‘Conversational Commerce’ Is On The Rise: Here’s How Brands Can Win

Of 806 million WeChat users in China, an estimated 31 percent have used the messaging platform to make a purchase. By embracing diverse chatbot applications, brands can take advantage.

With consumers exchanging over 2 billion messages with businesses via Facebook Messenger each month, the process of asking a brand for information digitally is well established  — and opportunities for conversational commerce abound.

However, it’s easy to see how brands who are inundated with messages could get overwhelmed — and struggle to answer both voice and text queries with a personalized response. Enter chatbots: While concern still exists in the industry over whether consumers will find conversational AI “creepy,” the use of chatbots as conversational agents — and of course, intelligent assistants — is on the rise. And plenty of customers are responding: In fact, HSBC told GeoMarketing in 2017 that its chatbot outperformed banner ads across platforms by a wide margin.

“Brands that are easy to do business with, that give consumers back time — these brands win,” explained Manlio Carrelli, EVP, Enterprise Business Group at LivePerson, a messaging and bots platform for brands. “Conversational commerce is about communicating what you want through natural language. Type it, or talk to your voice assistant. There is no interface or learning curve.”

GeoMarketing: Tell me a little bit about some of the brands you’ve worked with at LivePerson to create conversational agents. How does it help them to better interact with consumers?

Manlio Carrelli: We bring conversational commerce to life for major brands. The idea is, you should be able to message a brand about what you want, and magic — you’ve got it.

Our LiveEngage platform brings together all the capabilities to make this experience work at scale for brands with millions of consumers. We connect these brands to consumer messaging tools such as Facebook Messenger or Amazon Alexa, integrate the backend systems needed to do things like make payments or get order status, provide AI and automation, and give human agents and managers a console to oversee the experience.

Using LiveEngage, brands we’ve worked with are consistently beating the conversion rates on their websites by a wide margin. They have quadrupled the productivity of the humans that oversee the experience through our automation. This translates to enormous top-line impact and savings for brands with large care and sales organizations, like big telcos, banks, retailers, and travel firms. Consumers love the experience because it gives them back time.

Why is it important for brands to embrace messaging apps — and further, to explore automatic responses like chatbots?

Brands that are easy to do business with, that give consumers back time — these brands win.

Websites and apps were supposed to create this easy experience, but they failed. Consider that almost half the online sales in the US are concentrated within one company. From a customer care perspective, brands find their sites and apps drive 800 number calls. Most consumers do not like sitting on hold, so think about what that means about the state of digital experiences.

Conversational commerce is about communicating what you want through natural language. Type it, or talk to your voice assistant. There is no interface or learning curve.

This is happening in a big way already, particularly outside the US in countries where many new Internet users just skipped over the web and focus on messaging. There are 806 million WeChat users in China, and 31 percent used it to make a purchase. That’s 249 million individuals, the same number of total adults in the U.S. The market potential is huge.

How do brands manage bot-based conversation appropriately? What, in your mind, makes it a successful interaction for the consumer? 

A successful interaction for the consumer is their intentions were understood and met, with as little friction as possible. The most sophisticated brands are going a step further and using the consistent connection you have over messaging — like SMS or a messaging app — to proactively address consumer intentions. This can be as simple as order status alerts. When combined with the ability for consumers to ask questions and make orders, it’s a real delight. This is monumentally different than having to wait for consumers to go to your site or call.

The key to managing the bots is the humans that develop and oversee them. We have had a lot of success turning a brand’s contact center agents into bot managers. The agents have a great understanding of what consumers want. We give the agents special tools in our LiveEngage platform to oversee many bot conversations, intervene to help the consumer when the bots are unable to, and then rewrite the bots so they do better next time. It’s a real-time iteration loop. That velocity is really important to delighting consumers and scaling automation.

We also do a great Conversational Design workshop with the branding and marketing executives, the sales or customer care agents, and other key stakeholders to create the bot engagement strategy and personality, along with the playbook for the loop I described.

Finally, since we planned to discuss the event: What are you taking away from Cannes Lions this year to implement in your own marketing efforts at home?

Our own Conversational Design team ran the Cannes Concierge this year over messaging, so Cannes attendees were able to text bots we created to get help finding the right sessions or parties and other important information. 16,000 people attended Cannes. We ran the whole concierge operation to support this with a few people in the wheelhouse of the LivePerson yacht, with the bots doing the rest! The concierge team members included amazing bot managers from our customers — a fun reward for their good work.

One interesting point of feedback we got was that it was easier to use the concierge for directions than to get directions from the people staffed at the event hall. The reason is we had maps integration. It was a great reminder of how powerful rich conversational experiences are. The entire concierge experience was created in six weeks, which is also something that stuck with me. Amazing things are possible with technology and hustle.

About The Author
Lauryn Chamberlain Lauryn Chamberlain @laurynchamberla

Lauryn Chamberlain is the Associate Editor of A New York City based journalist, she specializes in stories related to retail, dining, hospitality, and travel.