“Hey Google, how do I perfect an omnichannel journey?”
“Sorry, I don’t know how to help with that yet.”
Ok, so it’s not that easy . . . not yet, anyway. But it’s worth the effort. According to Invesp, companies that design their customer journeys with omnichannel customer engagement strategies retain, on average, 89% of their customers. Brands that operate with weak omnichannel customer engagement only retain 33%.
The consumer journey has gone from a straight shot to a Choose Your Own Adventure maze that happens any time, anywhere, on one of the countless devices, channels, and social networks. It’s up to you to find the customer where they are and build a connection there.
To get consumers to fall in love with your brand today requires a new approach and the tech stack to support it. Consumers expect you to be where they are, when they are and with the appropriate tools for engagement. As Marc Benioff, Chairman and CEO, Salesforce said, “AI will become a defining technology of the 21st century, just as the microprocessor was in the 20th century.”
Conversational commerce is the animating principle behind successful omni-channel engagement. It helps your brand nurture a rich relationship with each customer, at every service touchpoint, by using real-time logistics, big data, machine learning and AI to give your customers what they want, when they want it, on the channel of their choosing, on every step of their journey with your brand. As a result, customers feel known and valued by you, the company that anticipates their wants and needs.
Channeling Your Customers
The last few years have seen a paradigm shift involving a whole new class of retail channels. Customers are looking for an intelligent, personalized experience at every touchpoint, perhaps the most important shift in digital commerce.
Though it’s clear the landscape is changing, it’s hard to tell which road consumers will take. What’s most important is to be aware of today’s channels, the ones coming tomorrow and the technology that can help you scale to both and to reflect that in your customer experience strategy.
Laggard companies might be sticking their heads in the sand, clinging to their email lists, and hoping it all blows over. Average companies might know conversational commerce is important, but suffer paralysis by analysis with how to move forward. Innovative brands like Facebook, Amazon, Slack, Google, and Apple are leading the way to show the rest of them how it’s done.
Current conversational channels fall into two main categories: Messaging Apps and Voice Channels.
Mobile-native consumers are becoming more and more accustomed to communicating through messaging on channels such as Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, Kik, and, in Asia, Wechat and Line. They’re not only using them to catch up with friends, but also to stay in touch with brands, shop, and watch content. These once-simple programs for sending text, image, clips, and GIFs are now fullblown interfaces with their own APIs, developers, and apps.
The four top chat apps now have a combined user base that dwarfs the combined user base of the top four social networks. Plus, users are likely to use them more often and for longer than most mobile apps.
Since April 2016, when Facebook opened up Facebook Messenger to allow brands to build bots to operate in the channel, over 33,000 bots have already been launched. Today, they can help with product info, order processing, delivery statuses and exchanges and returns. Tomorrow, they may be doling out fashion advice, reminding you to buy a gift for your brother-in-law’s birthday and carrying on complex conversations worthy of a fellow human.
As Donald Norman said in 1990, “The real problem with the interface is that it is an interface. Interfaces get in the way. I don’t want to focus my energies on an interface. I want to focus on the job . . . I don’t want to think of myself as using a computer, I want to think of myself as doing my job.”
Getting the job done, whether it’s finding out the weather, checking the news, or learning about whales for school, can now be done with voice channels like Amazon’s Alexa, Google Home, and Siri, whose voice can be conjured from iPhones, Macs, and Apple TV. Even if we were lying on the couch with our eyes closed, we could order pizza, turn on lights, or purchase a plane ticket using these virtual assistants.
According to Tractica, these bot-powered assistants will soon be in our smartwatches, fitness trackers, PCs, smart home systems, and automobiles. The active consumer virtual assistant users will balloon from 390M today to 1.8B worldwide by the end of 2021.
“The consumer and enterprise use cases for virtual digital assistants are proliferating rapidly thanks to accelerated innovation and scalability of underlying technologies, such as natural language processing and artificial intelligence,” says principal analyst Mark Beccue. “Meanwhile, most of the world’s technology giants believe VDAs will be vital to their businesses in the future, and they are investing significant resources to capture market share at this early stage.”
You can learn more about conversational commerce by exploring Linc’s platform and solutions pages. Or take a look at how leading brands like Lamps Plus, JustFab.com and others are using automated conversational commerce strategies in their businesses today, in our resources page.