The mobile phone must be the most persuasive device ever. We trust it, make decisions using it and if it’s easy to do - we take action on it. That’s where conversational commerce comes in.

In the UK, messaging apps like Facebook Messenger, Whatsapp and Snapchat will soon have more usage than social media networks. This means big opportunities for businesses to create rewarding, personal experiences, whilst finding more out about their customers.


For the last couple of years, digital marketers have been trying to use Facebook, Twitter and visual networks like Instagram and Pinterest to engage and nurture potential leads. We’d try and impress potential customers with how many likes and followers we had. We’d push messages out across social media channels to try to start and join in conversations. Content was king.  

The idea was that by being social and engaging customers in a way that didn’t appear too salesy, we could build relationships, nurture leads and sell to more people for longer.

The Future

The reason that this matters is that usage of messaging apps across the globe has surpassed that of social media according to Business Insider (admittedly this is slightly skewed by the high usage in China). 


Messaging apps can be specific to customer needs. We are always connected to the web and 74% of UK consumers have mobiles, while 40% of UK smartphone users look up product information at least once a week. Having access to specific, easily consumable content makes perfect sense.

Messaging apps like Facebook Messenger, Whatsapp and Snapchat are taking personalisation on mobile to a new level. Personal conversation is becoming more important if brands want to engage their customers and drive loyalty.

So how are messaging apps different to the big social media channels? Far from being just alternative SMS messaging services, they allow users to interact with emojis, digital stickers, GIFs, video clips, photos, news, and video calls.

Messaging apps provide businesses with the opportunity to create hubs for customer communications. It goes beyond broadcasting messages and encourages specific interactions and conversations. End customers get even more value because each of their needs can be catered for and sooner.

Conversational Commerce Example

A consumer with a mobile phone may need to buy a last minute birthday present for their grandmother. They could use Google; they could browse a website and look for a product, review the price and delivery information, they could even research products on social media. Or, they could have a contacts list setup for 4 or 5 relevant stores and ask them a question, as you would if you walked into a physical location:

“I’m looking for a birthday present for my granny. She is 58 and likes home decor. My budget is £50 and I need it delivered in the next 3 days.”

Results could be returned with each of those requirements met. The user could then click to the relevant website and pay.

It works because the last-minute-granny-birthday-present-buyer has no real interest in spending time browsing for the ideal gift. Granny is so sweet, her reaction will be one of overwhelming joy anyway. You’ve saved time, made your granny happy and escaped the fear of not having anything to give her. It’s like a “thoughtfulness hack”.

Please note: You should always put lots of thought into buying presents for your granny.

Follow User-Behaviour

70% of users contact a business after looking up information on their smartphone. If these users can get a quick, specific answer that takes the format of a conversation, the chances of them taking action are far more likely.

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For customers, the purchase process can become easier, inspirational and specific.

As consumers, we constantly look for reassurance; does this shirt make me look too muscly? (a common one for me); Where can I get a suit for about £100?

It’s not just directly about buying either. In an age of personalisation, brands will seek to constantly find more out about customers. This is a great chance to draw them to your site and interact with blog content, find out more about them and continue a process of segmenting your customers.

A conversational approach to customer service has already proved popular with consumers in recent years with 73% saying they were satisfied with the channel.

Driving Action

Messaging apps will evolve to allow a customer to perform a number of core desired actions from a mobile device; from discovery, to recommendations and inspiration, through to purchase and order tracking.

Once a purchase or action is performed, a messaging app makes it so easy to share reviews and recommendations with friends.

Both Facebook Messenger and Snapchat have experimented with “ways to pay” which means that in future there might be the additional option to pay via the app, keeping activity in one place and increasing conversion rates.  

Keeping Customers Happy

Facebook messenger allows customers to field more questions than ever before, so why not fit this into the customer service loop Make the customer service team available on messaging apps and provide even more value.

Concierge-style assistance helps the purchase process by providing the most personal experience possible. Messaging apps allow for a natural flow to the conversation where information is gleaned at every stage, a profile is developed and customers’ needs are met sooner.

Giving Content More Longevity

High-volume content sites like Buzzfeed now have WhatsApp buttons to share content directly with contacts lists on mobile and claim to have seen more clicks and shares than the Twitter option.

For news outlets the opportunity is to turn news content into back and forth conversation. It means that revenue streams from adverts can work harder because ads can be more specific to the conversation and therefore more valuable.

For content producers and creators, this is an opportunity to get consistent feedback about the types of content users are looking to consume.



Image from the verve

How will you use conversational commerce? Let us know in the comments section below.

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