There is a trend in business that is known by many names. A trend that isn’t just a trend but a fundamental part of human nature. Something that has been disrupted and inhibited by the development of modern business practices and like water trapped behind a dam has finally found the crack that will set it free and break the dam.
Some know it as conversational marketing, others as conversational selling, and others still as conversational economy; it is better described as Conversational Commerce.
More than just a trend
The term Conversational Commerce is generally used to highlight the increasingly important role of conversation — in particular message-based conversations — in the relationship between businesses and customers. As we’ll see shortly this “trend” creates new dynamics and poses a new set of challenges to businesses.
We use quotation marks around the word “trend” because conversations between businesses and customers are nothing new. Older generations will still remember a world where most businesses were small, with just a handful of staff members who did everything, including all the tasks that today might associate with sales, customer service or marketing.
These various functions could often even overlap in the course of a single conversation, where the customer bought something, asked about a problem they had with a previous purchase and the business owner also recommended some other product.
How things changed and are changing
As businesses grew and moved online, the different communication areas started to split. Companies created advertising departments, marketing departments, sales teams, PR teams, customer service departments, and much, much more. It was a time of specialization and fragmentation that was made possible, in part, by mass communication tools like TV, and the internet.
In this environment, many companies developed multiple personality disorders, and their relationship with customers deteriorated. One to one conversation only survived in customer service settings where individual problems had to be solved, and even there, social media further blurred the lines with comments sections and public replies.
Today messaging apps are inverting the trend. They rank consistently as the most used apps in all markets and are becoming the default communication tool for many. Businesses have taken notice, and have been pushed by their customers into joining. Consumers are now discovering that they can use the same messaging channel for everything, from buying products to customer service, and from shipping updates to tips and recipes.
The relationship between businesses and customers has become more personal. What previously was mass communication has been atomized and has become individual communication, enabling a new level of personalization. At the same time, the line between previously separated functions is blurring, and all communication is focusing on one conversation.
The challenge for businesses is that this atomization and consolidation, while necessary and demanded by clients, can negate many of the economies of scale and the benefits of specialization that have been achieved in the past. Their success will depend on their ability to adapt to this new reality and create scalable conversational systems to deal with it.
If you are interested in learning more about this change, we invite you to browse through our previous posts. We know that chatbots are a key component in this transformation and this blog is devoted to helping companies make sense and prepare for this new world.