What The Rise Of Conversational Interfaces Means For E Commerce

Last updated on April 26, 2018

E-commerce traders don’t need to be told that we ‘live in a changing world’ that is ‘increasingly full of digital possibilities’ – it’s the reason why they’re in business in the first place.

However, sometimes the landscape changes faster than even the most forward-thinking business leader can anticipate – and it is not enough to merely ‘keep up’ with shifting social trends, you need to be prepared in advance, and in the position to capitalize on the changes as they occur on the ground.

Today we’ll look at how incorporating Conversational Interfaces (such as natural language software) into your e-commerce platform can help you stay ahead of the game.

Now some of you might be thinking, “Conversational what now?” We hear you. Here’s a quick explanation of what they are and why they matter to e-commerce businesses.

Meet the conversational interface, aka chatbot

Meet the conversational interface, aka chatbot

Chatbots are interfaces that use machine learning algorithms and a whole lot of data to interact with humans in, well, human terms to facilitate better, more valuable engagements for both parties. So, instead of using the old right-click, left-click, people get to engage brands online in ways that are, you guessed it, more human.

Market And Opportunity

The good folks at MIT Sloan Management Review have done the hard work here, but let me share with you the key takeaways from their research into Conversational Interfaces in the commercial environment. What we’ll see is that, due to three main factors, there is both a market and opportunity for building Conversational Interfaces into your e-commerce platform, and – moreover – it may soon be a necessary feature of any successful online business.

With several million apps currently available, it unsurprising that the average consumer has begun to suffer from “app fatigue”, and are reverting to messaging apps (the “conversational layer”) in order to conduct their online affairs. This trend is observable in the spike in popularity in services such as WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, and Echo. Current research indicates that these platforms handle about 60 million messages per day, but that this figure will rise to 2 billion in the next few years.

Of course, it not simple enough to want to cater to this growing market, you also need the ability to do so. Luckily, great recent advancements in AI, chat and natural language software have enabled savvy e-commerce traders to capitalize on the exploding trend of Conversational Interfaces.

The Benefits Of Conversational Interfaces

As Chatbots Magazine reports, Chris Messina of Uber recently introduced the term “conversational commerce” to describe the phenomenon whereby businesses “will be talking to brands and companies over Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, Telegram, Slack, and elsewhere before year’s end, and will find it normal.”

Effectively what chatbots do is use machine-learning techniques to comprehend text (or in some cases, voice) inputs from the user, and then convert them into responses that are actionable via a network of other apps or services. For example, imagine you were chatting to a business partner about a meeting that you had scheduled for later that day, but neither of you could decide where to go for lunch. The chatbot could analyze your conversation and provide a list of recommended restaurants in the area: it could even book a table for you, 1.30pm, in a quiet section so you can talk…

The MIT Sloan study focuses on 1-800 Flowers, who was one of the first companies to jump at the commercial opportunity of Conversational Interfaces. In 2016, 70% of the users who ordered through their chatbot integration system were new customers.

Alright, Convinced. How Do I Install One?

Although functional AI has been developed, and although users are extremely comfortable with using the chat medium, the adoption of Conversational Interfaces still poses challenges to e-commerce platform designers. This article provides a compelling argument for the need to shift out of a Graphic User Interface (GUI) mindset, and it usefully quotes Matty Mariansky, creator of the scheduling robot assistant Meekan, who claims that “the separation between content and style disappears completely in Conversational Interfaces; the content becomes the style.”

This excellent resource from Adrian Zumbrunnen provides an insider’s look into the process of “making a website conversational.” As you can see, it is a tricky business, full of pitfalls and unexpected challenges – but it is certainly worth the investment in the long run.

Chat with Keptify’s service team if you need help in integrating Conversational Interfaces into your e-commerce platform. Our designers have the skills and the know-how to equip your website with chatbots and other natural language software (like speech-to-text inputs), empowering you to stay ahead of the social curve and capitalize on the rise of the “conversational layer” across digital platforms.

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