By Jeroen, Van Glabbeek, CEO at CM.com
Today, everything is instant. The need for self-isolation has further pushed us into the arms of companies that live for speed. Whether it’s fast Netflix downloads for entertainment, real-time bookings for online fitness classes with Mindbody, or same-day Amazon deliveries for home improvement tools – we’ve come to expect all of it in near real time. When it comes to consumer behaviour, impatience has become a new virtue.
The root cause is simple. Europe and North America have the highest levels of mobile engagement in the world. The 4G mobile market is mature and more than 70% of consumers use a smartphone of one sort or another. The arrival of 5G into the mobile marketplace is only going to drive the growing demand for more sophisticated services including video, consumer IoT and smart homes.
Already today, the smartphone has become the tool of choice for any kind of internet services, whether to check on a company webpage, purchase products from an online shop, make payments or resolve issues. It is also how we stay connected to friends and family. It is increasingly the smartphone that is enabling those special relationships in our lives. In 2019, for the first time, the average US adult spent more time engaging with their mobile devices than watching TV. On average, we now spend 2.5 hours (!) on social media channels each day, mostly via our mobile apps.
What does this mean for businesses? In many ways, retailers, banks and leisure facilities need to be at the same instant communications – and payments – game. Now, with the marketplace becoming ever more crowded, businesses need to ramp up their online offerings. Companies must anticipate and plan for what’s next, as the market never stands still.
Today, as many as 85% of customers spend their time on the top five instant messaging apps. These include WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, Viber and WeChat, with average daily chat time ranging from 9 to 48 minutes. Because this is the conversation channel of choice, businesses need to make sure they use these primary channels of communication, too, in their everyday highly personalised customer service, marketing and sales conversations.
For Gen Z, born between 1997 and 2012, emerging as a new generation of shopper right behind the Millennials (1981 – 96), the smartphone has truly become a ‘remote control’ of their lives. According to Accenture, 80% of Gen Z would give up television for the day – and an astonishing 28% would give up friends or money – to keep their mobile phone. The ‘see now, buy now’ generation craves instant gratification. Devotees of Snapchat and Instagram, they consume products and services ‘in the moment’ – as well as demanding highly personalised and relevant consumer experiences ‘in situ’.
Time is money
According to research, most customers expect answers to questions or queries in situ, within 30 seconds. This is where conversational commerce can help. It enables companies to use the same communication channels as their customers, for anything from customer service, to payments, to dispute resolutions. Any service-orientated questions can be answered almost immediately, including questions about products, pricing and delivery.
Yet, not all conversational commerce providers are created equal. Only the most cutting-edge tech solutions can create conversations that are personal and interactive, further enriched with customer authentication, ticketing and data options. And customers can be set up with rewards and discounts based on their personal preferences and purchasing history.
More crucially, conversational commerce ensures seamless convergence between messaging apps and commerce. Messaging apps such as Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, WeChat and Viber, but also native apps like RCS (Android) and Apple Business Chat (iOS) powered by a CPaaS platform, will ensure fulfilling and fully secure customer engagement within the channel of customer choice.
What’s more, a recent Accenture survey found that 23 percent of consumers would give up their mobile banking app for a digital wallet with all their payments information in one place. It means that consumers increasingly value convenience – and it’s something that businesses are now empowered to offer to them – while helping to protect both their customers and themselves from smishing, messaging app and phone scams.
Resolve issues before they happen
Even more importantly, conversational commerce interactions are more productive. If and when there is a problem, a customer knows he or she will get the right type of support by messaging the business – without the need to be placed on ‘hold’ when calling the business – and discouraging consumers from venting their frustrations on social media hoping for a faster resolution than email or call.
As an illustration on how conversational commerce works, consider the following scenario:
A customer goes into a store to buy a suitcase for an important business trip. When they get home, they find the lock is damaged. With limited time before their departure, they take to social media to contact customer services. There is only five minutes before the store closes and the flight leaves tomorrow afternoon.
Understandably frustrated, the customer messages the business, using one of the apps on his phone. Within minutes, there is a resolution, powered by a friendly chat bot. The customer is offered either an instant refund, or a replacement. He chooses the latter. A replacement suitcase is delivered to the customer’s door first thing in the morning. He also knows that the arrangement is completely legitimate – as there is no space for phishing or smishing scams. Placated, the customer actually uses social media to post on how delighted they are with the support they have received, rather than vent their anger publicly.
When conversational commerce is used correctly, companies can go above and beyond expectations. Especially as the payments’ universe expands, becoming available via messaging services, such as WeChat, Apple Business Chat and others – customer experience, or UX, is quickly becoming the new gold. And the more positive and relevant customer touchpoints a business is providing a positive experience – the more opportunities it has to take customer interactions beyond the merely ‘transactional’ realm.
With conversational commerce slowly but steadily taking the world of e-commerce and entertainment by storm – with instantaneous payments now available internationally – the expression ‘Money never sleeps’ starts to get a totally new meaning.