Once upon a time, broadcasting a single advertising message to all potential customers via print, billboards, radio and TV was the only option. Then the Internet added more tools by allowing more personalised messaging via email and targeted ads. Now, the interactivity offered by websites, apps and email means marketing strategies can evolve to a new level, building enduring relationships through two-way individualised messaging via a unique mix of channels – the channels used every day in our personal lives. This is conversational commerce and it returns customer service to the individual engagement offered by traditional mom-and-pop shops.
At MEF (the Mobile Ecosystem Forum) we anticipate conversational commerce will grow rapidly over the next few years as more businesses register the benefits. To help you get ahead of the game, here’s what you need to focus on if your business is to grow over the next five years.
Acknowledge the limits of broadcast messaging
If the aim is to build and establish a consistent brand, broadcast messaging works extremely well, but it is hopeless at interaction. People are looking for meaningful conversations about products and services. Influencer marketing is popular because of the opportunities to engage with a real person and understand the brand experience.
Embrace differences and change
Know the market-appropriate messaging solutions – for example: the USA prefers Facebook Messenger; WeChat dominates in China; Line in Japan. The list is long.
A messaging channel you would be wise to be clued up about is RCS (Rich Communication Services) – it’s an evolution of SMS. Benefits to consumers include being able to send larger, higher-quality images, providing better group chat capabilities, and greater security than found with most apps.
RCS allows the retailer to deliver tailored combinations of video instructionals, personalised messaging and two-way interaction, elevating a simple sale into an ongoing relationship with customers where retailers better understand customer needs and a service that leads to recommendations and repeat business.
More than a billion smartphones are already RCS enabled, and RCS is now replacing the SMS inbox in Android phones.
Mix and match solutions
It would be prohibitively expensive for most businesses to produce an orchestrated omnichannel conversation commerce strategy looking after each customer’s individual needs. But technology comes to the rescue: AI can guide customers in the right direction and quickly learn what they need. Yes, initial chatbot limitations made them unpopular, but these days, many of us are engaging with chatbots without realising. And they’re getting smarter with each passing year.
However, humans still play an essential role in conversational commerce; an AI can help and guide customers, but there may be a point where the customer needs to speak to an actual person. This is key to conversational commerce: giving people what they want and need at the right time in the most helpful way.
Remember the numbers
Mobile messaging has been steadily growing over the last decade: 25 billion mobile messages are sent every day. Over 3billion people use texting and mobile messaging apps every day. Conversational commerce is about tapping into this.