Chatbots and Messaging Apps: The Next Big Thing in Ecommerce?
Chatbots have been making a splash online for awhile now. From commentators predicting their rapid rise, to e-tailers bemoaning the slow rate of progress, chatbots are certainly a hot topic of conversation. What chatbots are fundamentally offering is simple enough: get into people’s messenger apps and sell your products there. But what are some of the other ramifications of messenger commerce? How do brands and businesses need to prepare in order to fully embrace this new technology? Here are some exciting ways in which chatbots are having a lasting impact on the ecommerce landscape.
What chatbots help brands achieve
Let’s start by looking at some of the key reasons why brands and businesses are increasingly turning to chatbot technology:
- Continuity: in today’s frenetic marketplace, chatbots help businesses offer 24/7 customer support. With the proliferation of multi-channel commerce, chatbots help maintain brand consistency at all times
- Immediacy: chatbots give consumers a direct line to your brand, and the reactive nature of chat keeps customers engaged whilst shopping. The barrier to picking up a phone and making a call is high, whereas firing off a few questions is comparatively easy. Chat is an inherently casual and reactive medium, and can help you catch your customers ‘off guard’ (in a good way)
- Mcommerce revenue: brands with a good mobile strategy have a distinct advantage over their competitors who have not yet moved beyond the desktop model. Chatbots drive mobile commerce and can help brands capitalize on growing mcommerce revenue
- Scale: chatbots are a cost-effective way for brands to offer customer care and support. They also take on the important role of upselling and recommending products.
Increasingly easy to use and implement, it’s no wonder that chatbots and live chat have been embraced by so many digital businesses.
Changing the way e-tailers do business: users first
Chatbots make commerce mobile-first, not just mobile-ready. And by mobile first, we mean what is best, most convenient, and easiest for the user.
Most mobile users are only comfortable sticking to a few core applications, so ecommerce brands are taking a proactive approach to conversational commerce. The onus is on brands and businesses to figure out user preferences and fall in line with them, rather than e-tailers calling the shots on how people should shop. This is an exciting time for start ups and growing businesses to capitalize on the consumer revolution and offer ecommerce models that are fully aligned with how people actually behave online.
Chat is a powerful way to engage customers who are a potential flightrisk: conversation inherently holds our gaze and attention. As with so many things in ecommerce, the focus is on brands and businesses providing value through content and information, not just fighting for attention with price. Chatbots also give customers an increased sense of autonomy. Messenger commerce and online chat are all about customer convenience, and should not be exploited as channels for cheap advertising.
Social commerce & social shopping
The boundaries between play, work, and business are blurring, as customers flick from personal conversations to chatbot driven ads or film recommendations.
The rapid rise of social commerce is forcing brands to embrace social media as just another sales and customer service channel. Chatbots are a natural continuation of social commerce — the perfect culmination of shopping as a conversation between brand and consumer.
The increasingly social nature of commerce means that the ways in which ecommerce brands present their products and content needs to change. Instead of glossy ads designed to create ‘hype’, ecommerce companies are much better off focusing on content that is more native and conversational. From partnering with social influencers to user-generated content campaigns, social commerce is changing the ways in which we do digital marketing.
Chatbots are part of the inevitable march of progress. AI is becoming increasingly part of the ways that we do business, and spend our leisure time online.
Using predictive analytics and AI means that ecommerce brands will soon be able to rely on an army of personal shoppers like the recently launched eBay bot Shopbot.WeChat in China is already paving the way as an all-singing and all-dancing messenger app that also moonlights as a personal shopper. Many commentators are predicting that one day WhatsApp will offer similar functionalities to WeChat, making the app a powerhouse of personal and commercial content. (Though there will need to be a whole host of security updated that need to go through before this can be fully realized).
AI chatbots aren’t just disrupting ecommerce for the consumer, they are also helping ecommerce merchants run better online businesses. Shopify’s store builder subscription now includes Kit for free: Kit is a bot CRM who prompts you to run Facebook ad campaigns, and even helps you manage them. Smart bots like Kit are paving the way for AI bots to assist brands on increasingly complex tasks.
VR is another emerging tech that has a huge role to play in ecommerce, so it will be interesting to see whether any synergy between VR and chatbots starts to develop…
Future use cases
It’s clear to everyone that the messenger commerce model is sustainable, and we’re unlikely to see a decline any day soon. One day in the not so distant future chatbots will become personal assistants and shoppers They will take payments, manage subscriptions, discreetly up-sell, and replace many of the functions now fulfilled by a website. They will probably be able to not only react to written text, but video, speech, and images too.
They will also be used by publishers in order to find new readers, make content recommendations, and generally help people organize and better their lives. They might even help us organize our financial and medical lives.
What does this mean for the future of ecommerce?
Chatbots are a perfect example of how crucial data is in helping brands forge better relationships with customers. Rather than alienating users and creating distance, AI is actually bringing brands and businesses closer together, helping them co-exist in evermore intimate ways.
Ecommerce brands and businesses should sit up and take note of the rising tide of conversational commerce and adjust their digital and content strategies accordingly.
The utopia of messenger commerce has not yet been fully realized, but we are not that far from it either. One of the most exciting things about chatbots is their ability to simulate personal conversations, and the wider implications that has in our era of social commerce.
About the Author:
Victoria Greene is a brand marketing consultant and freelance writer. She has her own blog at VictoriaEcommerce, as well as running a few ecommerce businesses. Victoria is a big advocate of mcommerce, and is all about using the latest tech to make more sales and satisfy more customers.