Conversational Commerce: What All SMEs Need to Know

Communication is often the secret to good business. Whether it’s communication between colleagues, between physical branches, or between customers, communication can truly make or break a business.

However the most important communication needs to take place between a business and its customer base. Anything that makes this particular route of communication easier is something that all companies should at least investigate.

This leads us to our topic of the day: “conversational commerce”. Though it may sound like the latest marketing buzzword on the block, it actually holds the key to providing a truly personalised service online.

Let’s face it – no matter how much friendly language and graphics a website uses, without an opportunity for genuine, interpersonal connection, it will always feel a little faceless. Customers crave digital-yet-human interaction more than ever, so scratching that itch through real-time, one-to-one conversations can provide a real competitive edge.

So let’s investigate.

What is Conversational Commerce?

Conversational commerce is when a business enables real-time conversations between themselves and potential customers through online messaging tools. Conversations are usually encouraged while the buyer is presently browsing the company’s website or through some other facet of the company’s online presence.

Think of it as a new way of asking businesses questions; just like you may seek advice on a purchase from a retail assistant or call a service-based business on the phone to enquire about their range.

There are many different ways that companies can approach conversational commerce, but as long as the conversation is happening in real-time and online, it counts! There are numerous apps and widgets you can use – both incorporated into your website and away from it (which we’ll discuss in the “How” section below). You can also keep your chat functions manned at all times with AI-driven chatbot functions (also below).

What Does Conversational Commerce Look Like in Practice?

Our first example isn’t exactly a million miles away; just look to the bottom right of your screen for a little blue smiley speech bubble. If you want to send us a message, just click it and one of our team members will get back to you.

You’ve probably come across other such chat functions on other websites. However, the prospect of sitting in front of a website waiting for responses isn’t always practical. Thankfully, you can also achieve conversational commerce through third-party, offsite apps like WhatsApp Messenger and Facebook Messenger.

When companies use apps like these to chat to their users, those users have the added bonus of being able to go about their day and to receive a message in a familiar app once the business responds.

Why Should SMEs Use Conversational Commerce?

Here are 4 crucial reasons why every small to medium business should at least consider some kind of chat-based commerce tools:

The Ultimate in Convenience – Chat functions are incredibly convenient for your users. If they want to ask a question, they can do so immediately, sometimes through a commonly used app, without having to switch to another device or note down an email address. This is convenient for the business too because you’re grabbing the customer when their buying intent is at its highest!
Warm Welcomes Work – When dealing with businesses, especially ones we’re new to, it’s always nice to receive a friendly “hello” and a one-on-one experience. Conversational commerce provides a much needed human touch in an online environment that is often ruled by polished branding and stuffy keywords. Being able to speak to someone at a company straight away can also put cautious or on-the-fence buyers at ease.
Can Work for Any Business – With the right approach, conversational commerce can work for any business. Though chat functions are often seen as purely the dominion of online retailers, there’s nothing stopping other organisations from successfully using these tools too.
Reduce Bounces and Abandonment – There’s nothing worse than feeling lost on a website, or perhaps looking for something you just can’t find. There comes a point when many visitors would simply leave out of frustration, but a chat function can give those visitors a way to ask for guidance first, instead of just leaving without saying a word.

A Few “How”s

How Can Conversational Commerce Work for Any Company?

Put simply, if you engage with an audience, you can do conversational commerce. However, as with any new string to your online bow, we would encourage you to do your research.

Ask yourself – how do new enquiries generally reach you? If your website’s contact forms are particularly well travelled, then that’s a good sign that people are using your site to connect with you – therefore meaning your site is ripe for conversational elements.

Alternatively, if you get a lot of engagement and inbound interest from your Facebook page, then using a chat function that integrates with Facebook Messenger may be an opportune idea.

Just with any new organisational functionality, whatever you put in place has to seamlessly integrate with how you work as a business and how your customers interact with you.

How Can I Keep Chat Functions Manned Outside of The Normal 9-5?

If you commonly get enquiries at all times of the day or night (and especially if you serve an international audience), keeping your chat functions responsive at all hours may be a concern.

Thankfully, many conversational commerce tools allow for some amount of AI chatbot functionality, where an AI chat agent will constantly be on hand to answer straightforward questions. It will only refer matters to a human chat agent when it can’t answer a matter satisfactorily.

Chatbots can be a real asset, though they often need some upkeep and patience to get right. When first starting out, you need to anticipate the kinds of questions that people are likely to ask your bot and give the bot the means to answer those questions. If you get a lot of questions about stock, for example, making your live stock feeds available to your chatbot for reference may be a good call.

As people start to use your AI bot, it’s worth keeping an eye on what questions people actually end up asking. Is there anything that the bot struggles to answer time and time again? Does the bot get stuck and refer the same, simple questions to your human operatives time and time again? It may be time to give your bot the ability to answer those too.

How Do I Incorporate Conversational Commerce? What Tech Do I Need?

As mentioned above, there are numerous ways to incorporate chat functions into your online operations, as long as they integrate well with how your customers and your team are accustomed to doing things. Chat functionality basically boils down to two camps:

On-Site Chat Functions

On-site chat functions (like our personal favourite, Intercom) can easily be installed onto your website. If your site uses a CMS like WordPress, then installing the chat bot on your website can be as simple as installing that chat function’s plugin/extension.

Services like these often have their own suite of functionality, commonly including CRM integration, reengagement flows, and performance reports.

Third-Party Messenger Apps

Though third-party chat apps like Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp Business don’t come with the same CRM integrations or performance analysis, they do have their own advantages. Firstly, using these apps doesn’t tether your conversational functionality to a given session on your website; you can continue any conversation with any client at any time. This is particularly useful if your conversations tend to be longer or if your enquiries commonly require in-depth exploration.

Facebook Messenger naturally integrates with your business’s Facebook page, so it allows you to respond to chats directly from the Facebook interface and makes the visitor aware that you have a presence there. WhatsApp Business allows you to create a business profile page, curate a business catalogue, and generate a simple “Click to Chat” link that any WhatsApp user can click to get in touch with you.

How Do I Successfully Engage With Users Over Chat?

It’s fairly simple – know what people generally want to achieve when they visit your site, and aim to provide that as accurately as possible. Know what kinds of questions your audience need answering and set yourself up to answer them.

Time is another important factor in successful conversational commerce, so make sure you can provide timely responses that keep the buyer’s interest high.

Conversational channels also serve as great customer listening tools. Think about it – customers now have the chance to ask you quick questions about their needs, in their own words. This can help you discover new, practical keywords; provide content marketing inspiration; and serve new, interesting, and genuine user needs.

Anything you learn from your customers through chat should be used to further inform your conversational strategy – not to mention your marketing and online strategy as a whole!

In Conclusion

With the right approach, conversational commerce can benefit any business. Despite its connection to online retail, it can provide an interesting new channel for B2Bs, B2Cs, and even B23s to engage with their audience and provide timely support.

However it’s not just something to dive into feet first. To do it properly, you need an innate understanding of how your audience interacts with you online, and how you are able to serve them through chat functions.

Interested in getting started with conversational commerce but need some tailored guidance? Don’t worry, our adept team of web marketers are on hand to help. Simply book a consultation call or click the chat icon in the below right corner to experience a touch of conversational commerce for yourself! Prefer WhatsApp? Click or tap this link to chat with us now!

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