Elevating The Conversation

Marketers and sales resources are good talkers, but it’s time to outsource the chat, according to Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg. At a company event, he outlined clear next steps, and he wasn’t talking about the Metaverse this time.

Zuckerberg said messaging apps like Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, and Instagram Direct are an important focus to help people contact businesses with the same ease that they contact one another. In his speech, he noted that “(Customers) they want to get support and make purchases right from chat.”

Conversational commerce is a way for retailers to pursue a conversation with the intention to guide customers through the funnel. Think of it as a store attendant who reaches out to chat via an app, chatbot, voice assistant, or through a messaging platform. Chat brings in the added advantage of catching the customer at the right time and in the channel of their choice, armed with the customer’s history and preferences. For online retailers, this is also a chance to personalize the communication.  

To help companies do that, Meta is introducing a cloud-based version of its WhatsApp for Business. Brands can implement their chatbots via WhatsApp to answer customer queries by training the boy over FAQs and feeding it with product-related information. According to Indosat Ooredoo Hutchison, the telecom company was able to tackle over 90% of customer inquiries without live agent support. Customers were also given the option to top up their mobile minutes and purchase data services through the chat.

Messaging has been an area of heavy investment at Meta, but the medium has only gained steam in the past year or two. At the end of the year, the company will roll out new capabilities to allow businesses to send notifications to customers right within Instagram Direct.

There is a reason marketers are buzzing about this new trend. Unlike aggressive pop-ups and banners, conversational marketing opens a dialogue between brands and consumers and creates an opportunity to build a relationship.

Types of Conversational Commerce 

  •   Live chat
  •   Chatbots
  •   Messaging apps
  •   Voice assistants

Automation and human-assisted customer service

Recently, conversational AI company LivePerson launched its Fellows program at the University of California, Santa Cruz (UCSC). The program sponsors PhD students at UCSC’s Natural Language and Dialogue Systems Lab to build conversational AI experiences of the future with a more natural, empathetic, and human-feel. The company works with clients like Citibank, HSBC, The Home Depot, IBM, Lancome, Virgin Atlantic and RBS. Its solutions let consumers message with brands via intelligent software and AI-powered chatbots that answer shopper inquiries. It lets brands work with automation and human-assisted customer service staff. By taking shopper intent into account, it arms human staff with contextually appropriate, real-time AI support. 

Integration is key as brands go where consumers are spending time; LivePerson’s solution works with major messaging platforms, including Instagram, Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, and the client brand’s website. Brands can opt for predefined bot-powered templates for easier onboarding to conversational AI.

Infuse data into conversations

Marketers must prioritise data integration when setting up. Pick an intelligent system that can retrieve customer preferences and history to recommend products that are customised to each customer. It helps that nearly 55% of customer queries are simple product-related questions that can be automated through conversational AI. 

Last week, startup Zowie raised $14 million in a Series A funding round led by Tiger Global Management. Its chatbots are fueled by the Zowie X1 AI, which can analyze both words and the possible intent behind them. The chatbot spots trends in the questions and responses from customers to compile reports from that data. The AI sifts through previous conversations, a business knowledge base, and even published frequently asked questions to determine what to automate and what to leave to human experts.

The fact that it integrates with eCommerce payment methods such as Shopify, Recharge, and Klaviyo make the journey more seamless.  

Consolidate and unify data

This week, Gupshup, a conversational engagement company, announced the acquisition of OneDirect, the omnichannel customer service platform. The company aims to expand its conversational solutions across channels and integrate with existing CRM and helpdesk systems.

A unified dashboard helps track bot interaction so human agents can step in when required for high-value conversations. It also tracks where the customer has reached in the sales funnel to add context for human staff to take over. Active listening and monitoring via social media inject a feedback module into the dashboard for timely and rapid customer experience management.

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