As eCommerce continues to accelerate and communication becomes increasingly digital, some retail industry experts expect consumers and brands to begin texting and messaging with each other on a regular basis, leading to the rise of “conversational commerce,” or making purchases without leaving a messaging platform.
Mike Myer, founder and CEO of communication platform Quiq, told PYMNTS in a recent interview that conversational commerce “is still pretty ethereal to a lot of organizations,” but in the next five to 10 years, a “significant portion” of purchases “are going to be more conversational in nature.”
“That’s what people do — they have conversations,” Myer said. “And the reason they interact with websites today is that they don’t have the opportunity to have a conversation. Given the choice between the website and a conversation, if the conversation was well-executed, I think people would be choosing that in a lot of cases.”
Conversational commerce is still in its early stages, he said, with a few early adopters paving the way for the eventual wide-scale adoption of the technology. With more brands and consumers becoming comfortable with having digital conversations with each other, Myer said the world is just a couple of degrees of separation from conversational commerce becoming a common occurrence.
“People are first going to be like, ‘Oh, let’s just text with our customers,’ and then what will follow will be the conversational commerce,” Myer predicted.
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Unlike other customer service chat platforms that require live engagement and are controlled on the business’ timeline of when an agent is available, Quiq uses asynchronous messaging that is more akin to the experience of texting with a family member or friend — the conversation starts and stops based on who’s responding to the next message.
“In text messaging, it’s not the business that’s in charge of the cadence of the conversation,” Myer said. “It is the consumer. So, if the consumer gets busy and they’re interacting with a brand when the kids come home from school, they can go take care of the kids and then 15 minutes later they come back.”
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Myer noted that consumers and businesses were already moving toward this way of communicating prior to the pandemic, but the last 18 months have accelerated the adoption and integration of conversational commerce. Between the middle of March and April 2020, Quiq saw a doubling of traffic on its platform, and since then, conversation volume per client is up 300%.
At the beginning of the pandemic, a lot of brands were struggling to move their customer support teams from in-person call centers to working virtually, Myer said, a problem that Quiq was able to help solve because its platform is web-based.
“It’s been a rewarding time to be able to step in and give brands a solution to some really severe pain that they were having,” he said.
Most brands, when talking to customers about making a purchase, have to send shoppers to a separate purchase page, which can lead to a drop-off in actual sales made, Myer said. “People were like, ‘Oh, I’ll do that later,’ and then they never got around to it,” he told PYMNTS.
To try and close the gap, Quiq recently launched a new conversational payments platform across all of the channels it services — including text messaging, Facebook Messenger, Instagram and others — allowing consumers to complete purchases without leaving the conversation.
“This is kind of the logical outcome of … people spending more time on digital channels and text messaging with brands,” Myer said. This feature, he noted, “completes the final mile of the transaction,” turning the online customer service representative from an advisor to more akin to a store associate making a sale.
Myer said adding payments to a conversational platform does entail some risk, but Quiq has implemented safety precautions to protect customers’ personal identifying information (PII). According to PYMNTS’ Connected Economy research, 60% of consumers consider trust regarding personal data to be at least a moderate problem, making this a crucial element to get right.
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In Apple Business Chat, Myer said, Quiq utilizes Apple Pay to process payments; with text messages and other platforms that aren’t secure, the company sends a link to a secure payment page that alerts the customer service agent when the payment has been completed.
“It doesn’t require a change in media in order to finish the transaction,” Myer said. “We’re having a conversation and … you’re transferring the money to the brand, so it’s like the world’s easiest experience.”
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