Is conversational commerce really the future? • Yoast

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Written by Cindy Paul –

“Always be available”. That’s common advice for online businesses. After all, you don’t know who might be awake and browsing your site. Having a website makes this easy, and using automated bots for your customer service makes it even easier. That’s why conversational commerce has grown so popular. But is this a good development? Or better yet: is it even required?

What is conversational commerce?

Before we dive deeper into the topic, let’s cover the basics. Conversational commerce is when your customers can contact you through a messenger channel of their choice, and finish their purchase within the same channel. 

In other words: if you start a conversation with a business via Facebook Messenger, then purchase the product via the chat, you’ve engaged in conversational commerce. 

That sounds useful!

It is. You’ll have 24/7 customer support. Not to mention, customers will get an answer within seconds. That’s important, because 73% of people consider good customer experience an important part of their buying decision. And 65% of customers say a positive experience is more influential than advertising. 

So, it’s clear that customer service is an important part of the customer journey. Then why are you leaving it up to bots? Because of the 24/7 availability? That’s valid. But if you’re doing it because it’s cheap and easy, you might need to reconsider. Think about it: if all your competitors are doing the same thing, then your human-driven customer service will stand out in the bot crowd.

Remember work-life balance?

As we said before, the current expectation is that businesses always need to be available. There’s no denying that. However, we can question if that’s a healthy mindset. And before you scoff and say that ‘lazy gen-zers just don’t want to work’, studies have shown that work has actually become more intense over the years. Which has a huge negative impact on our mental health. 

Perhaps this is part of the reason why 52% of American millennials (and 48% of German millennials) would rather earn 20% less money than have a shitty work-life balance. So, it’s clear that people nowadays don’t want to work, work, work. So why is this expected of businesses?

How can small businesses keep up?

This 24/7 expectation isn’t just bad for our mental health. It also makes it tough for small businesses to keep up.  Think about an illustrator selling their own art, or two friends selling handmade clothes. They probably can’t afford the shiny CRM tools or AI chatbots. And with 24/7 customer service being so important, these small businesses should be dying out. 

#support small businesses

But they’re not. In fact, while 20% of businesses fail in the first year, that means a whopping 80% survives. Which makes sense when you consider that 91% of consumers prefer to support small businesses when convenient, and 74% will even actively seek them out!

Interestingly enough, 71% of consumers also expect better support from small businesses. So, why do they have this expectation? It might be because small businesses have humans doing their customer service, since they (usually) don’t have enough money for conversational commerce tools. Which begs the question: Do people prefer talking to other people? 

Humans prefer humans

The answer is yes. People seem to generally prefer talking to other humans. But why? A study found that users believe that “chatbots are incapable of providing high-quality communication”, which can lead to people no longer being as loyal to platforms after chatting with a chatbot. In some cases, it even led to a staggering 79.7% reduction of sales. 

Is conversational commerce useless then?

It’s not. You can still set up live chats with real people, or allow people to send a message via WhatsApp. Depending on your business’s budget, you’ll be able to provide 24/7 service. But judging by people’s unwavering support for small businesses, it doesn’t seem to matter as much if you can’t. 

Disclaimer: of course, it’s still important for small businesses to reply quickly to their consumers. While consumers might not expect an immediate response, they also don’t want to wait for weeks.

Best of both worlds

However, we can’t ignore the current situation. If lots of businesses offer 24/7 service, you’ll feel pressure to do the same. Besides, it would be silly to completely ignore all the amazing technology that’s available. You don’t want to make your life harder than it needs to be. So, what should you do? 

Well, why not use both? Implement technology strategically. For example, by using AI in the background to help your customer service employees quickly find information. You’ll honor people’s preference for human interaction, while also empowering your employees with AI tools. You’ll have the best of both worlds.

Keep reading: The future of blogging in a video-obsessed world »

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