The future of conversational commerce and chatbots

chatbots

Apart from analysing consumer data to rendering personalised services, chatbots are redefining how brands engage with their customers

By Saahil Goel

The advent of artificial intelligence (AI) is revolutionising the internet experience as we know it. The application of intelligence technology like deep learning —where machines learn and modify their results based on user behaviour — makes consumer experiences hyper-personalised and drives overall customer gratification. Like all things move forward with time, AI has now transcended to the concept of ‘conversational commerce’ (CC) with the increased use of natural language generation and the adoption of messaging platforms among users.

First coined by Chris Messina from Uber, the term (conversational commerce) refers to driving commercial activities using message- or voice-based communication. One contemporary and unconventional example of AI and CC adoption for customer augmentation is Starbucks. The global coffee brand in the US has implemented voice ordering through which customers can place orders using a smart device such as Amazon Echo. Such companies are steadily replacing the core messaging from ‘just one click away’ to ‘just one voice command away’.

One development in the field of conversational commerce that has brands in India heavily captivated is the emergence of chatbots. These program-based artificial intelligence entities designed to simulate conversation over the internet are frontrunners in the adoption of CC channels in India. Chatbots are allowing businesses to engage with and service their customers like never before. The growing trend of chatbots has a lot to thank to Facebook, which has been promoting its messenger app as the primary medium for conversational commerce worldwide, especially in India.

Application of chatbots and conversational commerce

When pitted against the way online marketplaces traditionally function in India, conversational commerce is easing the process, amusing customers and using more meaningful knowledge about users to personalise their experiences. Instead of providing consumers with a tiresome grid of alternatives/filters to choose from, chatbots cut the clutter and dive in to provide users with an intuitive, almost concierge-like experience. From understanding requirements to providing alternatives, processing payments and collecting feedback, chatbots can be deployed to automate, personalise and talk candidly to users during each stage of the sales process.

Gone are the days of IVR and going through an entire maze of options to get a query resolved. A modern-day user finds it easier to pick up her phone and send a chat message instead! In contrast to phone calls, emails or contact forms, chatbots are perhaps the easiest, convenient and the most natural means of connecting with customers.

Benefits of conversational commerce via chatbots can be summarised as:

Enabler of two-way communication
Generates content to scale up
Augments engagement by eliminating additional windows for checkout and payment
Helps businesses convert awareness into action
Enhanced methodology to track user behaviour and understand engagement stacks than using cookies, click redirects, image tags and tag containers
Managing customer support down time by plummeting dependency on human agents

What the future holds

India as the burgeoning market for online users will chiefly benefit from the adoption of AI’s chatbots since several AI-powered personal assistants like Apple’s Siri, Microsoft’s Cortana, Google Now and Google Allo are already making our lives easier. Let us observe some of solutions that will be available to us soon with the infusion of chatbots and conversational commerce into our everyday lives:

1. Enhanced function of chatbots

In the next wave of technology adoption, chatbots are going to grow in their purpose and scope of utility. As of now, we have seen an increase in the number of chatbots unique to a particular domain which hence offer a narrow range of services. While these conversational bots can be trusted to take care of one particular task adequately, the future belongs to generic chatbots or a seamless integration between differently accurate chatbots providing the end user with an experience that encompasses all stages of an e-commerce experience.

2. Growth of personal shoppers

The above will also fuel the growth of virtual personal shoppers which is one aspect missing in the e-commerce experience when compared to bricks-and-mortar. The artificially intelligent chatbots, capable of simulating real-life conversations, can instead act like personal assistants for digital shoppers. They can recognise requirements, search through the catalogue, discuss the deals, offers and draw the conversation to a desired close effortlessly, within a singular, unified ecosystem.

3. The advent of hybrid platforms

In the next few months, we shall be acquainted with the increasing proliferation of hybrid platforms. While these platforms will be driven via chatbots, one can also switch to their visual avatars when required. The switch would also be predicted via the advanced AI technology to make the entire engagement process and the final sale, easy and intuitive.

In essence, conversational commerce and chatbots are not just altering the means of business communication but also providing new and modified means of analysing consumer data to render personalised services. Though it is currently impossible to measure the magnitude of these intelligent technologies in the business, they are definitely the most significant tools to stay ahead of the game.

The author is CEO and founder, Kraftly

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