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Conversational commerce – it’s time to talk

As the rapid adoption of virtual services has shown, smart retailers are committed to evolving their customer experience to make sure they have easy access to the products they need in the run-up to Christmas, especially when they may not be able to visit a physical store.

Couple this with the recent news that WhatsApp is introducing in-chat purchases and the fact that shopping features are already available on chat platforms such as Facebook Messenger and WeChat, and it’s not surprising that the retail industry is seeing a renewed interest in conversational commerce (c-commerce).

While c-commerce has been a central channel for businesses operating in Asia for some time – three in 10 consumers in South East Asia have made c-commerce purchases, enabling brands including L’Oréal to secure significant sales – until now it hasn’t really taken off elsewhere. But, given its natural fit with virtual services and the need to connect with customers in their homes, that could be about to change.

When should retailers consider c-commerce? 

As with any initiative, though it’s very effective when deployed in the right circumstances, c-commerce won’t work for every retailer – there are a number of business considerations to take into account. On the whole, as demonstrated by the success of beauty brands in this area, if retailers have:

  • High or increasing levels of customer contact 
  • Accessible data (including single customer view, product and delivery/dispatch information) 
  • Considered purchases with a personal element as part of the sales cycle
  • A built-in follow-up/support period for products 
  • Revenue driven by a service offering to customers 
  • An established presence on social media channels, ensuring customers are comfortable with and trust the process 

c-commerce can work for them to reduce costs and increase sales and efficiency by using customer, product and service data to offer information and advice to customers, handle queries, provide updates, track delivery progress and so on. 

What’s the right approach?

Making the choice to implement c-commerce should depend on two broad factors:

  • Ensure it meets a real business need – there’s no benefit in having c-commerce just because your competitors do unless it serves a purpose. Ask the right questions – for example, can it help customers to shop when and where they want to, and will this make the customer’s life easier? It will only become an effective sales tool if it eases a customer pain point. 
  • Successful c-commerce relies on having the same starting point as every tech-based retail project – an underlying digital platform with integrated data and payment systems that can talk to customers on any messaging service – SMS, WhatsApp, Facebook, Twitter, WeChat and more.

Without these foundations to integrate data, systems and processes across all areas, c-commerce and other virtual services simply won’t be viable in any kind of meaningful way. Making sure that your connections with customers generate sales and encourage loyalty involves offering a seamless, comprehensive experience from first contact through to delivery.

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Red Ant, 11th November 2020
Conversational commerce is on the rise through platforms such as WhatsApp, Messenger and WeChat

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