July 23, 2021 - 5 minutes read

Let’s Talk Conversational Commerce

By Wanjiku Mwai

Digital technology and ease of access to information has culminated in changing communications skills and consumer spending behavior. A 2020 Mastercard Study on Consumer Spending revealed that at least four out of five (79%) of surveyed consumers in Kenya shop more online since the Covid-19 Pandemic hit the country. It is expected that post the Pandemic, the trend will continue as more people will increasingly depend on e-commerce to carry out their shopping. This means that digital marketing has to pay close attention to the evolving communication channels.

The Pandemic presented shoppers with fewer options to go to walk-in stores to shop. As such, social media platforms emerged as the main portfolios where consumers would find products. The MasterCard Study revealed that 78% and 56% of those surveyed had discovered new sellers through Facebook and Instagram respectively with at least 80% of bargain hunters spending time online to search for stores that offer the best deals.
Just as a walk-in store where a shopper will get instant information on a product that they are interested in, the shopper expects the same experience for e-commerce. The digital consumer wants relevant and quick information on the products that they are interested in. They want to be able to communicate with brands quickly and with ease. Interestingly, people share messages on a daily basis. The Communications Authority of Kenya 3rd Quarter Sector Statistics Report for the Financial Year 2020-2021 (January-March 2021) revealed that in Domestic Short Messaging Services (SMS), the total number of SMS sent between January and March 2021 stood at 10.6 billion.

It is clear that the use of SMS and messaging apps have driven a significant impact on communication. Consumers are relying heavily on the use of messaging apps for all forms of communication whether personal, business or commerce. The rapid spread of social media globally combined together with the rapid growth of e-commerce has given rise to content sharing and messaging. Shoppers are using messaging options to find and select products and services with some of them having payment options without having to call, email or visit a website. The use of social interactions collectively with the transactional nature of e-commerce has led to the formation of shopping in collaborative environments, bringing about conversational e-commerce.

Conversational e-commerce is pegged on delivering convenience, personalization and decision support as people go on about their online shopping. It is a system of direct interactions between a business and its customers through instant messaging platforms such as WhatsApp, WeChat, Facebook Messenger or through voice technology such as Amazon’s Echo product. Basically, a business is able to have a conversation with a customer and lead them to making a purchase rather than having a one-way discourse of marketing messages for a customer to accept or reject.

Consumers are increasingly moving away from the traditional forms of retail and selecting contact-free and digital transactions. Therefore, businesses in Kenya and across the continent have to leverage on the shift towards online shopping and deliver fast, convenient and secure transactions. Having a good comprehensive conversational commerce strategy is essential for the success of a company as it is an opportunity to interact with millions of consumers who are already on messaging platforms and those that have signed up for SMS Marketing.

Importantly, with comprehensive conversational commerce, a customer is able to chat with the representatives of the company, enquire and receive recommendations as well as be able to read reviews and even purchase within the messaging app. Basically, the customer is able to engage with a chatbot or a human representative or a mixture of both. Gradually, this will become a vital part of a customer’s experience with a company.
A number of companies are already using chatbots to automate their customer service messages. Chat companies have also been partnering with businesses to make it simpler for their customers to purchase from them using messaging. For instance, in 2015, Facebook Messenger partnered with Uber to make it possible for customers to order an Uber Driver without having to leave the messaging app. In 2016, Echo, Amazon’s voice activated tool partnered with Capital One to enable the bank’s customers to track their spending, enquire on their balances and make payments among other transactions. In Kenya, we have Safaricom’s Zuri Online Care Assistant. A customer is able to engage with Zuri on their WhatsApp messaging and get assistance on a number of issues such as managing subscription services, purchase products and services as well as retrieve M-Pesa Statements among other services without having to leave the messaging App. Zuri also offers a brain teaser!

In conclusion, conversational commerce is important as it offers a customer simplicity and convenience. It reduces the number of information sources that a customer has to access. Basically, a customer will not need to exit text conversations to access websites in order to gather information. It therefore makes a difference between a prospect and a purchase. It also offers them the attention that they would have gotten from a company’s representative had they visited the physical shop. In a chat, the customer is also able to get advice and recommendations on other products that the company has. In addition, it provides a customer with personalization. Customers prefer a more direct and human contact when interacting with a brand even though they are doing so at the comfort of their homes. A comprehensive conversational commerce may be just what you are looking for to drive up the revenues.

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