The Next Evolution of Commerce — Talk More, Type Less

Tons of data out there over the last 18 months affirms the notion that eCommerce is accelerating. Some of it suggests the pandemic may have shaved nearly a decade off the expected adoption curve. Now eCommerce has cemented itself as a central element in the l local commerce market. And all the signs suggest that the next shift within eCommerce will be to typing less and talking more. 

This shift to conversational commerce — or perhaps it should be called App Commerce — is an important step in eCommerce’s evolution. In a recent PYMNTS piece, Quip Founder and CEO Mike Myer predicted that in the next five to 10 years a “significant portion” of transactions “are going to be more conversational in nature”. 

He went on to say this. “That’s what people do. They have conversations, and the reason they interact with websites today is that they don’t have the opportunity to have a conversation. Given the choice between the website and a conversation, if the conversation was well-executed, I think people would be choosing that in a lot of cases.”

Place Rewind: Facebook Drives Towards ‘Conversational Business’

Machine Learning Opportunities 

Conversational commerce has been gaining an increasing share of the overall commerce conversation. Key drivers are AI and ML and all of the opportunities those technologies offer brands and merchants. As consumers, we are increasingly taking part in conversational commerce when we engage in a chat session with a company.

Those sessions offer the company or merchant an incredible learning opportunity and use emerging technologies to make those sessions more relevant and more satisfying for the consumer. Those customer engagement sessions that are driving by typing in the chat, will eventually become conversations driven by our voices. But that’s going to take some time since we had thought we’d see more “voice” commerce by now. 

To that point, Juniper Research in 2019 forecast $80 billion in voice commerce by 2023, but revised that prediction in August to show that eCommerce transactions via voice assistants will reach only $19.4 billion by 2023 – and that was with all of those shifts to eCommerce. Myer expects the first big wave of the shift will come when merchants and companies decide to rely on texting to engage with their customers. But the current texting experience doesn’t take into account that the consumer will dictate the flow of that experience.

We all have been logged into a chat session only to have to leave that session. Perhaps to let the dog out or pick up a child or take a phone call. Whatever the reason, the interruption requires that we start all over with another randomly assigned service rep. Quip is trying to solve that by offering a solution that is more like our text conversations with friends and family. In those conversations, we can stop and start over and over. Try doing that today with say Southwest Airlines. Or even Apple. 

Facebook Opens the Floodgates for Conversational Commerce

Evolving Customer Experience

In our own experience, we recently had two new customer experiences that might not have happened before the pandemic. First, in setting up an Eero wifi network, we were able to call a support line get part of the way through the setup with “John”, then leave the call, have an email exchange, and relaunch the conversation with “John” to finish the setup. In the past, “John” wouldn’t have been able to give us his phone number. And we’d have been forced to start all over with a different agent. 

In the second experience, we were able to get the name of a customer support person at United Airlines who worked with us to get reimbursed for a missed flight and the corresponding hotel and rental car expenses. That was a “wow” experience. And certainly, one that couldn’t have taken place even a couple of years ago.

Those experiences of continuity are what is shifting and taking the overall customer experience to new levels. So conversational commerce is a logical path that all companies will need to follow in order to acquire and retain their best customers. 

Money = Momentum

There’s clearly some momentum in the space. Last week, Wizard Commerce, raised $50 million in a Series A round. The company will be lead by former Walmart head of U.S. commerce Marc Lore. Wizard will use the new money to push its text-based shopping platform Stylust. It will pour some of that $50 million into AI and ML and NLP technologies. 

Lots of action here. We’re eager to see how local merchants can leverage the technologies that are driving Walmart forward into the era of conversational commerce. 

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