. You could create your own app if you had the resources. But would prospects bother downloading it if they don’t know and fully trust you?
Instead, add conversational commerce with an existing chat tool to your sales and marketing communication.
Here are some of the benefits:
- Improves a user’s experience. By providing a seamless shopping journey, you’re more likely to retain customers. They won’t need to look for alternatives if you have better access points to your business.
- Increases sales. It’s an additional platform your business can thrive on. With direct inquiries such as a search for gift ideas, third-party chat software can help them with suggestions.
- It can be automated. Most apps allow chatbots that can act as your virtual sales assistants. You will find samples of chatbot software below. This doesn’t mean eliminating actual people from the process.
- Saves time and money. Sure, chatbots are going to cost a bit of money. But, these can connect with all your customers and prospects in less time and with less effort. You can rely on fewer agents to sell for you.
- More convenient. Connect with customers without being intrusive. They can reply at their own leisure. Also, they can use their favorite message app to contact you.
- Mobile-friendly. Purchasing from smartphones is growing. If there’s e-commerce, there’s now m-commerce. According to this article, a third of last year’s online (US) sales came from smartphone users. It’s a major sign that more people are comfortable shopping from their mobile devices.
- Generates leads. More people are spending time chatting. Go to them directly and you’ll find more prospects.
- Improves customer service. Answering queries or sending package tracking info through messaging is preferable to e-mails. Sending a quick reply to a request for assistance or complaint will be a plus for your business. Don’t forget to follow-up with actual, human-lead action.
- Flexibility. Expect full integration with other platforms and voice assistants when the technology is improved.
Which Messaging App Should You Use?
Facebook Messenger is still the top app in the US. However, don’t assume this is what you should focus on for your business. Before you optimize for this platform, run a survey first with your customers. Sure, it might take a bit of time and effort, but you will be invested considerably with the knowledge of where a majority of them reside online. Making the wrong assumptions can be costly.
Where do you find your target audience? Most of them could be at any or all of the popular apps. There might be a large number of WhatsApp users among your target audience. Also, Millions of people use Telegram, Snapchat, Kik and even WeChat. Don’t forget SMS. It’s old but still useful.
Here are some points you need to know about these apps.
- WhatsApp. Chatbots aren’t generally allowed on this. You can make use of its status feature by posting images and GIFs to attract attention.
- FB Messenger. Chatbots can be as productive as live agents. A bot can be customized to deliver what your customers are searching for. You can program bots to add humor and send the same content through e-mails.
- Snapchat. If your target audience includes millennials, add this app to your mix. It’s one of the apps that are testing payment options without you having to leave the conversation.
- Kik. Most of its users are teenagers. You can use chatbots on this app to engage your audience.
- WeChat. This is very popular in China. It’s a mobile payment app too. If you have customers worldwide, then consider this for your messaging.
- Telegram. You can send newsletters through this app’s Messenger. Bots can carry on a basic conversation with your customers. There are no limits on video sizes on this channel.
- SMS. It’s still reliable if you want to send short and relevant messages. You can run surveys and remind customers of upcoming events.
I suggest experimenting to discover which app will get you more responses. It might also be an excellent idea to use a combination of these. Then A/B split test your messages or content to see which gets the best results.
What Tools Do You Need?
I suggest you experiment with chatbots first. The following tools offer free and paid services:
- FB Messenger. If this is your first foray in creating a chatbot, Facebook has a tutorial that requires a bit of technical know-how. You’ll have complete control of your chatbot as you’ll be doing all of its coding. You can hire a tech-savvy person to help you with this.
- ManyChat. This is a popular tool that can create bots for FB Messenger and SMS. It has a free version and is user-friendly. You can build a bot in minutes with its simple interface. ManyChat can be integrated with Shopify, MailChimp and HubSpot.
- Freshchat. Its multi-functional feature allows you to reach customers on your website, on mobile and through social messengers. You can connect with them on FB Messenger, WhatsApp and Apple Business Chat. Try it for free.
- Chatfuel. This doesn’t require any coding at all. Users of this software include Adidas, Levi’s and Greenpeace. It can be integrated with FB Messenger and Instagram. Plans start at $15/month.
- ChatBot. You can use this on your website, FB Messenger and Kik. It’s an all-in-one platform that can help you increase sales and retain customers. Bots manage repetitive tasks freeing live agents to attend to complex customer needs. ChatBot offers a 14-day free trial.
Reviewing your customer queries helps you determine what tools you need. These queries plus your product FAQs are the basis for what your chatbots will handle. Create conversational replies. Monitor communication and see if your customers remain engaged. Always include the option for your customer to be able to speak with a live agent.
Conversational commerce doesn’t end when you make a sale. It’s only one step in your customer’s journey. You could ask for relevant information, offer discounts and announce upcoming events. And, you can continue to answer their needs when they ask for assistance.
You can keep your customers loyal through direct communication. Remember, marketing is creating long-term relationships.
The advantages of having a multi-channel marketing strategy outweigh the costs. If you want to survive and stand out, directly connect with your target market through conversation.
As technology advances, businesses are investing in conversational commerce. Are chatbots, sales and communication through messaging apps in your future? Let us know below what you think.