The era of conversational commerce is upon us and businesses should take note.
Empowered by social media, modern consumers demand to feel connected with brands through interactive and immersive experiences.
One expression of this transformation is the rise of conversational commerce, also known as c-commerce or chat commerce. At the intersection of messaging apps and shopping, conversational commerce involves any online commerce activity that uses a conversation interface to speak directly to consumers, whether through a chat box (bot or human) or a messaging platform such as WhatsApp, Messenger, or Instagram Direct.
“Business in the Era of Conversation,” a whitepaper co-produced by Meta and Memac Ogilvy, explores all that conversational commerce has to offer to both consumers and brands, and how to approach it the right way.
Let’s dive in.
The perfect storm
Two main factors have coalesced to create the ideal conditions for conversational commerce to thrive, as explains Leen Fakhreddin, Creative Agency Partner MEA at Meta. “The continued growth in users combined with new business features from Messenger and WhatsApp are opening up improved opportunities for brands to reach their audiences,” she says.
Indeed, online platforms have been launching new social business features and/or enhancing existing ones. Today, Meta technologies dominate the c-commerce landscape with WhatsApp and Messenger, the two most popular messaging apps in the MENA region, closely followed by Instagram.
Meanwhile, instant and direct connections have become the norm in interpersonal relationships and, unsurprisingly, consumers now expect this ease of communication to extend to their relationships with brands. A 2020 Business Messaging Research Study commissioned by Meta showed that nearly 7 in 10 adults globally are more likely to do business with, or purchase from, a company that they can contact via messaging than one with which they cannot.
Sooner rather than later, businesses had to follow suit – especially with COVID acting as a catalyst for digital transformation. According to Meta’s Q1 2021 Earnings Call, total daily conversations between people and businesses on Messenger and Instagram grew by more than 40% in 2020, at the height of the pandemic, and businesses using the WhatsApp Business API were sending more than 100 million messages per day.
A one-of-its-kind form of marketing
Conversational commerce presents a number of unique benefits for brands looking to become truly customer-centric.
Firstly, it gives brands the opportunity to leverage the agility and flexibility required to address the complexity of the human decision-making process and puts consumers in control throughout the various stages of their purchase journey.
Secondly, it reduces friction in all aspects of this journey, from discovery to purchase and post-purchase. When, according to a Meta-Ipsos Emerging Trends study, 91% of consumers say they consider convenience alongside price when deciding what to buy; 52% say poor customer service has caused them to switch brands; and 87% say that a “complicated” checkout process will make them abandon their shopping cart, there isn’t much room for error. Conversational commerce helps brands navigate these choppy waters by providing a guided and customized shopping experience based on the user’s answers and preferences.
Lastly, consumers’ engagement preferences are changing to a digital-first, messaging-based interaction; understanding this mindset and context is key to unlocking new commercial opportunities. As Meta’s Fakhreddin says, “Consumers’ expectations keep on evolving as they seek more immersive, familiar, and convenient ways to communicate with businesses. Ecosystem partners can capitalize on this to drive incrementality.”
Walking the talk
From the simplest customer support interaction to a full-fledged live-selling event, the possibilities that conversational commerce opens up are endless. To start with, it allows consumers to connect with brands without having to ever pick up the phone.
For example, users can simply trigger Messenger to open, using a preset hashtag in the comments section of a Facebook Live video tutorial, to shop the products featured by their preferred creator in a paid partnership.
Conversational commerce also leads to substantial rewards in terms of conversions. L’Oréal Malaysia offers the perfect case in point. By using conversational commerce via Messenger during a 12-hour virtual beauty festival on Facebook Live, its luxe division brought in a whopping one month’s worth of online sales in 24 hours. With over 17,000 chats in 24 hours, 2.6 million people reached, a 12% post engagement rate, and a 4X increase in sales vs daily average, the results speak for themselves.
As David Fox, Chief Executive Officer MENA at Memac Ogilvy, says, “The findings in [the “Business in the Era of Conversation” whitepaper] are telling, but not surprising. At a time when most of our online engagement feels transactional, interactions that create moments that feel human while seamlessly solving customer problems are priceless. The trick with c-commerce is to make these interactions as natural as possible.”
Approached as a truly customer-centric strategy that accompanies consumers every step of the way and provides a more convenient solution to their needs, and not as a short-term marketing plan, conversational commerce means fully building and embracing a future-forward, full-funnel customer experience, with messaging at its core.
Download the whitepaper here to learn how you can unlock conversational commerce in MENA.