I had the great pleasure working with Smoope, a messaging as a service vendor recently. The segment is super relevant in these days selling to millennials. In these days every smart company is trying to find their strategy for turning conversations into transactions.
What I learned from a research in an analyst conversation with Lefti Co-Founder of Smoope and Forrester Analyst Laura Naparstek was, that 36% of conversations in chats are centered around “products & services”. That emphasizes the need for rich and fast product master data to power the conversational commerce channel with the right and relevant data so that the customer can take a purchasing decision.
I my opinion the omnichannel term continues to expand adding new interaction channels, such as messaging. This brings the need to integrate data and connect master data to new apps like messaging platforms. Clearly this is tied to the AI and chatbot discussion and blog, I published this summer. Wether you are talking to a human being or the AI-driven bot, answers can only be as good as the data foundation to offer the right product at the right moment. This promise and challenge, has just become more complex.
There is an appetite talking to brands through messaging, but the brands need to be clear on expectation setting and their processes. Many brands seem not to do well and are not able to go beyond the welcome message. Many are not set for taking the conversation to the next level and advancing the conversation, which will turn customers away easily.
The future vision in this segment is clearly impacted by the Zeitgeist of Alexa and Siri where customers are getting used to the most simplest way of formulating their need. Like texting or saying “please transfer 20 Euro to Ben”, or “please send me the shirt which was delivered today in size M” without filling out a complex form.
You may know from my blog, that I like to challenge brands and companies on their customer experience and understand how much they are using latest tech solution to enable a data-driven business in order to sell more or service better. As a fashionista I signed up for Zalon, a service by German fashion giant Zalando. They claim to jointly create my new outfit on their front page.
This is my summary of my experience after using for about two weeks: The first thing you do is selecting your preferences across all categories of clothes. For example if you are only looking for business or also for casual wear, of which kind of shirts you like (button down or kent, stripes or plain etc.)
You also are asked to add your size and you can submit pics of yourself, so that your personal shopping assistant will be able to better understand your style but also your body shape.
I decided to provide as much information as possible (also that I blog about fashion), hoping it will help to tailor the offerings to my need.
The pros of this service are:
- They show customer orientation by offering it
- It feels like responses are faster compared to email
- you feel special having a personal shopping assistant
The cons after two weeks testing it:
- I clearly told my sizes, but other sized have been offered (I am pretty tall)
- The app says “Thomas” will be online again in 1 hour, but this gets postponed three times in a row
- I asked questions and did not get answers on brand and price
What role does AI and Customer 360 play?
Some questions I have are: Is the Zalon sharing my profile data with Zalando and Zalando Lounge to better understand my preferences and shopping history to predict my next action? How advanced are they on leveraging the potential of “Customer 360” including my social interactions.
Who is able to deliver more value with todays technology? A chatbot like Levi’s or a real person from Zalon? (You may also check what Suitsupply is doing using WhatsApp.) I checked the Levi’s bot and obviously it delivers all answers right away like my 505c I was not finding in stores, but I was limited showing the used style I wanted.
Clearly omnichannel customer engagement has found one important new trend and channel, called “conversational commerce”, where vendors like Smoope or Twilio are playing. An important questions will be how serious WhattsApp owner Facebook will be going after this B2B market opportunity. (Read more here.)