It just makes sense that Chris Messina, the former Google designer who first proposed that Twitter adopt the hashtag, in a Medium post earlier this year said, “I’m ready to call it: 2016 will be the year of conversational commerce.” I’ve been closely following the growing buzz on the topic given Chirpify’s seminal role in the category four years ago now and have a few key insights on how social brings out the best in Conversational Conversion, not just Commerce.
But before we dive into that, for those new to Conversational Commerce (or for those of you who might need a refresher), let’s review, what exactly is Conversational Commerce, or #ConvComm as it’s tagged on social media. While some people tend to emphasize the word conversation, Conversational Commerce is not limited to virtual assistants but is any short or long-form dialog between a consumer and a brand or service provider. The dialog can be conducted by a bot or person.
What’s important here is that Conversational Commerce bypasses the need for individual brand applications and takes advantage of platforms most consumers already use today — platforms like Twitter or Facebook Messenger that are trusted by both consumers and brands for conversation and conversion. What’s driving the trend and why pundits are calling this the year of Conversational Commerce is the convergence of personalization, authentication and intelligence. While the idea of personalization is certainly not new, when coupled with the ability to authenticate, or recognize an individual, and respond intelligently with a rules-based system for bots or deep CRM data for one-on-one conversations, the future for Conversational Commerce becomes clear.
Embraces utility and self-service
With the rise of mobile, consumers have a remote control in their pocket that allows them to interact with brands how, when and where they like. When combined with social media’s capability for consumers to broadcast 1:1, 1:network or 1:many, it’s clear that consumers are in command of the relationship. Brands need to embrace Conversational Conversion – with the emphasis on Conversion, not just Commerce – in order to provide the utility customers desire and maintain value in the customer relationship.
Conversion is the Future
The future is driving to Conversational Marketing Conversion, with commerce being just one example of a conversion activity. Whether chat bots for Facebook Messenger or direct messaging on Twitter, we’ve learned over the years that consumers are increasingly savvy and must feel that they are getting a fair trade for the value they receive in exchange for participating with a brand. While commerce is a natural example of utility, it is just one way a consumer might want to interact with a brand. Similarly, brands have multi-faceted programs designed to increase loyalty and maximum customer lifetime value.
Having worked in this area for many years now, we’ve paved the path to several best practices to reap the value of Conversational Conversion over social. The first of which is bringing loyalty programs to social media, wherein members interact with the brand in meaningful ways and are given points or other rewards in exchange. In this case, the Conversational Conversion is the member’s action which triggers a reward.
Let me give you an example. If a Marriott Rewards member tweets with conversational commands such as #Enter, #Stay, #Win, and #MRPoints, Marriott is able to respond and reward the member for that action in the same context. In this case, the #MRPoints acts as a trigger for the brand that Chirpify listens for and can automatically reply to from the @MarriottRewards handle with a pre-determined, or randomized, smart rules-based response. The Marriott team can also respond to one-off interactions with a custom, human response.
Another best practice directly addresses Chris Messina’s critique that one of the challenges to the Conversational Commerce paradigm is discovery and distribution. Chirpify solves this problem with social activation. Brands are able to create and distribute campaigns across media – from email to TV to billboards – promoting a social trigger that consumers can then use via their social remote control. By activating campaigns and events in this way, Chirpify becomes the Conversational Conversion for the brand. This holds two advantages in that brands are able to connect consumers’ social IDs with their offline ID and it allows brands to easily change social triggers based on season, campaign, customer target and more.
Last, Conversational Conversion best practices allow brands to proactively surprise and delight consumers. Chirpify allows brands to not only listen for but respond to people who are talking about them in a personalized manner. Rewarding people proactively for their advocacy – or to address a potential customer service issue — helps create a bond with those customers through the conversion experience.
While social is growing as a last-click ecommerce referral source, paying bots for goods and services is still a nascent market. Yet, consumers are happy to interact with brands in a self-serve manner in order to:
Receive content, promo codes, discounts or other incentives and are in our experience 4x more likely to do so.
- Be invited to VIP, preview, or other ‘special’ events.
- Get an upgrade or sneak peek.
- Check rewards totals or see what the next promo is.
- Unlock access to urls or content.
- Find personalized offers, early access, and more.
It’s important to note that we’re not beholden to any one platform, enabling conversational conversion across platforms.
Conversational Conversion in social has the added benefit of organic reach and virally promoting social advocacy. In addition to conversion actions that further brands’ multi-faceted goals to grow customer relationships, this approach directly addresses consumer desire for utility while increasing acquisition, awareness, and reach. Your best customers want to interact with you; when you provide them the means to do so through Conversational Conversion in social, you connect the dots between marketing, self-serve utility, and customer lifetime value.