Cliff Notes on Conversational Commerce

Conversational commerce is the practice of using chat as a way to connect with brands, retailers, and products outside of the traditional social circle that we’re more accustomed to chatting with.

For most, conversational commerce is unfamiliar in that 1) chat is generally reserved for friends and family and 2) transactions are generally reserved for retailer or marketplace websites. However, the adoption of new products and services such as Amazon Echo and Facebook Messenger for Business is changing how we shop. Here are some thoughts from our team at Shopbolt on what to look for in conversational commerce, and how conversational commerce might be relevant to you down the road.

How Shopping Online Works

Online shopping is something that does not need explanation (but here you go anyway). For the vast majority of people, this is who does your everyday shopping:

It’s you!

For the typical online shopper, this process is well understood:

  1. Realize you need to buy something
  2. Research what product you really want
  3. Research online for the best price (optional I suppose)
  4. Order from the respective retailer

Technically, not really a broken-down process, but also not always the most efficient one. A more ideal process would take you from step 1 directly to step 4. Retailers and other businesses are tackling some of the pain points we experience at steps 2 and 3 (e.g. improved product search functionality, product recommendation algorithms, coupon aggregator websites, etc.), but the reality today is that you might still find yourself mired in steps 2 or 3 in your purchasing process.

Enter the Personal Shopper

It’s an actual movie, surprisingly.

Fortunately, for some, this process has been streamlined by the assistance of a personal shopper. While retail has traditionally been an individual experience, e.g. you buy products for yourself, the personal shopper industry has consistently occupied a niche in the retail industry overall. The benefits of personal shopper are primarily two-fold: discoverability and convenience. A dedicated personal shopper not only is in tune with current trends, but is also familiar with their client’s personal style and preferences, allowing them to effectively marry the two together. With the assistance of a personal shopper, you can discover and purchase the products that you want, without having to do most of the research and work yourself.

However, the benefits of a personal shopper naturally come at some cost. Personal shoppers typically earn a commission off purchases that you make, sometimes charging an hourly rate as well. As a result, while additional shopping discoverability and convenience are benefits that most everyday consumers would enjoy, the cost of the traditional personal shopper model prices many potential users out.

A Personal Shopper for Everyone

Over the last few years, technology enabled services have allowed us to build products to serve wider audiences than we previously believed possible. The same holds true for the personal shopping industry. A multitude of personal shopping and personal assistance businesses are tackling this challenge already: Operator, Mezi, Magic, Haptik, and Shopbolt, just to name a few.

For our team, we believe that the convenience and utility of a personal shopper is something that can be made available to everyone. Whether it’s getting a second opinion on a product you’ve researched, or simply having peace of mind at securing the best price on something, Shopbolt (and other apps like us) are here to ensure that you have a stress-free shopping experience.

What’s Next

Today, most interactions through Shopbolt (and likely other personal shopping apps as well) are driven by some level of human intervention. For any personal shopping app, developing a strong relationship with users is paramount. As such, our team relies on a network of expert shoppers to provide chat experiences that are friendly and enjoyable.

That said, eventually, more chat interaction will be supported by AI and algorithms (we’re closer than you think). As technology related to natural language processing and chatbots continues to improve, we expect more interactions with digital personal shoppers to become automated.

Your future personal shopper?

However, for now, relying completely on technology remains a double edged sword. Automation can be great, until it starts hurting user experience. The challenge ahead lies not in figuring out how to use technology to replace shoppers, but how to use technology to help our users.

Shopbolt is your personal shopping concierge. We give you your day back by doing the research, comparing the prices and finding the products you need, across any brand or retailer. We’re currently available on Google Play and iTunes.