As a small business owner if you haven't already heard of Conversational Commerce you will very soon. It could very well become "The Next Big Thing" in eCommerce and it addresses the biggest elephant in the room online these days. But first up, here's the $10,000 question: What is conversational commerce and how can we use it?
What Exactly Is Conversational Commerce?
If you find yourself wondering what is conversational commerce, you are not alone. Conversational Commerce is a confusing term. Essentially it means putting the "human" conversation back into commerce. Making the entire process more personal. Now, we use the term "human" loosely here because, in many cases, AI's are handling the bulk of the workload. It could just as easily be called "Concierge Commerce."
A Bit Of History
See, back in the day, if you wanted to travel, you had to use a real human to help you. They were called travel agents. If you wanted dinner reservations and recommendations once you got there, you had to speak to another human. He was called a concierge. Then the internet came and gave you options to book your own flights, and make all your own travel plans yourself, self-service style, no human interaction necessary. It was great! For a while...
Skip forward to today, and now there are so many choices and so many options out there that it's almost impossible to know what to do without hours of research and a finely honed ability to filter through all the noise. We are facing the paradox of choice in a very real way. Simply put, we are being overwhelmed with too many choices. When a simple search result turns up bajillions of results that may or may not be related, things have gotten out of hand. Ain't nobody got time for that! Conversational commerce just may be the solution, and it is bringing things full-circle.
Under the banner of 'Conversational Commerce' a wide variety of new services are popping up that offer concierge-like assistance, instant personalized help, and context-aware recommendations to handle everything for you from the tedious, to the mundane, to the out-right confusing with something as simple as a single text message. No more swiping and tapping, no passwords and captchas, no downloading apps and updates, no more mucking about. The goal being to make the entire online experience more enjoyable and more seamlessly integrated into your everyday life. Sounds pretty great doesn't it?
Ok, So How Do I Use Conversational Commerce In My Business?
Now that is the right question to be asking! Small businesses can take advantage of this new trend not only to save themselves time, energy, and stress, but also to save their customers time while putting a personal touch on the entire experience. Yes, the age of Conversational Commerce is upon us, and you newest employees, assistants, and pals just may be robots!
Here's how to jump on the bandwagon, get ahead of the curve, and be at the forefront of using these cutting edge technologies for your small business in 2016:
Meet Your New AI Team Members
Clara: Your personal scheduling assistant. This is an AI designed to help you schedule and manage your meetings better. Just CC Clara on your emails and she will take care of the scheduling back and forth for you, automatically follow up for you, and even send you a reminder too, all in natural language. It's machine intelligence combined with human support in one cool clean package. claralabs.com
Peter: Your personal business lawyer. This is an AI-based business lawyer that you can Cc in your emails to clients and partners. He will draw up signatures, notarize documents, generate contracts, NDAs, and more, and securely does all of this with Bitcoin's blockchain encryption. hirepeter.com
Bill: Your personal accountant. Bill is an AI bot that will do your expense reports for you. He's your accounting assistant that never clocks out. Just message him your receipts or pdf invoices and he will compile them, update your Excel spreadsheets and your Google Sheets in real time, and give you a clean summary of your monthly expenses. When you ask him a question that he isn't sure about, you are instantly connected to a real human who will help. He will even tell you a good new joke, so you can be the life of the office. slack.getbirdly.com
Alfred: Your own personal butler. Virtual assistants are great, but what about your day to day chores IRL (in real life)? Meet Alfred. Hello Alfred distils your weekly routine down to a simple conversation. It is available by texting "Hello" to a phone number. Just take a picture of your grocery list and having it delivered to your door, or texting a picture of your overflowing hamper to schedule a laundry pickup, or have your house cleaned for you while you are out. You get paired with a personal assistant who learns how you like things done, and they do it for you. All for just $25/week. app.helloalfred.com
Taylor: Your personal travel assistant. Tell Taylor where you are and she will recommend to you where to go based on the kind of traveler you are. Get personalized recommendations for where to eat, work, sleep, and who to meet while you travel with Taylor. taylorbot.com
Motion AI: Like to tinker? Now you can make your own artificial intelligence. Seriously. These guys are putting together the building blocks needed for non-tech savvy people to create their own AI bots that will do everything from customer service to be your own personal assistant. Supposedly if you can make a flow chart, you can make your own AI to get stuff done for you. It's enough to give Elon Musk the cold sweats. Motion.ai
Offload Tedious Tasks Instantly
Persistent Personal Assistant: Your time is valuable. You don't have time, energy, or mental space to waste on the boring mundane issues of day-to-day life. This is where Persistent Personal Assistant comes to the rescue. Hire an assistant, pay by the hour for task completed, and free yourself from tedious virtual tasks forever! Whether it's transcribing documents, waiting for customer service calls, doing research on different topics, or anything else you can think of, these guys will take care of it for you. perssist.com
Get Service: Did you know you probably spent at least 13 hours on hold last year? 13 hours!!! As a small business owner, your time is precious. Get Service is your one-stop-shop to solve your own customer service issues for you. Simply tell them your issue, and they will reach out to the company in question and work on resolving the problem for you. Best of all... it's totally completely 100% no-catch free right now! getservice.com
Operator: You know how the rich and famous have these personal shoppers and style gurus that go out and find all the coolest stuff for them? Now you can have one too with Operator. Tell them what you want, they research the best option for you at the best price and get you personalized results in minutes. They use an intriguing mix of human operators and AI machine learning, a process that is becoming known as 'augmented human intelligence.' It's going to be a Big Deal soon. You heard it here first. As a small business owner, you can get your products in their network as well and become a part of recommendation engine. operator.com/businesses
Grammarly: Writing is the primary way we communicate online these days. So it's best if we don't look like idiots when we do it. Do you know how to fix a dangling participle, or when to use a comma, semi-colon, or hyphen? We don't either... but Grammarly does. Grammarly instantly checks your work as you type in your browser or on your desktop and offers suggestions to improve it. Plus with a click of a button you can have a professional proof-reader go over your writing to ensure it is 100% perfect. It's an essential tool for anybody who communicates through written form. grammarly.com
Postmates: Need to pick up something from the store, but don't have time to get dressed and go there yourself? Want a slice of pizza or bagel and shmear from your favorite shop, but they don't deliver? Enter Postmates. They promise the delivery of any local product to your doorstep in under an hour. They are an on-demand delivery infrastructure available now in select cities and metropolitan areas near you. postmates.com
Interact Directly With Your Customers
Facebook Messenger For Business: Heard of Facebook? Apparently a lot of people use it. Facebook recently unveiled it's Messenger for Business feature that lets businesses connect and interact with customers directly through Facebook Messenger. Send answers to questions, personalized updates, receipts, push notifications, and rich messages directly to your customers all through Messenger SMS. If you respond to the requests fast enough you even get a snazzy badge on your Facebook page that says you have responsive customer service. messenger.com/business
Crisp: Makes your customer service instant and crispy. Want to provide live customer service and chat on your website in under 5 minutes? Crisp will do that. This is a live chat box for providing customer support instantly from your website. It's a paired down and more simple experience than other services and it's totally free right now! crisp.im
Intercom: If your live customer service needs are a bit more heavy then Intercom is there to help. Acquire, engage, track, and support your customers on the fly. With features like team inboxes and assignments, instant saved replies, dynamically generated customer profiles, and the ability to integrate into apps and websites, this is your full suite live customer service solution. intercom.io
Commersational: eCommerce one text at a time. This is a system that lets you sell your product in any messaging app: SMS, Facebook Messenger, etc... your reps can send formatted product information via chat and guide the user all the way through the purchase cycle from discovery to checkout and beyond. Currently in beta (as are most of these services) but if you are lucky you might be able to get on board now. commersational.com
Get A... Virtual Girlfriend?
Your Invisible Girlfriend: Yup, it's happening. Not sure what it says about our society as a whole and where things are going, but... there ya go. Create your own invisible girlfriend or boyfriend, give him/her your preferred personality and interact with it as if it were a real person. Utilizing a mixture of AI and human interaction, this virtual personality can be all yours if you find yourself a bit lonely, interacting with the real thing is too stressful, or you are trying to get the nosey parents off your back. They do not recommend falling in love with it though... invisiblegirlfriend.com
The future is now, and while we don't have flying cars yet, pretty soon we will all have our own personal assistant in our pocket. No matter what your small business is, we hope that a few of these tips will help you integrate some conversational commerce into your small business in the coming year.