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Mobile messaging is taking over the app landscape: people are now spending more time on mobile messaging apps than on Instagram, LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter combined. “Research shows that mobile messaging users are loyal, or at the very least, ‘always on,’” said Jim Tomanchek from Adweek, “Messaging apps are used almost nine times a day, five times the average for all mobile apps. A month after installation, messaging apps have nearly double the retention rate of the average for all apps: 68 percent vs. 38 percent.”

The successful commodification of conversation has endless possibilities for all types of companies. Retailers, who have seen a 7x increase in mobile shopping over the last five years, have already begun to harness the popularity of mobile messaging in the shape of “Conversational Commerce”. Through an often simple API integration, businesses can allow their customers to order goods and services directly from a conversation.

This development is interesting, because it’s essentially a technological version of what we did in-store (or at least in the stores with great customer service). Say you’re buying paint at Home Depot. A “paint expert” would help you pick out a color, match the level of matte to your existing paint, decide on a brand, and finally make a purchase. The conversation was an integral part of the purchasing process.

Now that customers are moving their conversations with each other to mobile, it’s only natural that brands begin to talk with them on their preferred channel as well.

Conversational commerce can be utilized in every part of the businesses: customers can track shipping, ask questions, get help, and in the end receive dramatically more relevant and personalized content.

Conversation and The Bot

Naturally, this occurrence brings up the question of AI.

And following Microsoft’s absolute AI disaster, in which their teenage girl Twitter bot went from cute and helpful to full-blown Nazi in under 24 hours, brands are certainly going to be cautious about introducing non-humans to conversational commerce. Perhaps a more realistic vision of the bot will follow in Slack’s footsteps, in which conversation occurs between humans, but the Slack bot can also be used for help, or for jokes. In fact, Slack is one of several messaging services that already offers an app directory that allows users to integrate with Slack’s User Interface.

Conversation and Dollar Bills

What does conversational commerce mean in terms of app monetization? WhatsApp has already done away with their annual $1 fee, in order to focus on conversational commerce, which they will add as a feature later this year. Facebook and Snapchat allow users to send money to each other via messaging. And considering the popularity of the freemium mobile game model, perhaps conversational commerce will enable mobile games to offer users more personalized and relevant goods and services. Products and offerings can now be tailored to the individual.

Conversation and Customer Service

This trend is of particular interest to us at Helpshift because our product is centered around the ability for users to seek help directly in an app, often through messaging. We believe that consumers want to communicate with brands on the device that they are most connected to: their smartphones. Not only do they want to communicate via mobile, they want to do it in a way that is familiar to them: messaging. By integrating a chat service that mirrors the structure of, for instance, iMessage, you are meeting users on their turf, where they are most comfortable.

Conversational commerce allows brands to return to the 1:1 model of customer service that users would receive in, say, a Nordstrom store. They receive personalized care and assistance.

The Future is Conversational Commerce

Customers use and are more loyal to mobile messaging services than any other type of app. Therefore, in an increasingly competitive app market with high churn rates, it is only natural that businesses of all kinds latch on to messaging services to increase loyalty and engagement. Whether it’s for customer care, purchasing, or simply engaging in a conversation, having a venue through which customers can directly communicate with your brand is imperative for apps that want to persist in today’s market.

Published April 15, 2016
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