05
May

Powering Conversational E-commerce With Instant Messaging

From its humble beginnings as a limited business-to-business phenomenon in the early years of the internet more than forty years ago, e-commerce leaped quickly beyond the stodginess of brick-and-mortar stores after the dawning World Wide Web gained widespread public popularity in the mid-1990s. After two decades of expansion that drove past at least one cycle of frenzied speculative investments, modern e-commerce looks on track to consume an even bigger share of global economic activity. An extensive report from The Wall Street Journal reports among other things that Activate, a leading industry research group, sees global e-commerce revenues soaring to $2.1 trillion annually by 2021.

Still, classic e-commerce has always suffered from a few shortcomings. Whether or not most people are consciously aware of it, face-to-face encounters with other human beings soothe our social natures. The brick-and-mortar experience inherently includes such encounters even if many shoppers skip speaking with anyone but the cashier and perhaps one or two other customers.

Enter conversational e-commerce.

Text messaging has become the de rigueur method for quick communications, eclipsing email. Instead of showcasing a jumble of goods and services with little or no direct interaction with other human beings, savvy e-commerce websites offer customers the ability to instantly discuss their needs or place direct requests for their desired goods or services. Then a friendly store staffer fulfills the order without fuss.

That some store staffers are no more than sophisticated chatbots is beside the point. The comforting illusion of human contact is maintained. The nature of texting makes this tactic an easy ploy for reducing costs and conserving limited staff resources for complicated orders and especially demanding customers.

An explosion in mobile computing.

Mobile computing has exploded in popularity over the past decade. Busy people increasingly want to do their shopping on the run. They don’t want to be tied to a desktop for renting automobiles, buying new clothes, making restaurant reservations, and everything else imaginable. While mobile computing is undeniably convenient, smaller screens can be limiting when trying to wade through screen after screen of information.

Conversational e-commerce largely bypasses this problem. Instead of endlessly scrolling around within the limited visual scope of smartphones or tablets, customers can simply describe their desired outcomes and leave it up to the e-commerce company to figure it out. Company website resources serve in this context as guides rather than exact catalogs.

Better branding and profitability.

Some people think chatting is inherently frivolous. Far from being frivolous, instant e-commerce messaging is an opportunity to listen closely to customers’ needs and concerns and persuade them that the company’s brand naturally means friendly, helpful staffers. It’s an opportunity to slip personalized upselling into the conversation. It’s an opportunity to build loyalty and generate positive buzz on social networks. Above all, it’s an opportunity to exploit the worldwide Messenger communications network for every possible avenue to greater profits and stronger branding.

A powerful tool for marketing.

E-commerce messaging has joined email marketing, search engine optimization, content marketing, and social media marketing as another powerful tool for attracting customers, building loyalty, and increasing profits. Instant chat boxes can help make your customers happy with their shopping experience. They’ll feel as if your company has been paying personal attention to their needs.

Happy customers leave complimentary reviews and mentions on social media. E-commerce messaging support creates goodwill, builds your brand, and strengthens your company’s reputation for superior goods and services.

E-commerce platforms everywhere.

A complete e-commerce website has clickable buttons to pay for orders, to support customer feedback loops, and to fulfill other e-commerce functions. Now, that indispensable toolkit includes built-in functionality or plug-in buttons for starting live chats between consumers and e-commerce staff members. Messaging plug-ins are available for a growing number of e-commerce platforms. If you’re already using a major e-commerce platform, the chances are good that you can immediately install a plugin to start having real-time conversations with your customers. Easy solutions to your messaging support needs include Shopify Messenger, Zendesk Chat, among others.

Rampant growth in messaging.

The greater messaging environment promises only to grow. As Business Insider’s BI Intelligence research branch reports, the four leading mobile messaging apps now rival the four leading social media networks in monthly users. In 2016, Facebook’s Messenger and WhatsApp chat applications, twin giants of the American chat marketplace, saw upward of a billion monthly users. Chinese chat colossus WeChat reached a staggering 697 million active users monthly by the end of 2015. Other popular chat applications such as Japan-based Line have contributed still further to meeting the enormous global appetite for live chat networks.

Many industry experts expect the number of regular users of chat apps to reach 3.6 billion by 2018, representing 90 percent of all people with internet access. In the face of such growth in the popularity of chat apps, the majority of professional marketers view on-site live chat with Messenger compatibility as a mandatory tool for e-commerce websites.

March into the future with on-site Messenger support.

The sooner you upgrade your e-commerce website with the capability for live Messenger chats, the sooner you can reap the benefits of instant customer support, such as upselling opportunities across a global marketplace for your goods and services.

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