5 Predictions About the Future of Conversational Commerce

Conversational Commerce

ConversyOnce the territory of a few niche companies, “conversational commerce” is trending with some of the biggest brands in the world — and it’s working better than anyone could have hoped.

Walmart, king of consumer goods, recently formed an incubator called Store No. 8. The debut product of this incubator, Jetblack, provides personalized shopping support to customers through text messages. Jetblack’s AI assistants make suggestions to shoppers based on their previous activity. Thanks to this investment, Walmart is dominating consumer shopping communications.

One of Walmart’s biggest competitors, Amazon, is also diving headfirst into conversational commerce. Amazon’s strategy focuses on bolstering the capabilities of its smart assistant, Alexa. With voice shopping projected to hit $40 billion by 2022 (compared to just $2 billion today), Amazon is leagues ahead of the competition and will likely dominate that $40 billion market for quite a while.

Below titans like Walmart and Amazon, big brands such as 1-800-Flowers are also jumping on the conversational commerce train. Through cooperation with Amazon’s Alexa, Facebook Messenger, and IBM, America’s most popular floral brand hopes to create more intimate customer relationships and provide the high level of personalized service that modern customers have come to expect.

These brands are among those leading the way, but conversational commerce is not limited to megacompanies. As consumer standards become higher, more companies will need to adopt conversational commerce strategies to keep pace in an evolving market.

Where Conversational Commerce Will Go Next

As it stands today, bots are and will remain the most prominent channel of conversational commerce for years to come. Advancements in artificial intelligence allow conversation bots to track website visitors and run their behavior through machine learning algorithms, then pop up at the right time and place to turn browsers into buyers. Unlike the chatbots of the past, which could only respond to direct commands, modern conversation bots detect interactive cues and handle customer interactions on their own.

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Consumers will expect to see real-time conversation bots on websites. Businesses using the AI-powered conversation bots will notice these 5 trends flourishing in the digital space:

Conversation bots will change how customer relationships start.

Companies today spend tons of money on ad campaigns to boost their web traffic. Unfortunately, most ad-attracted visitors bounce quickly once they arrive on the brand’s website. Even those who do stay a bit longer rarely fill out a lead-generating form. This is a common problem in online lead generation for B2B companies. However, conversation bots will overcome this issue by engaging with website visitors to create personalized, interactive experiences that encourage brand preference.

Today, people don’t want to enter their information into a form. They’re used to automations that complete forms for them and they’re also concerned about privacy. Conversation bots allow brands to interact with website visitors one-on-one while they have the person’s attention. By using relevant information, the brand provides them with the friction-free interactions that shoppers have come to expect. Conversation bots can also recognize purchase intent based on ad campaign metadata to start or continue conversations that build customer relationships. As ad spend continues to leave television in favor of digital channels, unique brand experiences will become even more important for customer engagement and retention.

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Businesses will embrace hybrid workforces.

Conversation bots aren’t coming to take human jobs — they’re coming to make human jobs easier and more productive. Soon, conversation bots will help employees make more informed decisions, whether that means qualifying a lead, presenting relevant product upsells to a prospect, or providing faster service to an authenticated user that is logged in to your SaaS. Most employees welcome this advancement, with Dell reporting that 82 percent of people expect to work alongside AI-powered conversation bots within five years.

Employees won’t just gain productive tools, though. Conversation bots can act as extensions of the workers themselves, taking on unique personality traits and reflecting workers’ tones and senses of humor. The future conversation bot will be more than a speaking repository of information: it will be a natural extension of its coworker. People can use AI-powered conversation bots to enhance human workforce skill sets and reinvent business processes.
Some companies have already begun to take advantage of a hybrid workforce. From scheduling appointments to closing deals on their own, modern conversation bots are far more advanced than they used to be — and they’re only getting smarter.

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Employees will enjoy higher quality of life.

Sales agents, live chat agents, and customer service representatives deal with tons of inbound support questions that are repetitive and, as a result, mind numbing. The more requests roll in, the more overwhelmed employees can become. But with conversation bots on staff, employees can automate answers they frequently provide to reduce the burden.

Conversation bots that handle customer questions free employees from their desks, allowing people to respond to more complex messages with less anxiety. One report from The National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) found that 40 percent of employees rated their jobs as “extremely or very stressful,” and most employees believe they are more stressed than workers in the past. However, when employees have intelligent conversation bots to help them delete work that doesn’t add value to their daily lives, they are less likely to suffer from burnout and more likely to identify new opportunities to drive growth. With a hybrid workforce that includes conversation bots and humans, businesses will enjoy
increased efficiencies; customers will get enhanced digital experiences; and employees can solve the advanced problems, leading to a increased sense of purpose and job satisfaction.

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Click fraud will decrease.

B2B companies think they need gated content to acquire prospect information, because that’s how they’ve always done it. Unfortunately, people today don’t trust web forms like they used to. Worse, spammers working for click farms in foreign countries fill out web forms with fake information, leading marketers to waste their time filtering through nonexistent leads. These click farms can drain budgets and cause great campaigns to shut down, because they skew marketing metrics.

Conversation bots, however, don’t treat spammers at click farms kindly. Using artificial intelligence and machine learning, they can spot illegitimate interest and disqualify fake leads before they pollute your CRM. This saves marketing and sales teams significant amounts of time and prevents click farms from sucking marketing budgets dry.

B2B companies will democratize bot-initiated conversations

Traditionally, companies employed chatbots in customer service roles. However, brands in the future will use and democratize conversation bots, implementing them across multiple departments, including sales and marketing. Sales will use conversation bots to qualify leads, as covered earlier. And marketers will use AI-powered conversation bots to increase personalization and engagement with potential and current customers.

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Fortunately for marketers, conversation bots will increase the effectiveness of marketing initiatives. Where traditional content ends, conversation bots will continue the engagement, turning a one-time interaction into sustained brand interest. This power is especially useful for B2B sellers with long sales cycles and multiple people on the buying committee who must be convinced to engage with prospects based on their behavior and interests. Conversation bots can recognize interactions across multiple screens before a deal is ever closed.

Conversation bots might not be the focal point of automation yet, but they will be soon. The platforms businesses are using to design AI-powered conversation bots are evolving rapidly. They have the potential to change the playing field in every industry, from finance to equipment sales to healthcare. The challenge for business leaders is to change the way they think about pre and post sale customer engagements. Five years from now, brands will look back and wish they had invested in conversation bot technology sooner.

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