Before Anyone Heard the Term Conversational Commerce

I was recently struck by how things have changed in the last six years when I read LivePerson’s benchmarking report “The conversational commerce index”. Six years back, I supported a LivePerson US roadshow with a deck titled, “Live Engagement in Today’s Commerce Environment.”  Lot of changes have advanced since then and thanks to Chris Messina for coining the “Conversational Commerce” term a couple years. It rolls off the tongue so much easier. As a level set, let’s start with his definition of conversational commerce; a technology that empowers brands and consumers to interact with each other through chat or messaging, voice assistance and other natural language interfaces.

The advances that have happened in this space since then are extreme.  Back then, we were talking about how channels were starting to blur as shoppers were using online, in-store and mobile interchangeably to make informed purchase decisions.

My favorite story told at each roadshow stop was a true tale about a woman who was sitting cross-leg on the floor in a department store in front of an endless aisle kiosk, looking at an order on her tablet, while she talked to a customer service representative on her mobile. The point being how all these touch points needed to provide her with a consistent experience.

Fast forward to the present and the stories now just seem so much simpler as customers expect this consistency as a given. The customer’s experience would be so much more difficult if it was not for the technology innovations to support “conversational commerce” developed in last few years:

  • Chatbots are being programmed to collaborate with customer service representative to optimize the dialogue with customers in real-time. A recent study conducted by Price Waterhouse Coopers found that 27% of consumers surveyed said they weren’t sure if their last chat interaction was with an actual human or a chatbot.
  • We are using voice-assistant technology to check the weather daily . . . Oh and buy our favorite products. Two days ago, I uttered “Echo, rebuy my last order of Bai Bubbles Jamaica Blood Orange”, it just show up at my door a half hour ago.
  • We are still leveraging predictive analytics models to support online marketing and campaigns, but this is now being augmented by Artificial Intelligence / Machine Learning technologies to personalize the dialogue with customers in real-time.
  • And all these innovations working together make the experience even more lifelike. Chatbots (and humans) become more informed, more natural and more helpful, powered by real-time AI and fueled by customer behaviors. Natural Language improvements have given the conversation flow, cadence, nuance, and timing in speech patterns creating more trust with the customer.

Touchpoint and interface barriers have melted away over the last few years and the customer experience and dialogue has improved dramatically as they are given what they need, where they need it through the most appropriate channel. The primary goal is to stay one step ahead of the customer by understanding exactly what they are saying and respond accurately in real-time, then predicting what they are likely to say next. As much as this can improve the flow of the dialogue, there are some complexities and practices that make the execution more successful. Over the next few weeks, I will be writing a series of posts diving into the good, the bad, and the ugly for each of these points in more detail, replacing those thoughts from six years ago and telling some more up to date stories on recent customer conversations. . . . Next post “The Finest and Ugliest Chatbots”.