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Why Conversation Is the Future of Commerce

Credit : Facebook IQ

It’s time to meet people where they are: Shopping in their favorite messaging apps. Learn how conversational commerce—or c-commerce—is uniquely positioned to meet the needs of today's consumer.

Is the futurist within you always on the hunt for the next big thing? Well, it just might be that the next big thing is actually the convergence of two big things. Consider conversational commerce. As people increasingly embrace shopping via chat, conversational commerce is igniting a global movement that is only set to grow.

With the on-the-go, on-demand convenience that mobile affords, people now have zero tolerance for friction. Many are literally reappraising the relative values of time, effort and money. In fact, 58% of the people we surveyed globally now consider convenience alongside price when deciding where to shop.

With 87% of the world’s smartphone population messaging—and 100B messages exchanged across Facebook products each day—conversation is uniquely positioned to answer shoppers’ call for better experiences.

Case in point: Last holiday season, 2 in 3 people surveyed globally told us they had messaged a business.

Whether they are seeking product information, gift advice, a store location, flexible delivery, a dinner reservation or an impulse purchase, people chat with businesses for a wide range of reasons.

Conversational commerce—or c-commerce—is when people and businesses connect through chat or voice assistance with the intent to drive purchase of goods or services. This behavior has rapidly become mainstream across the globe and presents brands with powerful chances to engage shoppers in fresh ways.

To find out what’s driving this trend, where it’s headed and how strategists can use it to surface new opportunities for connection, we commissioned Boston Consulting Group (BCG) to conduct focus groups, in-depth interviews and an online survey of 8,864 people across nine markets. Scroll on to see what c-commerce buyers* reveal about the future of shopping.

Conversation is delivering next-level brand experiences

Conversation shortens the distance between wanting and having, and people globally are embracing c-commerce across a wide range of categories—with fashion and beauty leading the charge. Conversation’s unique power becomes clear when looking at c-commerce buyers' top reasons for chatting with businesses:

Essentially, conversation delivers exactly the kind of quick and personalized experiences that meet, exceed and even redefine the needs of today's shoppers. And it can take just one of these amazing experiences to raise someone’s standards forever—to make yours the brand people choose first. These experiences often combine people’s favorite parts of shopping in-store (e.g., consulting with a salesperson) and their favorite parts of shopping online (e.g., the convenience of shopping whenever they want).

With convenience being more important than ever, it’s also worth noting that conversation happens where consumers are already spending time. When asked where they engage in c-commerce, half of buyers say they do so primarily through social media and messaging platforms. And 90% say they do on Facebook platforms (Facebook, Messenger, WhatsApp or Instagram).

Engaging via messaging platforms like Messenger or WhatsApp can be a powerful way to connect with shoppers where they are and on their terms. However, the effectiveness of c-commerce is driven largely by execution: Consumers expect businesses to answer quickly and provide useful responses.

This responsiveness is key to building valuable long-term relationships. Nearly 1 in 3 c-commerce buyers say they chat with businesses in order to determine if they’re trustworthy and credible.

Conversation is expanding e-commerce

C-commerce is not just growing the universe of online shoppers—it is associated with higher spending too. Research reveals that the ongoing, trusting and personal connections people develop with brands and sellers via conversations often lead to new interactions, more effective personalized recommendations and higher spending.

Conversation can create new online shoppers

C-commerce is bringing new online shoppers into the fold, accessing people who are entirely new to shopping online and wouldn’t ordinarily want to.

And c-commerce is not just for Millennials. Research reveals that in Vietnam, for example, it’s Baby Boomers driving the movement. Just imagine a grandmother in Vietnam who finds e-commerce sites confusing. But chat? She chats with everyone. It’s intuitive. And it’s her new favorite way to shop.

That shift is happening across the world. Research reveals that platforms such as Messenger and WhatsApp are introducing online shopping to even more consumers: 40% of c-commerce buyers surveyed globally say that chat was how they first started shopping online.

Conversation can inspire online shoppers to spend more

What about people who are already shopping online? C-commerce buyers’ ongoing relationships with brands and sellers creates trust and enables more personalized recommendations. These targeted enticements, such as for specific products and offers like free shipping, can unlock higher spending.

For example, in just a year, the average c-commerce buyer in Vietnam will increase their c-commerce spend by about 30%.

C-commerce buyers’ ongoing relationship with brands and sellers creates trust and allows for personalized recommendations that can lead to increased spending. Businesses can entice shoppers with the promise of a more effective beauty formula or free shipping if they spend just a little bit more. When done right, the c-commerce experience can feel like a value exchange between people and businesses—from the moment a shopper is first interested in a product to the moment a seller realizes they have a new loyal customer.

Conversation has a bright future in commerce

How satisfied are people with conversational commerce? Research indicates that c-commerce buyers are feeling increasingly committed.

More than two-thirds (67%) of buyers surveyed say they plan to increase or maintain their c-commerce spending, showing that the approach is resonating strongly with consumers.

C-commerce has definitely arrived, and it’s well poised for future growth. It also seems to be evolving right before our eyes. To see where c-commerce is heading, it’s helpful to look at two areas it’s thriving in: Asia and Latin America. Consumers in the Asia-Pacific region are 1.26x more likely than the global average to use messaging for product research.6 And in Latin America, people use WhatsApp at levels 1.43x higher and Messenger 1.28x than the global average in general.

This widespread embrace of c-commerce is leading to interesting innovations in both regions, such as live-shopping messaging broadcasts in Thailand and Brazil. For consumers, these real-time interactions can create trust, provide entertainment and enable shopping with confidence. For businesses, they can unlock remarkable growth.

These sorts of fresh approaches are just the beginning. Conversational commerce is set to evolve rapidly. The space is one that forward-thinking marketers should find exciting to watch—and chat about.

What it means for marketers

  • Plan strategically: Start by understanding how c-commerce can benefit your business. Brands use conversational channels to achieve a wide range of goals. We’ve seen businesses doing everything from sparking consideration to fulfilling orders to reconnecting with customers. Find out how Messenger and WhatsApp can be an additive part of your marketing strategy.

  • Learn what makes a great messaging experience: Understand what people need from your business to build a helpful relationship with them. Start by considering the context around your experiences, anticipating what people will want to talk to you about and thinking through what it will look like to have a conversation with your brand. Anticipate what shoppers will want by imagining what it would be like to have a conversation with your brand.

  • Get started building your messaging experience:Once you've chosen the problems you want to tackle and the approaches you want to take with c-commerce, start building. Our Partner Directory can be a valuable asset for finding the right developer for creating Messenger and WhatsApp solutions. It is filled with dedicated partners who build experiences all day, every day.

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