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Conversational commerce for your online retail marketing strategy

Author's avatar By Dave Chaffey 24 Mar, 2021
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Keep up to date with online retail trends and innovations. What do the latest conversational commerce developments mean for your e-commerce business?

In the era of digital disruption, it's likely you have considered conversational commerce platforms and channels either personally, or as a marketer, or both. In this blog, I will cover the latest developments in conversational commerce for selling goods and services online across the 4 areas of voice-activated search, smartspeaker interactions, voice-based converse, chatbots, and Messenger.

More importantly, we will consider what opportunities these martech developments bring for your e-commerce marketing strategy. So you can optimze your marketing strategy and tactics to convert more customers, efficiently.

What is conversational commerce?

A technology that empowers brands and consumers to interact with each other through chat or messaging, voice assistance, and other natural language interfaces. Simply put, conversational commerce uses natural language to interact with customers during their buying journey by providing them with personalized help and recommendations while nurturing long-term relationships.

In this blog, I will recommend retail businesses review the relevance of these applications of conversational commerce:

  • Voice-activated search
  • Smart speaker interactions
  • Voice-based commerce
  • Chatbots and Messenger interactions

Conversational commerce is just one of 10 trends covered in our latest retail e-commerce marketing trends 2021 report. Discover all the latest trends and innovations for online retail for yourself when you download your free copy of the report.

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In 2019, Brafton predicted that 50% of all searches would be voice-based by 2020 and at least 20% of mobile queries would be voice searches. Global WebIndex reports that 20% of adults use mobile voice search or voice command tools at least once a month. As expected, a higher proportion of younger age groups prefer voice search, showing the potential for voice search to grow.

Voice-activated search

This started from the trend of smartphone voice assistants led by Apple and Google. We now have voice interactions through the likes of Apple Siri, Google Assistant, Microsoft Cortana, and Amazon Alexa/Echo. This is a major trend across all the main digital platform providers. The increasing popularity of smartspeakers has increased the potential of voice commerce. Yet many voice queries are functional, such as playing a playlist or telling the time. What really interests retailers is whether consumers will search for products or buy via smartspeakers or smartphones.

According to research by Computerlove and Mediacom North, the daily use of voice assistants in the UK has risen significantly in the past 12 months.

  • 7 in 10 people who own a voice-controlled device now use it on a daily basis, up from 4 in 10 just a year ago.
  • 93% of voice device owners now use it at least once a week, up from 83% in 2018.
  • 1 in 5 people are heavy users, interacting with their voice assistant at least five times per day.
  • 32% of respondents said they have more than one device in their home.

Demographic of mobile voice users


Voice-based commerce

So, the question is, how important will voice commerce be in the future? Look past the hype about smarts speakers and it seems consumers are rightly cynical - selecting and purchasing most products is complex. The Computerlove and Mediacom North research suggested that, when it comes to making purchases or ordering take-out food via a voice assistant, the percentage of people using smart speakers remains under 10%. In research collated by Review42 exploring voice search adoption in 2020, the majority of smart speaker owners have not yet used voice search or voice assistants to shop.

  • Of those that do use voice-enabled devices on their purchasing journey, over half (51%) use them simply to research a product
  • 28% then go on to call the business they used voice search to research.
  • 5.5. million adults in the US 'regularly' use their smart speakers to make purchases (roughly 1.6% of the population)

However, a significant proportion of people are using voice assistants to learn more about products, particularly in younger age groups - 39% of Millenials use voice-enabled assistants at least once a month.

Savvy marketers are applying voice-activated and voice-based e-commerce marketing tactics to win more customers through conversational commerce. Find out more about this trend plus another 9 e-commerce marketing trends when you download our free retail e-commerce marketing trends 2021 report.

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Chatbots and Messenger interactions

Many retailers have used chatbots and many of these bots apply Artificial Intelligence. This form of conversational UI makes perfect sense on smartphones where a combination of spoken or typed questions can be combined with prompts to select from a preferred response. It seems certain that chatbots will become a more common form of customer service for retailers as people gain trust in the technology - just as they have with the previous introduction of LiveChat for customer service.

According to a report on conversational commerce, the average conversation rates in stores range from around 20-30%, whereas online, that rate drops down to sub 10% depending on the brand strength. The obvious reasons for that could be the rich, visual, and tangible experience that customers get when they physically visit a store. However, another reason is the instant customer support and service that they receive within the stores, making it essential for online platforms to be able to compete with that level of customer service. E-commerce brands, hence, need to be able to provide a more personalized, real-time customer experience. The report also reiterates that 53% of consumers are more likely to shop with a business they can message, making it worthwhile for business to consider deploying newer, more innovative martech such as chatbots and conversational UIs.

Millennials seem to be the quickest adaptors of chatbot-based customer experiences. According to research by Qualtrics, conducted in the US and key European markets, people aged 18-34 are twice as open to communicating with a personal chatbot as an assistant when shopping, compared to other age groups.

Facebook data shows that:

  • 53% of people are more likely to interact with a business they can message directly.
  • More than 50% of people consider business messaging the modern way to communicate.

Businesses can use messenger-based chatbots as a more cost-effective way to send customers personalized content, offer exclusive deals, and suggest purchases.

Facebook Messenger chatbot developer platform

These examples of Messenger chatbot use-cases, such as Wishlists, show how retailers can integrate Facebook Messenger with e-commerce account sign-in. There is also a beta for accepting payments within Messenger.

Facebook gift preferences


Google Dialogflow chatbot developer platform

In 2018, Google introduced Dialogflow, a similar platform for developing chatbots. It integrates with Google Assistant but has the benefit that it can be deployed via Google Cloud, independent from Messenger, so can be more readily integrated into websites.

These case studies from KLM, Dominos, and Ticketmaster show how it can be deployed.

Looking to the future, a specialist Augmented Reality version of the Echo can even deliver fashion advice. Still only available in the US, Amazon Echo Look includes a depth-sensing camera that is able to blur the background, bringing your outfit to the foreground. Users are able to build a personal lookbook and share photos with friends, while Alexa offers advice from its Style Check service – a combination of Machine Learning and tips from fashion experts. Echo Look will also help consumers to discover new styles and brands based on their archived looks.

Alexa Echo Look

“We only wear pink on Wednesdays. What were you thinking Jenna??” – Alexa

Facebook and Alexa are giants of social commerce. If you want to meet your customers on their terms, and show up where they're looking for you, this is one trend you cannot ignore. Our retail e-commerce marketing report empowers marketers with case studies, data, and recommendations to optimize their digital marketing. Download your free copy of the report now to find out more.

Retail e-commerce marketing trends 2021

Accelerate your growth in 2021 with trends, examples, and practical strategy integrated with our RACE Framework

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Your conversational commerce strategy

Conversational commerce doesn't have to be as daunting to implement as it may seem. The best place to start is to introduce some form of chatbot. Chatbot development has breezed forward in recent years to the point that they are affordable and easy to customize, with the benefit being that a little bit of setup time saves a lot of customer service time in future.

If you already have an FAQ section you're a long way to having some of the content that powers your chatbot - the next step will be 'conversationalising' the content and setting up the chatbot logic to serve it.

As we explored, this can have striking benefits when it comes to brand perception and, in turn, conversions - so this can be a great 'bang for your buck' investment.

Conversational Commerce resources for you

Get started with your journey to conversational commerce by downloading our free retail e-commerce marketing trends 2021 report. Our popular report will guide you through the top trends, plus your next steps with Smart Insights to plan, manage, and optimize your marketing strategy.

Retail e-commerce marketing trends 2021

Accelerate your growth in 2021 with trends, examples, and practical strategy integrated with our RACE Framework

Get Started Today
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Author's avatar

By Dave Chaffey

Digital strategist Dr Dave Chaffey is co-founder and Content Director of online marketing training platform and publisher Smart Insights. Dave is editor of the 100+ templates, ebooks and courses in the digital marketing resource library created by our team of 25+ digital marketing experts. Our resources are used by our Premium members in more than 100 countries to Plan, Manage and Optimize their digital marketing. Free members can access our free sample templates here. Dave is a keynote speaker, trainer and consultant who is author of 5 bestselling books on digital marketing including Digital Marketing Excellence and Digital Marketing: Strategy, Implementation and Practice. My personal site, DaveChaffey.com, lists my latest Digital marketing and E-commerce books and support materials including a digital marketing glossary. In 2004 he was recognised by the Chartered Institute of Marketing as one of 50 marketing ‘gurus’ worldwide who have helped shape the future of marketing. Please connect on LinkedIn to receive updates or ask me a question.

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