Conversations That Matter

Posted May 15th, 2018 34 Views

I was talking to a friend a few days back about how crucial it is for a CEO to manage his time effectively, and the topic of work emails came up. He told me something rather interesting. As a member of the C-suite, the demands on his schedule often do not allow him to look at & respond to all emails that hit his inbox. So, during his drive back home, he lets Siri read the emails to him and reply back through voice. Smart, right?

From a time where Alan Turing laid the groundwork for the conversational commerce movement by inventing a machine that could communicate with humans through text, we have come a long way. Chat bots like ELIZA, PARRY and SmarterChild are long gone now, voice assistants taking their legacy ahead through human-human interactions. Setting alarms, telling stories, deciding on which song to play based on your mood, these assistants have got you covered. Name it, and it’ll be done. Ask the millennial generation about their most trusted friend, and you are most likely to get a response that says Siri, Google Assistant, Cortana or Alexa. It’s no surprise that consumers have embraced these voice assistants for undertaking retail transactions too. Shopping lists can be ticked off easily rather than visiting a store or even using websites. With a generation that values convenience more than anything, this is equivalent to hitting the bull’s eye.

Fashion brands like Sephora have caught up with this technology where their chatbot analyzes purchase history and gives you sales information, even redirects you to online information through the Kik messaging app. Retail brands such as Walmart, Target, Costco, Walgreens, and Home Depot, have partnered with Google to introduce voice-based shopping to consumers via Google Express. The Amazon Echo now comes equipped with improved voice recognition for natural human interactions. With more assistant interactions through smartphones, the movement is growing at a breathtaking pace. Need-based consumer engagement ensures that the replies are accurate, available across locations, quick and consistent, and updates flow in seamlessly. It’s a great tool to establish the retailer-consumer relationship and focus on areas like customer relationship management in real time.  After all, as a brand, shouldn’t having a meaningful conversation with your customers be your top priority? All of this will support the omnichannel approach brands are moving towards, in turn building trust, intimacy and consumer loyalty. We now know that brand loyalty is strongly governed by an emotional connect, and conversational intelligence ensures personalization that drives this connect.

Digital narratives indicate that “conversational commerce is the future.” This in my opinion is a bit of a misnomer. In fact, it is the present, as personalization is nothing short of the ‘in thing’ in technology. But also remember, there is an entire world of brick and mortar which is now turning to advanced technology and evolving IT infrastructures to redefine retail experiences for its consumers. Websites and apps still compete for the consumer’s attention, and we are still learning to use them judiciously. Conversational commerce is great, but there’s much more to retail than just artificially enabled voice transactions.

Consumers still interact intimately with brick and mortar stores. So, would it be judicious to assume that the future of buyer behavior is going to be led by conversational commerce? We don’t know yet, and there’s a long way to go on this front. Sure, consumer spends are increasing with the increased assistant usage to facilitate retail transactions, but along with the spends, there’s something else we need to take care of too. The data that these interactions and transactions generate. How we interpret and use this data is of utmost importance. Added to this, is the undeniable need to put into place strict protocols for data management and security. Do all brands have the capability to facilitate interactions between retailers and consumers in real time? For many the answer is NO –  So how do you embrace this and move ahead?

Designing your conversational commerce experience in line with websites, eCommerce and brick and mortar stores, is what will drive this trend to become part of your business’s overall digital transformation strategy. You can’t ignore the already existing retail models that have existed in the market for decades and are still continuing to evolve. Here is what you can do instead. Build your IT infrastructure that is robust and steady enough to support such advancements, so that voice assistants do not become an irritant rather a helping hand. Map your customer preferences, align your business goals, re-examine the customer journey and build effective supply chain management processes backed by technology. Use conversational intelligence to tailor customer experiences to the minutest levels. And never let go of the omnichannel approach. Conversational commerce while a new trend cannot operate like it is supposed to without seamless back-end support. Infrastructural integration in line with business operations, technology and marketing strategies is the key to #GettingITRight. Meanwhile, I’ll go have a chat with Siri about that last email I received…

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