‘Conversational Commerce’ or using messaging apps to interact with and purchase from retailers, is fast becoming one of the public’s preferred ways to communicate with their favourite brands. Instead of going to a shop, calling a retailer, or even visiting their website, people can get everything they need – from buying online, to asking questions or requesting recommendations – through their preferred messaging app.

According to aFacebook-commissioned study by Nielsen, 56% of people surveyed would rather message a business than call customer services, and 67% expect to message businesses even more over the next two years. Delivering convenience, a more personalised service and decision support while consumers are on the move, it’s no wonder that by the end of 2018, 78 percent of the world’s smartphone users were messaging every month.

While phone calls still play a big role in general product and service enquiries to retailers – messaging has opened the door for retailers to communicate with their customers in a whole variety of new ways – not only providing an opportunity to respond to any issues or one-off questions but presenting up-sell opportunities too. Automated messaging experiences are relieving the burden on brands of traditional customer relations, by providing a seamless experience from pre-sales, to after-sales and retention, which connects customers and retailers throughout the customer journey; when and where is most convenient for the customer.

Here are our top tips to help brands build a successful and engaging conversational shopping experience:

  • Know your goal
    Firstly, identify the business problem you are trying to solve so you can design your automated experience to best meet your needs. Are you trying to help people make purchases or give them information quicker and more securely? Are you trying to make your customer service strategies more streamlined?
  • Personality is key
    Design your automated experience to embody the spirit of your brand and give it a personality. If your brand is cheeky, make your bot cheeky too! Name it thoughtfully and use warm and inviting language, so that customers feel comfortable and confident in using the service
  • Grab your customers’ attention
    Develop colourful, eye-catching video ads on social channels that point people to your automated experience and the services it offers with a call to action button – look to LEGO for a great example of how to do this
  • Target thoughtfully
    Serve ads to a carefully targeted audience – those with an interest in the brand or products, for example, or who have visited the site in the last 7 days but not purchased anything
  • A picture is worth a thousand words
    Use imagery to help customers filter their options and finalise their order – Just Eat
    , for example, inspires customers with visuals of its tasty dishes on offer
  • Give yourself some artificial intelligence
    Consider developing proposed answers using artificial intelligence (AI), to help your agents answer high volumes of queries over peak times. Your agent can then decide whether the answer is the right one, make any necessary adjustments, and reply through the appropriate social media channel. The AI system learns, based on the agent’s action, and becomes smarter in real time
  • The customer is always right
    Capture quick feedback by sending a survey at the end of each conversation. Use a standard question to ensure that the results are compatible with your surveys on other channels: “Are you satisfied with our social service?” Or “on a scale of 1-10, how likely are you to recommend us to a friend?”
  • How does your campaign measure up?
    Measure your campaign – and keep evolving your automated experience regularly, in line with customer and agent feedback. There’s little point in creating business objectives when introducing bots if you are unable to measure their effectiveness further down the line

According to recent Twilio industry research, 81% of consumers polled say it’s often difficult to communicate with businesses, but perhaps more surprisingly, only 34% of businesses surveyed acknowledged these challenges. If you’re going to make one change to your business this year, use messaging to make your brand personal again.