Addressing the Rise of Conversational Commerce During the Pandemic

Aug 6, 2020 10:42:00 PM

The COVID-19 pandemic has brought a rise to various “new normals” to address or mitigate its far-reaching effects. For example, businesses throughout the country have implemented work-from-home arrangements. Before the pandemic, working from home was the exception or even a privilege extended only to select employees. Today, it has become the norm; some companies are even considering implementing remote work for most or all of their employees, even after the pandemic subsides.

Another such trend is conversational commerce. The term was first coined in 2015 by blogger, technology evangelist, and former Developer Experience Lead at Uber Chris Messina. Conversational commerce, simply defined, is e-commerce conducted through conversation platforms such as messaging apps or voice assistants. It also makes use of various technologies such as artificial intelligence, language processing, speech recognition, voice biometrics.

What Conversational Commerce Can Do

In the past few years, messaging apps have been the go-to method of communication for Filipino consumers. Aside from personal and business purposes, Pinoys have also warmed up to the idea of using chat for commerce. Not only can they make inquiries and get customer support, they can also get product quotations, read product reviews, and complete a purchase without leaving the chat window.

Aside from chatbots, conversational commerce can also make use of voice assistants. They are not as widely used as chat apps in the Philippines. Nevertheless, voice assistants such as Apple’s Siri, Amazon’s Alex, and Google Assistant are viable options for conversational commerce.

For businesses, conversational commerce presents an opportunity to simplify and streamline e-commerce. With a shorter distance between prospecting and purchasing, customers will be more inclined to push through with the transaction. Done right, conversational commerce can also pave the way for a more personalized user experience. This, in turn, can increase engagement and foster customer loyalty. Of course, the most desirable outcome here is an increase in revenue.

How to Implement Conversational Commerce

If you’re interested in implementing conversational commerce, the first thing you have to do is to set-up a payment system. PayMaya Checkout is an ideal solution if you have an e-commerce website. After all, you can’t sell anything if your customers don’t have a way to pay you. Aside from e-wallets, consider adding a variety of payment methods as well, such as credit and debit cards.

You also have to evaluate your customer’s needs. For example, if you have a variety of products, figure out which ones are more frequently bought online. You can then start to roll-out your conversational commerce plans using these products, increasing the inventory as needed. Consider doing a test run first to see how the customers respond; conduct surveys, if you must. Once you’ve gathered and analyzed enough data, you can start planning a more comprehensive roll-out.

Here are a few more things you have to remember if you want to ride the wave of conversational commerce for your business:

Be Smart About Chatbots

The most typical and accessible way of implementing conversational commerce in the Philippines is through chatbots. Considering the number of Facebook users in the country, it’s only wise to capitalize on this ready market.

However, you have to be smart about using them. Don’t just implement chatbots without having a clear plan or else you’ll just cause frustration. In particular, you need to make things expressly clear for your customers. Be as detailed and comprehensive as you can, so that the chatbot can provide accurate responses. Consider making a compilation of frequently asked questions and inquiries and then crafting the appropriate responses.

Speaking of appropriate responses, you should also be mindful of how your chatbot “sounds” to your customers. There’s a fine line between formal and robotic, so make sure to pay attention to your word choices. Even switching “help” with “assistance” can indicate a more formal tone. As much as possible, match your chatbot’s tone to your brand’s personality and be consistent about it. This is one way to ensure a memorable experience for your customers.

Don’t Forget Other Platforms

Chatbots are highly useful for conversational commerce but this doesn’t mean that you should forget other platforms. In particular, you should also fine-tune your live chat operations to have a better handle on your conversations. After all, automated tools such as bots are not able to detect nuances and apply critical thinking like humans.

There are also customers who still prefer to talk to a live agent, for any number of reasons, so make sure to offer this option to them. It can be frustrating for users to constantly receive automated responses when they want to talk to a person.

In addition to Facebook Messenger, you may also want to check out other platforms where you can implement chatbots. Of course, be sure to study where most of your customers are. Then, see if you can get better engagement in other messaging apps or social media platforms such as WhatsApp, WeChat, or Twitter.

Provide Other Touchpoints

Conversational commerce isn’t just about chatbots. Indeed, you shouldn’t limit your touchpoints to just messaging apps. This is simply bad business sense, since you can’t possibly accommodate everyone though chatbots alone.

To maximize the potential of conversational commerce, give your customers a variety of methods of keeping in touch. These include email, on-site chat if you have a website, and even surveys.

The Benefits Conversational Commerce

Customers nowadays expect extra fast, almost instant service. This is largely influenced by services such as online payments, along with technological advancements such as high-speed internet. Some e-commerce platforms and online sellers have even promised same-day deliveries in certain areas, which further cements the concept of instant gratification.

Conversational commerce can definitely help you meet this expectation. By placing every step of the customer’s purchasing process in a singular platform, you can provide not only quick but also convenient service. In turn, this can contribute to customer satisfaction that can then increase patronage and loyalty.

Below are other benefits of conversational commerce can bring to your business:

Direct Access to Your Audience

When you implement conversational commerce, there’s no need to worry if you’re using the right platform. You’re already sure that your customers are present, which means that you already have a market that’s willing to avail your products and services. All you have to do is to reach out to them through ads and carefully crafted messages.

With direct access to your audience, you can also easily reach out to them to ask for feedback. After each transaction, for example, you can add a quick survey to ask if they liked the experience and what they want to see in the future. This way, you can further enhance your services according to what your customers really want.

Lead Generation

It’s easy to assume that conversational commerce is all about sales and increasing revenue. However, you can also use it for effective lead generation. Again, your customers are already on the platform, which means you can readily engage them. Even if they don’t push through with their purchase, you can take note of their data for future use in your marketing efforts.

The complete information you get from your customers can also help you create more targeted campaigns. For example, you can easily create materials that are gender-, age-, or location-specific. You can also use the data to help recommend other products related to your customers’ interests. This can help increase the possibility of conversion in the future.

Cost and Time Savings

Considering the number of customers that they can accommodate at a time, chatbots used for conversational commerce are definitely cost-effective investments. Again, this does not mean that you shouldn’t have live agents because bots simply don’t have the same level of cognitive reasoning as humans.

However, for basic transactions and other interactions that require simple answers, chatbots are the perfect tools for conversational commerce. They are relatively cheap, simple to use, and your customers hardly need any time to learn how they work.

Conversational Commerce in the Philippines

The concept of conversational commerce is relatively new. As such, not as many people (business owners and customers alike) may have heard of it. However, there are already a few well-known brands that have implemented or are in the process of implementing conversational commerce.

A good example is Summit Media’s Smart Parenting. They have a new offering called Chat N Shop, which are simple chat boxes you can find all over their website. The chat box is also available through the Smart Parenting’s Facebook Messenger or official page. Through Chat N Shop, parents can purchase mommy and baby products without having to leave the website or Facebook page. After they complete their shopping, they can seamlessly go back to reading articles or scrolling their newsfeeds.

This seamless experience is not just advantageous for new moms and parents, but also beneficial for the advertising partners. As the customers read about a new product or service, they can easily go to a chat window to buy or inquire about them. At the very least, this can trigger curiosity and awareness.

PayMaya is also pioneering conversational commerce in the Philippines with Jollibee Foods Corporation (JFC). All customers need to do is send “#order” to the official Facebook Messenger accounts of Jollibee, Burger King, Chowking, Mang Inasal, and Red Ribbon. Then, they can select their preferred meals and other items and pay for their orders using PayMaya or other cashless payment options. After ordering, all they have to do is wait for the delivery. The conversational commerce option for these accounts are already running on beta version, while the option will soon be available for Greenwich’s Facebook messenger.

Soon after, JFC will also be implementing PayMaya Digital Invoice for orders made through delivery websites or phone hotlines. After placing an order, the customer will receive an invoice containing a payment link. This can be received either by text or email, and the link can be used to pay using PayMaya or payment cards.

McDonald’s is also expected to roll out conversational commerce in the coming months. As one of the country’s leading fast food chains, McDonald’s is among the pioneers of using technological solutions. Indeed, they are already using PayMaya ONE as an alternative payment method for dine-in and take-out customers.

The Future of Conversational Commerce

It’s safe to say that conversational commerce will continue to gain more traction in the Philippines. With various quarantine measures still in effect across the country, more and more Filipinos will be looking for ways to streamline their online transactions.

What’s great about conversational commerce is that it ticks all the boxes: it’s fast, it’s convenient, and it’s flexible. There’s also the added benefit of not having to learn how to use new technologies. As long as the customer knows how to use a chat app, they can make the most of conversational commerce.

For businesses, this is the best time to explore this option. Conversational commerce is arguably one of the best ways to adapt to the pandemic, since it follows safety measures such as physical distancing. In addition, even small and medium enterprises can quickly implement this system.

What’s even better is that conversational commerce also applies to all kinds of businesses. Whether you sell products or offer professional services, you can easily implement a chatbot and roll out conversational commerce. The key is to develop a clear-cut process so that you are able to provide the best possible experience and don’t miss out on opportunities.

As the saying goes, the show must go on. The Philippine economy is weathering a huge blow from the pandemic, but this doesn’t mean that you can’t bounce back. With a little bit of creativity and a willingness to experiment, you can find different ways to adapt.

Technology is also a useful tool in staying afloat and even growing your business during a pandemic. With solutions like PayMaya and conversational commerce, your company can continue to deliver its products or services, earn profits, and support its employees.

If you haven’t yet considered conversational commerce, now is the time to do so. It’s a long-lasting investment that will continue to be useful beyond an economic crisis.

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