What is Conversational Commerce? Why are you talking about it?

Conversation Commerce is about creating relevant conversation with users on their mobile phone messaging app. These are the most frequently used app in the phones. These new rich conversation is possible thanks to improvements in AI (making sense of users’ messages) and new multimedia messaging features from apps such as WhatsApp, RCS, WeChat, and the phones integration with camera, location, microphone, maps and other apps. Look around you and see how many people are busy texting each other on the street, in the car, in the office. Imagine that level of immersion with your brand. Interested? 

How big is messaging?

A few stats for UK should be a good start: 60% of users regularly communicate with friends via WhatsApp, 55% use SMS, 44% Facebook Messenger. Only 33% of users would chat via email. Phone calls fare better at 42% - but still less than WhatsApp. SMS or FB Messenger. Personal communication is already messaging centric, business communication is following the trend now. 

Give us an example of conversational commerce?

My poster boy for conversational commerce is a retailer in USA that has created a specific bot (a messaging channel) for its barbeques. The chat is a way for the user to find recipes, tips or weather updates. More than just an after-sales gadget, the chat also sends reminders for when it is time to clean and refresh the BBQ, gas or charcoal offers, or suggestions for cleaning products that can be ordered by one or two clicks. After a couple of years a reminder for a new BBQ model can be made. A hardware sale is turned into a continuous service offering.

Isn’t using an App just like conversational messaging then?

Apps are great for all those brand that have a regular interaction with users. But the vast majority of apps gets downloaded and forgotten. In fact, 22% of users reports disliking being asked to download an app to receive messages from a company.  

Messaging apps do that job well, and now can provide additional functionality with the highest visit ration of any apps on phones. 

Wait, aren’t companies sending messages already? 

Yes, stop sending messages, start conversations instead. Most companies send texts already, but they do not think about it as a true marketing channel. Big mistake! Messaging is the most personal and immediate form of communication at the moment. Companies are already messaging their users: 89% of smartphone users report messages from brands on their mobile (not counting email). 

What’s the biggest sin for a marketer? 

Thinking that their company or client is not sending messages already. Today most companies do not know who internally is sending messages to the users. A recent review of bank’s messaging plan showed that major departments were sending SMS but not marketing. There was IT (one time password, downtime messages), call centers (surveys), sales (appointment reminders, card deliveries), but no messages or knowledge from the marketing team. A marketer’s disaster.

Do companies do a bad job in mobile messaging then?

I should say there are a large number of companies improving, experimenting and even thriving already on these solutions. Others are not so lucky. Globally, 32% - almost one in three users- complains of receiving too many messages from brands. Then 25% users protest of being contacted at inconvenient times.  

Why is MEF talking about this?

Relax, we are not selling you anything here, but we have plenty of stats on the market and where things are going. The Mobile Ecosystem Forum is a not-for-profit trade association/think tank for the mobile industry. We have been right before: we talked about mobile internet in the year 2001 when people thought it was crazy. We told everyone that apps were going to be big in 2008, just as the iPhone was coming out. History is on our side, but most important the results of the conversational commerce campaigns show already some good metrics.

More on use cases and information on conversations commerce join the  MAD//Fest partner event MEF Connects Business Messaging 22-24 March. Click here to get your free ticket.