AI in the DMs: Seizing the Social Commerce Opportunity With Conversational Messaging
The convenience of online shopping is indisputable — and it continues to give brick-and-mortar retail a run for its money. While 2021 saw a rise in brick-and-mortar retail as a result of lifted pandemic restrictions and vaccine availability, e-commerce sales still grew at nearly three times the rate of brick-and-mortar. But digital retail does not (and should not) stop at websites and branded apps.
With approximately 3.5 billion people globally on social media, spending an average of 2.5 hours per day on social channels, brands should prioritize expanding their social presence to better engage with existing customers and be discovered by new ones. The nature of social media allows for widespread word-of-mouth advertising via a single post or story. Social commerce takes this a step further by intertwining social media and shopping experiences to enable customers to shop directly in-app. The social commerce market is set to reach $1.2 trillion globally and $99 billion in the U.S. by 2025, so the time is now for brands to invest in rich, interactive social commerce capabilities.
Shoppable posts are a great entry point to social commerce, but the potential for personalized, real-time customer experience via social channels goes much further. You can actually completely transform your social channels into fully responsive, immersive digital storefronts where consumers can send a direct message (DM) about a product and receive informed responses and curated offers instantaneously — without relying entirely on customer service agents. Conversational messaging brings this opportunity to life.
Conversational messaging is the process of activating two-way channels, such as SMS (or, in this case, Facebook Messenger, Instagram DMs, and so on), to support real-time dialogues between customers and brands. Currently, the majority of enterprises are active in at least two messaging channels to connect with customers, but most customers are using four (typically SMS and social media channels), reinforcing the urgency to bridge the gap and be where your customers are. While there will always be a need for live support agents to respond to certain inquiries, conversational messaging can help your brand automate and scale its social commerce experience with artificial intelligence-enabled chatbots and conversation APIs.
Whether your brand’s social following is in the thousands or hundreds of thousands (or even millions), conversational messaging makes responsive, wraparound social commerce a reality, ensuring your customers’ questions, either in post comments or DM inboxes, can be answered in a timely manner. Even if you’re a smaller brand, conversational messaging is instrumental for enhancing the customer experience on social platforms, creating real-time, human-like customer support and marketing when hiring additional personnel is out of your budget.
How Conversational Messaging Ensures Customers Aren’t Lost in Your DMs
Intelligent chatbots drive conversational messaging. From within social media inboxes, they can answer customers’ frequently asked questions, check local store availability for specific products, and provide updates on recent orders. Cutting edge chatbots equipped with natural language processing (NLP) can be infused with a brand persona to deepen customers’ brand experience and further differentiate. If your brand has a mascot, for example, your chatbot can be easily programmed to “speak” like that mascot. These NLP chatbots can also interpret customer sentiment and piece together messages laden with typos in order to keep the conversation going. If your customer has expressed interest in a certain product by engaging with a shoppable post or sending a DM, the chatbot can even create a personalized, social-exclusive offer for them within the social channel — a deeply curated customer experience that combines the intimacy of the in-store shopping experience with the convenience and immediacy of social media.
Too often, brands’ customer service and social channels can be deeply disjointed. What if your customer on social media needs support from a live agent? The chatbot can easily hand off via a simple API. Conversational APIs work as a hub for customer interactions, providing both live and AI agents with context and history to immediately solve customer issues or answer their questions. They can access information on customers’ recent purchases via your web or brick-and-mortar storefronts, so agents on social channels can engage and convert without missing a beat.
The social commerce opportunity is clearly growing. Conversational messaging is the key to scaling social commerce for a responsive, always-on customer experience in the scrolling age.
Matt Ramerman is the president of Sinch for Marketing, a mobile messaging platform to transform your brand experience.