In the US, e-commerce sales are expected to grow 39% between 2018 and 2022 to over $700 billion. To date, this growth has been driven largely by easier access to the internet, pervasiveness of smartphones and improved measures to secure transaction data.
From a company perspective, many sales and marketing departments took advantage of these trends and rushed to build strong online brands. Social media and search engine optimisation strategies changed the way businesses reach customers. Now, there is a new technology shaking up the buying process further: chat-commerce.
Chat-commerce is a relatively new term, but it can be thought of as:
Chat-commerce aims to replicate the in-store experience where shoppers speak with someone at the store to get their questions answered or for recommendations on other products or services. It’s a strategy for delivering a better and more personalised user experience.
Chatbots have been around for a few years. They represented a step-up from lonely days of clicking “Buy Now” or “Add to Cart” buttons with no interaction, but initial versions were fairly limited in their functionality. They were mainly used a substitute help desks and didn’t directly impact commerce.
As is common with technology, chatbots are continuously evolving into more powerful business tools. Chatbots have proved to be an effective way to sort customers before directing them to a human customer service agent. Increasingly, companies are partnering with popular platforms, such as Facebook, to try and capture customers through the Messenger app, but companies use bots in a variety of ways:
Where will chat-commerce go from here? It’s hard to predict but it’s always a good idea to follow your target audience. Most companies have already recognised the shift from web to mobile interactions, but what about smart speakers or other Internet of Things (IoT) devices? Surely, the next evolution of chatbots and chat-commerce will be able to integrate with more and more “smart” devices.
While a study by Oracle indicated that 80% of companies already use or plan to use chatbots by 2020, it’s clear that the ways chatbots and chat-commerce are used in sales and marketing have considerable potential for growth.
As the examples above illustrate, there’s no one way for businesses to incorporate chat-commerce. As you decide what strategy is right for you, here are a few things to consider:
This may seem daunting. Yet another technology you have to learn. Yet another sales and marketing tactic. But it could be worth it. Chat-commerce has the potential to increase your customer engagements, improve the user experience and, hopefully, grow your sales.