Shopping through chat - conversational ecommerce is right here, right now

Conversational ecommerce is probably not new. It existed in some form or the other since the earliest days of online shopping. You called up the shop owner (whose website you were looking at) when you had a query or wanted to order something.

A few years later, as email hit mainstream, you emailed the shop owner when you had a question before a sale. Or if you were hunting for a discount. Then, emails became contact forms. Easier.

Then, contact forms became live-chat plugins. Live chat is still one of the most popular interfaces for a visitor to communicate with the site owner in a jiffy. And most websites today do have a live-chat plugin installed.

Conversation and Conversions

Conversation helps increase conversions. It’s like going back to traditional shopping where you talk to the seller and have a feel of how good or bad he/she is. How friendly, helpful.

Today, the way conversational shopping happens is changing. From live-chat on the website, sellers are moving to platforms that are familiar to everyone - WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger.

Ecom small businesses whose sole sales channel is WhatsApp are kind of thriving locally. The thing is, they’re just getting it done by doing things that don’t scale right now. A founding team keeps the smartphone close, monitors every WhatsApp chat that comes through and quickly responds.

A.I is trying to help automate and scale this conversational ecommerce thing. Shopify acquiring Kit or Facebook working on Messenger bots are not disjointed. This is what tech startups want to do: try to make things that retain the human-ness but still scale up to hundreds, thousands or millions of requests per second.

Shopify acquiring Kit and integrating with Messenger are a prelude to a trend in online shopping: intelligent, automated chat-based ecommerce.

Advantage Underdog

Given all this, where do you stand? Do you offer live-chat on your shop? Do you do real-time support?

The early-adopting pro seller will jump onto whatever new technology lets him integrate Messenger / WhatsApp into the visitor-to-customer funnel. These integrations will be costly initially but money won’t matter to a pro seller.

The one with a shop doing decently good - a thousand-plus uniques every day - is at a disadvantage. Not only would he think twice before investing in some chatbot but he’d also be hard-pressed for time and other resources (not to forget, he’s not an early adopter).

The underdog is the one with the real advantage. If you are launching your shop today and not expecting a windfall of traffic, you can easily integrate one of the many smart live-chat systems and quickly align your shop towards conversational ecommerce.

Today, most of us spend about half of our waking hours chatting, responding to messages and probably sharing gifs on WhatsApp or Messenger. Social media and forthcoming online sellers who chat with their customers (and leads) over chat apps have blurred the lines between a market relationship and a social one. Today, the place you go to connect with friends as well as brands and stores is same: Facebook / Instagram.

Customers won’t feel odd when stores reach them via a messaging app instead of email. In fact, they are expecting it because you don’t have to jump between various channels of communication.

The sooner you take to conversational ecommerce, the better your chances of growth.

Chandru, Around.io