Conversational Commerce: The Evolution of E-com?

In this era of e-com, in-store sales assistants are no longer available to guide consumers through a smooth buying journey. How can your business compensate? The answer is C-Com.

You may think that one of the advantages of e-commerce-only operation is that it cuts the small-talk. If that’s the case, you’ll be shocked to find out how wrong you are. In fact, research demonstrates that over 80% of customers prefer purchasing from companies who prioritise user experience over price or product. 

So what is c-com?

C-com is sometimes dubbed convenience commerce, but officially refers to conversational commerce. The term surfaced in 2015, coined by American blogger and technology evangelist, Chris Messina. Considering he literally invented the use of the hashtag as we know it, he’s probably worth listening to.

In short, communication commerce refers to retailers using new communication technologies to streamline the entire consumer journey. C-com handles everything on a single platform – from advertising, marketing and customer service, through to payment, delivery tracking, and reviewing.

There a four types of platform that currently host c-com, or have potential for it:

What’s the big deal?

Chat, messaging, and voice-activated interfaces allow consumers to interact with brands in a similar way they would friends and family. This paves the way for much more personalised, trusting, and loyal relationships in the long-term. 

Over 2.8 billion people globally currently use messaging apps to chat. Due to its social nature, c-com could be an invaluable tool in infiltrating what is currently a (relatively) private online space, home to inaccessible and difficult to track, ‘dark social’ data.

When messaging app monthly active users have recently eclipsed those of social networks, why wouldn’t you want to be where your customers already are?

Messaging apps have now overtaken the big 4 social networks in monthly active users, making C-com much more viable.
Credit: Business Insider

Advantages of c-com for your customers

From a consumer perspective, c-com requires only partial attention compared to more traditional e-com purchase routes. The fact that the technology involved is already seamlessly integrated into existing smart multi-tasking devices makes for the ultimate convenience. Customers can move through support, personalised product recommendations and reviews, straight to purchase, all from a single app or device they already use. 

Since the operation of conversational apps revolves around the way the user organises their life, in c-com interaction, the customer is entirely in control. Essentially, c-com is a devoted personal shopper in your phone, laptop, or voice assistant, triggered by voiced or typed commands. 

Some hail this the re-humanisation of online retail.

Obviously, a human operator is able to perceive and respond to a consumer’s demands and behaviour patterns through social cues. Chatbots can now also simulate this effect via machine learning and natural language processing.

It’s worth noting that live chat functions have a 73% customer satisfaction rate, much higher than traditional contact channels like email and phone. However, it is also predicted that specifically AI-powered chat will generate $142B in retail spend by 2024. 

Advantages of c-com for your business

As our smarty-pants partner, Shopify, cleverly points out, “reducing the steps required, and the number of information sources consumers need to turn to, shortens the distance between prospect and purchase”. It also cuts the potential for third-party ads to disrupt the customer experience, diverting attention away from your brand. The less time and inconvenience a potential customer faces on their buying journey, the less chance they’ll abandon it altogether, so the more sales for you!

You don’t need us to tell you a flood of disgruntled comments on your organic socials is a bad sign. That kind of situation probably requires problem-solving behind the scenes. However, the odd impatient customer is inevitable. You’re much more equipped to deal with these sensitively within one-on-one c-com interactions, than on a public platform like Instagram. Not to mention, it does wonders for your brand image to have spotless socials filled with praise rather than pestering…

One-on-one brand-to-customer conversations also have the benefit of providing opportunities to cross-sell and up-sell. AI-hosted chat functions and voice assistants have access to unlimited product knowledge that a human store assistant could never match, enabling accurate personalised product recommendations.

Limitations of c-com

So if c-com is so high-tech and clever, why isn’t it already the norm?

First of all, people like to browse. A limited selection of choices offered by a bot or online rep sometimes isn’t going to cut it. This is especially true when it comes to purchases grounded in opinion, where the wider web offers countless possibilities. Would you seriously let Alexa choose your outfit for the work Christmas party, the curtains for your living room, or your wedding ring, based only on a short series of questions?

This is accompanied by the general shortfalls of AI. C-com is currently limited in its ability to meet every customer’s needs, as machine learning requires time. However, it is guaranteed to improve. 

Because of these limitations, it’s doubtful that c-com means the death of the e-commerce consumer journey as we currently know it. 

Looking forward…

As with most developments in technology, the expansion of c-com is significantly slowed by delays in law-making and data protection concerns. For example, while chat-based transactions like Facebook Pay do exist, they are currently limited to the US market. Even there they can only be used for private friend to friend payments. Perhaps in the near future we will see an expansion into the UK and business use.

Chat-based payment options like Facebook Pay are paving the way for c-com to become an everyday reality.
Credit: Facebook

In the future, c-com could even go further to infiltrate dark social. One day soon, we might even be able to implement typed or spoken commands in messaging apps to invite shopping features into our private conversations.

C-com technologies can be trained to collect data informing your business when to run what kinds of ads, on what platforms. While currently in its infancy, this strategy could prove invaluable in shaping the ultimate streamlined marketing strategy.

While we don’t recommend ditching your entire e-commerce strategy to go full c-com, we do recommend getting in touch with an agency that always has a finger on the pulse of current tech developments… like us 😉

Contact us via our contact page to find out more about our paid social, PPC, design, and content services.