This past March, 23% of consumers increased buying products online they used to get in-store — compared to one month prior. While brands scramble to adjust their go-to-market strategy to accommodate a digital-only experience, the pressure is still on to deliver incredible journeys. Why? Because almost half of consumers will abandon online purchases if they can’t find a quick answer to a question or concern. 

Enter conversational commerce — a new way to provide excellent customer service and commerce experiences on digital channels. Read on to learn more and get started.


What is conversational commerce?

Conversational commerce provides new ways for shoppers to chat online with brands in popular messaging apps, such as Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, SMS, and more. Forty-four percent of consumers are now spending more time on messaging services and social media. Conversational commerce makes it possible to interact in those same channels. Consumers can chat with associates, get recommendations, make purchases, and update orders. This opens up time and space in the commerce conversation for empathy and additional insight — using natural language. The result: a user experience that’s both efficient and enjoyable. 

Consumers aren’t the only ones experiencing increased efficiency through conversational commerce. Customer service teams benefit too when data connects across commerce and service experiences. Service teams that leverage conversational commerce techniques are more successful in servicing open cases quickly and effectively. Agents can answer questions, recommend products, or help place an order from one screen. Another example of conversational commerce at work is the ability to collect basic customer data upfront via the use of a self-service bot to help automate low-complexity, high-volume cases.

This is one way digital-native direct-to-consumer (D2C) companies, such as e.l.f. Cosmetics, increase growth and customer satisfaction. The company chats with customers online to give them better experiences, helping with order status or issues, incorrect charges, and other questions. With a smoother buying experience, they earned a 50% year-over-year decrease in service tickets. 

In short, conversational commerce can make a huge difference for an all-digital brand. And businesses can take immediate steps to get started.


Conversational commerce opens engagement across channels

If you’re getting started with conversational commerce, start with one new channel where customers are visiting every day (WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, etc.). Agents can chat with customers and build a channel customers want to engage with. A channel to help with orders or suggest new products.

You have an opportunity to keep customers informed with real-time delivery notifications via WhatsApp or SMS, and allow them to respond on the same message thread with questions. Another benefit of a conversational channel? Potential lower case volume and costs because messaging channels are 50-75% less expensive than phone calls. 

Creating engaging experiences on these channels are better and easier if your agents have a single view of your customers. Here are some additional ways to build a better experience:


Give shoppers transparent access to their orders

Use a unified order-management system. This gives customers the transparency and tools to control their experience. Customers can see their order status, update their information, and initiate returns.


Turn agents into associates

Artificial intelligence (AI) helps agents, stylists, or sales associates access personalized product recommendations for customers — right in their user consoles. Personalized conversations can help them assist shoppers, cross-sell, and upsell.


Automate service

Don’t keep shoppers on the phone waiting for an answer — use chatbots to field common customer questions such as, “what’s my order status?” Automation helps route complex cases efficiently, to the right agent, gather basic information, and reduce average wait times.

Ultimately, brands that offer a connected experience for each shopper build loyalty and give your brand a competitive advantage.


Conversational commerce helps customers transact

Customers expect more from their online shopping experiences these days. You can implement AI to surface targeted product recommendations in search results, on product pages, and in the customer’s digital channel of choice.

Consider these best practices when evaluating how you embed AI in your shopper experience:

  1. Add three related products for every search to create a complete bundle

  2. Suggest relevant items based on weather, season, and geographic location 

  3. Use current order or past purchase data to recommend similar or complementary items  

What makes it valuable for everyone? Agents can do much more than simply answer questions or solve problems. You can recreate the one-on-one experiences shoppers get in-store. AI enables your associates or stylists to deliver personalized care to customers across digital channels, whether finding the perfect shade of blue or just the right accessory. AI also gives stylists an advantage – intelligence from past purchases or products browsed can inform their recommendations.


Unify purchase and post-purchase experiences

To build out your conversational commerce strategy, consolidate your commerce, order management, and service to create a seamless thread through the entire shopper journey. Give agents quick insight into recent orders and often-used shipping destinations, and let them quickly act upon any order — canceling orders, updating a shipping address, or switching a pick-up method. It deepens loyalty to your brand and might even inspire a social shout-out.

Get started with conversational commerce with this solution kit. For other best practices, check out more content in our Leading Through Change series.