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Article Customer Experience Popular 8 min read

A Window into The Future of Conversational Commerce

We sat down with Chatbot and C-Commerce expert Yoav Barel to talk about how conversational commerce will shape our world in the coming years.

What you'll learn from this article:

  • One day soon, the customer journey as we know it will be a thing of the past.
  • Real-time dialogue creates a third knowledge that didn’t exist before.
  • Voice, text and video are all different technologies that are part of the same brain, and the question of which will dominate will soon become irrelevant.
  • Brands should start small, and build teams and business units around C-Commerce.
  • The secret to C-Commerce is to get things done for the user in the simplest fashion.
  • C-Commerce will eventually evolve into a series of digital concierges catering to different areas of our lives.

    Five years down the line, eCommerce will look nothing like it does today.

    You’ve already heard of conversational commerce, or C-Commerce, and you may even be incorporating it into your customer service strategy. But, what will the customer journey of a C-Commerce-driven future look like?

    According to Chatbot and Conversational Commerce expert Yoav Barel, there won’t even be a customer journey. What does he mean by that? We sat down with him to discuss the future of virtual shopping.

    Why C-Commerce is the most natural evolution of online shopping

    Conversations create relationships. Think of every relationship you have -- could any of them have been built without conversations? Of course not. Conversations, particularly ones that evolve over days, months, and even years, have a way of creating a closeness in a way that a website could never offer.

    “This is particularly beneficial in eCommerce,” says Yoav, “since this closeness means retailers can gain a clearer understanding of who the customer is and what they want. Plus, they can provide their customers with ongoing and continuous high-quality service that’s hyper-personalised, and build trust this way.”

    Dialogue has been mankind’s go-to form of communication since the dawn of time, remember. Why do we like this form of communication so much? “Because we get continuous feedback from the other side, and, back and forth, and you don’t have to organise your thoughts in a way that’s structured for a long period of time without any prompts,” Yoav explains.

    Dialogue is a way to transfer information between one another while providing ongoing feedback. You’re always able to get the input and adjust it with your current understanding, and then process back and communicate your new understanding. So, dialogue in real time provides a much better way to take two minds and create a third knowledge that didn’t exist before that dialogue.

    Now, this doesn’t mean websites of the future will have no value. Yoav explains that it’s not an either/or kind of situation. Websites work well, he explains, for customers who don’t really know what they want. There’s plenty of benefit for the customer to have a virtual space filled with pretty pictures -- be it a website or an app -- where they can browse around.

    These different elements will join forces, Yoav predicts, into a more holistic customer shopping experience.

    Will the Future of C-Commerce Be Voice or Text...or Video?

    Text messaging has become pretty advanced. We’ve seen major advancements in contextual understanding, dialogue management, natural language generation, and the proliferation of platforms that allow you to develop these experiences.

    But then, voice messaging is advancing rapidly, too: speech recognition, text to speech, sentiment detection and analysis have all been put on fast forward this year.

    Voice interaction offers a different user experience to text communication, Yoav points out. With voice, the consumer can make mistakes and correct themselves. With text, on the other hand, the consumer is more careful before they click “send”, gathering their thoughts and erasing and rewriting words or even sentences. Voice interaction -- at first glance -- is much less time consuming in that way (or, it would be, if Siri didn’t keep asking us to repeat ourselves).

    That’s why, at the moment, voice technology and text technology seem independent of one another -- at least from the perspective of the consumer.

    This won’t be the case in the future, says Yoav. “At the end of the day, it all transfers to 0s and 1s somewhere,” he explains. “So it’s all part of the same brain.”

    It will be the same brand fulfilling the same promises, fulfilling that promise of full services that they will make available through digital entities with voice, text, and video. They’re going to have to have the same brain in the back, and the same strategy and brand identity, and that manifestation will need to be optimised to meet the specific channel and specific way of interaction.”

    >> Learn about The Current State of NLP, Voice Search, and Voice Assistants.

    What can brands do now to future proof for C-Commerce?

    We still have a few years to go before these voice, text and video technologies will even be ready to be used in a way that improves our daily lives in a meaningful way. Mass market adoption will also take time. It’ll take a few more years until billions of people will use these technologies to improve their lives daily, which is our vision.

    In the meantime, businesses would do well to start small, suggests Yoav. “I think the problem is not the technology,” he points out, “but the implementation.”

    “I think that problem today in the markets is that startups and tech companies are trying to oversell, brands are trying to do too much, resulting in mediocre interpretations and less appetite to do more.”

    What are the leading companies Yoav works with doing? They’re building teams, centres of excellence, and business units around conversational commerce. Within those business units, they’re creating and testing niche use cases. “They’re not trying to do too much without doing it well,” he explains.

    What does a sophisticated chatbot look like?

    So all this may lead you to wonder, who is already doing C-Commerce...and doing it well? Yoav points to the Israeli insurance startup Lemonade as his preferred example of a messaging-first company that’s mastered scale and complexity.

    The startup leverages intelligent chatbot technology to create conversational experiences that make the normally complex sales, onboarding, and claims processes a breeze. And if you double-click on that sophistication, these are all separated out into different chatbots, all of which work on the same infrastructure, the same conversational design rules, and the same sort of underlying technology. This basically creates a 360-degree customer experience that we can call sophistication, Yoav explains.

    Using conversational technology, Lemonade has been able to create hyper-personalised insurance plans and help its customers file their insurance claims in less time than it takes to download an app.

    Yoav gives his simple trade secret for creating conversational sophistication: “In essence, the guidance should be: let’s get things done for the user, in the easiest way possible for them.”

    >> Learn how to create a high-quality NLP-based chatbot.

    C-Commerce...or concierge commerce?

    Yoav’s major prediction is that the customer journey is going to become a thing of the past, as C-Commerce evolves into a series of digital concierges catering to different areas of our lives.

    “So, we’re going to have our personal banking bot,” Yoav demonstrates as an example, “And that personal banker is going to provide us with the best service possible. He’s going to be knowledgeable, get to know all our needs, and through that excellent service he provides us, he’ll gain our trust and get to know us. Once we have trust and knowledge of the person, then that chatbot will be able to offer him products and services that are best for him. And then if you do that, professionally, the customer will buy those products and services. And that’s commerce.”

    Yoav’s vision of the C-Commerce future is one where we’ll be spending far less time searching on Google, and far more time getting things done in simpler, more effective ways, as our concierges become hyper-personalised. We’ll have our personal doctor, our personal fashion advisor...you name it.

    We can think of these services to be something like a visit to a virtual shopping mall where everything is catered just for you. And it’s not just one mall -- it’s every mall in the world.

    Yoav’s vision for the future of eCommerce, where conversational commerce becomes a personalised concierge service for all different areas of our lives, across text, voice and video as one brain, is certainly an exciting one. And with his vast knowledge of the industry, it’s one we can expect is quite likely to become a reality.

    Want to learn more about how you can futureproof your eCommerce brand, while boosting customer happiness and lowering your bottom line? Download the Director’s Guide to Customer-Obsessed Support Teams in eCommerce here.

    Expert contributor bio

    Yoav Barel is a world leader in chatbot and conversational AI technology, founder of Chatbot Summit and Voice Summit, with a mission to advance conversational A.I. based experiences in the market.

    Photo credit: Chatbot summit conference Tel Aviv 2016

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