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Boost customer engagement with conversational commerce

Messaging apps help you deliver a more personalized customer experience. Here’s how.

Jatinder Singh | September 9, 2016

Messaging apps account for 91 percent of the time U.S. users spend on mobile or desktops—and 75 percent of all smartphone users worldwide use messaging apps like Facebook Messenger, Whatsapp, WeChat, Live, and Viber.

There’s a big opportunity for companies to reach these consumers with application-to-person (A2P) messaging, which is when a SMS message is sent from an application to a mobile subscriber. If you’re part of the 76 percent of consumers that have received a one-time code from businesses like banks, retail, or healthcare agencies through a text, then you’ve experienced A2P messaging.

Enter conversational commerce

Conversational commerce—the combination of messaging and commerce—is gaining traction, because consumers are tired of having to download new apps for each new brand they want to interact with via mobile. Now, with the help of artificial intelligence algorithms (aka Bots), consumers can request an Uber, order Flowers from 1-800-FLOWERS, or get a daily news update from CNN or Wall Street Journal—all within Facebook Messenger.

“Messaging apps account for 91 percent of the time U.S. users spend on mobile or desktops.”

The major messaging players are preparing to take advantage—or are already taking advantage—of this trend. In March 2016, Microsoft announced its developer platform for building bots. In April 2016, Facebook announced tools for developers to build bots inside of Facebook Messenger, bringing a range of new functions to the popular communication app. With iOS10, Apple is working to turn iMessage into a platform that fulfills all user needs—like being able to order food, buy movie tickets, or send money to a friend without leaving the iMessage app.

A more direct path to personalization

Many companies are struggling with personalization. When companies use customer data to provide personalized experiences, the most common complaint from consumers is that it feels “creepy.” However, studies show that consumers are actually willing to share information in order to get personalized content—they just need to be aware that they’re sharing it.

The genius of chatbots is that they address the personalization issue in the most direct manner—they talk directly to the consumer. The entire interaction is designed to engage the consumer in a conversation to seek out the information needed to provide hyper-relevant content during that interaction. This takes away the “creepiness” factor, as the consumer willingly provides the information. The data captured during these conversations will help businesses create smarter content and better products.

Here are a few ways businesses are offering hyper-personalized solutions to their consumers using chatbots:

  1. Shopping for clothes: Spring, the shopping app on Facebook Messenger founded by David and Alan Tisch, is introducing a “personal shopping assistant,” which makes product recommendations by asking a series of questions like, What are you looking for? Product category? Price Point? Based on information the shopper provides throughout the conversation, the shopping assistant will showcase a carousel featuring five suggested items. Shoppers can click to purchase an item and then return to the message thread.

  2. Booking travel: Kayak's Facebook Messenger chatbot can book your vacations over text. The new tool enables users to find flights and hotels using conversational language rather than the old-school method of plugging in dates and sifting through hundreds of results. You can ask the chatbot, “Can you suggest a hotel in Chicago for the July 4th weekend?” or simply state, “I'd like a flight from Houston to Seattle on August 4th, in the morning,” and it can find it and book it for you.

  3. Fighting traffic tickets: Joshua Browder, a 19-year-old programmer from the UK, created a chatbot that has successfully contested $3 million worth of traffic tickets. Beyond parking tickets, Browder's bot can help with delayed or cancelled flights and payment-protection insurance (PPI) claims. Although the bot can only help file claims on simple legal issues—it can't physically argue a case in front of a judge—it can help save users a lot of money.

Win-win for businesses and consumers

Conversational commerce offers a unique opportunity for companies to communicate closely with customers through an extremely personalized experience. This will help companies boost loyalty, increase lifetime value, and make well-informed decisions based on insights directly from the consumer.

Jatinder Singh is no longer with Slalom.

Jatinder Singh

Jatinder Singh is a consultant in Slalom’s San Francisco office. He’s focused on technology innovations that are shaping the omnichannel retail experience of the future. Jatinder has over four years of experience launching and managing tech-focused innovations inside a Fortune 50 retailer.