Sorry to burst your [chat] bubble

Conversational commerce isn’t merely about texting bots 💬

connie chan has posted this critique of Conversational Commerce last Thursday:

I’ve consistently heard this feedback since I published my post on the subject. The thing is: I agree.

Conversational software, limited to the conventional chat bubble-based SMS form-factor, isn’t the future. It’s the past. Or perhaps it’s the HTML 3.2 to today’s HTML 5, the latter leading to an explosion in performant, designer-driven apps and experiences.

My point is: the bubble is just the beginning, not the end.

Consider that sending and composing Messages on desktop hasn’t really evolved since 2012, when it was known as iChat:

Source: MacWorld

Certainly the reliance on AIM and Jabber has been replaced by iMessage and iCloud — and you can send photos and videochat, but in terms of the interaction paradigm, there’s no Siri, there are no bots, there are no embedded apps, no slash commands, no @mentions, and most importantly, no platform for extending these conversations.

This is how messaging apps have been for years.

But this year, things are changing. There are more and more tools, SDKs, APIs, and platforms launching that will give rise to a flurry of innovation and experimentation. I got excited about Facebook Messenger’s embedded basketball game not because it’s a good game, but because—to Connie’s point—it demonstrates embeddable, HTML5/React-style functionality triggered within the conversation context. Like how Slack’s Slackbot breaks the third wall, escaping the confines of the conversation plane to interact with the surface of the chat interface:

And even Microsoft is getting in on the action, proclaiming that conversations + artificial intelligence will be their next big platform play.

So yes — SMS-based apps are great for bootstrapping the present towards the future, but the command line begat the GUI, and the GUI will beget the VUI. And if we are to coin one more discipline, the MUI (mobile user interface) will be much more conversational than graphical, but we shouldn’t restrict our imagination of the future to what’s familiar and well understood. Instead, the opportunity is to embrace conversation as the channel for delivering your product, service, brand, assistant, API, or platform offerings—and then explore and experiment with what kinds of apps and expressions serve the user’s needs most appropriately with specific attention paid to context and personalization.


Chris reads every response on Medium or reply on Twitter, so don’t hesitate to let him know what you think — do tag your tweets with #ConvComm.

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