Conversational Commerce: Closing the Loop on Creating the In-Store Experience Online
Conversational commerce is the latest trend taking the retail industry by storm. By leveraging human brand specialists, artificial intelligence (AI) chatbots and augmented reality (AR), conversational commerce delivers a more simplified and personalized shopping experience for consumers on participating retailers’ online stores and social media platforms. This model provides consumers with a seamless, on-demand shopping interface that allows them to engage with sales associates (both live and virtual) to have their questions answered, preview items in true 3D, and complete the transaction all in one application, forever changing the retail landscape.
So, How Does Conversational Commerce Work?
When potential customers are browsing a retailer’s online store or app, they'll be prompted to connect with a personal shopper to aid in their search and, hopefully, purchase. If pursued, the shopper will be taken to a native messaging application where he or she can converse with what will first be an AI-powered bot, capable of providing information on products such as size, color and price. AI-powered chatbots such as these have become a popular feature in e-commerce, with 71 percent of people reporting that they use chatbots to solve their problem fast when faced with a shopping or customer service challenge. What’s more, 53 percent of people said they're more likely to shop at an online store that they can engage with via message. Conversational commerce further enhances the messaging experience by swapping in a real person to provide recommendations when the chatbot is faced with a more open-ended or subjective question.
Throughout this exchange, if the shopper is interested in taking a closer look at a product, there’s the ability to "place" or "try on" the object using AR, which enables viewing the item in true 3D. This technology allows shoppers to gauge whether an item matches with a certain outfit or décor, and meets their expectations, all without setting foot in a store or dressing room. AI-powered sentiment analysis technology will monitor the consumer's reaction to the item, both through their chat messages and expression, feeding this data to the sales associate to help determine when to suggest another item or nudge to check out.
Once the shopper has found an item they're ready to purchase, they can revisit the messaging application to share the item details and conveniently complete the purchase within the conversation using their preferred form of mobile payment.
How Will This Impact the Retail Industry?
By incorporating AR, intelligent chat platforms and sentiment analysis, both with natural language and computer vision, conversational commerce is poised to disrupt the e-commerce industry in a big way. This technology will help retailers convert more shoppers into buyers, reduce returns, and build brand loyalty by measuring customer responses to products in real time. Additionally, retailers will be provided with valuable data, which will strengthen their ability to influence shopping behavior and target marketing efforts.
Furthermore, the use of both natural language and computer vision analysis will create a hypertailored experience centered on the needs and tastes of individual shoppers. This intel, coupled with the ability to create an AR view and one-touch purchase transaction, fosters a simple and seamless online shopping experience for consumers — one that can be experienced without navigating multiple applications.
As all the technology components involved in conversational commerce evolve, the consumer experience and benefits to the retailer will only continue to improve. Online shopping experiences that mirror the in-store process as closely as possible are the future of the retail industry, especially as consumers continue to stray from traditional brick-and-mortar stores. The industry can expect conversational commerce to play a large role in the ongoing transformation of the retail landscape.
Paul Duffy is the president of NexTech AR, a leader in web-based augmented reality for e-commerce, with technology ranging from simple 3-D Images to hologram technology.