India could leapfrog into conversational commerce very quickly, say product and tech leaders
The pandemic last year brought more brands and customers online. With this, came the need for brands to improve customer experience (CX) and build a long-term relationships. And, to do so, interacting and engaging with the customer in a channel and language they are comfortable with becomes the key.
It is here that conversational commerce helps by bridging that gap between customers and brands. 2021 saw India’s smartphone user base go up from 76 million to 760 million, presenting a huge opportunity for conversational commerce.
At TechSparks 2021, Michiel Gaasterland, Evangelist at; Rashid Khan, CPO and Co-founder of and Yash Dayal, CTO at explored why conversational commerce is gaining momentum and how voice AI will play a key role in driving the future of CX.
How conversational commerce can improve CX
The conversations between customers and brands, which used to be one way, reactive, and focused on after service, is now shifting to a two-way dialogue across all stages of the journey, noted Michiel. “But, even with automation, we are seeing a rising volume in customer queries. This has also brought to the fore the importance of personalised, personal, human, fast, customer service. The focus for CX revolves around meeting customer service expectations in real-time, safeguarding response times, faster issue resolution,” he shared.
And, the pandemic and a sudden surge in the customers shopping remotely via digital channels gave even more filip to conversational commerce. For instance, the conversational CX automation platform, Yellow.ai, saw a surge in clients over the course of the pandemic. Its clientele grew from 100 brands to 900+, with conversational commerce becoming almost a must-have solution for brands during the pandemic.
“One of the biggest phenomena we saw, especially in India and Asia was the rise of direct to consumer (D2C) companies. And, one of the biggest challenges the D2C brands faced was in getting the distribution model right - building an app or website cost a lot of money and it didn’t guarantee downloads or access to the market. The brands wanted a quick and easy way to reach out to end consumers and offer a medium of buying that they were familiar with,” explained Yellow.ai’s Rashid. And, here he said that WhatsApp emerged as a channel of choice.
“Brands resorted to using WhatsApp as a medium to engage with end consumers, and that's where we saw a huge rise in the volumes over the past year. And as more conversation starts, more people start buying,” he said. Rashid pointed out that brands like Adidas brought in the complete shoe buying experience on WhatsApp. Bharat Petroleum enabled bookings of gas cylinders through WhatsApp in Tier II, III cities. This uptick in conversational commerce saw startups like Yellow.ai handling a humongous amount of conversation. ‘In 2020, we were handling close to 100 million conversations per quarter. And that number is 1 billion currently,” said Rashid.
Sharing a brand’s perspective of conversational commerce, Zivame’s Yash Dayal shared how they are engaging with customers by leveraging the principles of conversation tech. He shared how Zivame’s fit code, a proprietary technology, is enabling customers to find apparel of the right size on the brand’s e-commerce platform.
“Traditionally, women would actually go to a physical store and get themselves measured, engage with the shop floor representatives and then buy a product with the right fit. Given the shift to online shopping, the fit code feature has been designed to mimic this entire process. Once customers login to the website or the app, there is a set of questions designed like a conversation flow that they have answered and at the end of it, customers can select a product size with greater confidence. So far, 7 lakh+ women have used the fit code on the platform and 85 percent of them have been able to purchase a product of the right size,” shared Yash.
Rise of voice AI
The pandemic saw a rise in huge volumes of people from smaller cities, who necessarily weren’t tech-savvy, opening up to digitisation. And, with this conversational AI became all the more relevant and immediate, say brands.
“I think what demonetisation did for online payment companies, the pandemic did for online commerce. Traditional shoppers who were comfortable going to physical stores made the shift and tried online shopping for the first time,” said Yash.
Experiencing an inflow of online shoppers from Tier II, III cities during the pandemic, Zivame launched its own chatbot to assist customers with their post-purchase experience. And, over the last few months, Zivame observed that chatbot or assisted bots were able to resolve most of their customer queries.
“Because it is conversational, it is a lot more user-friendly and thus we see a lot more adoption. This has helped to improve our NPS scores as well,” he shared. Yash opined that conversational experience via both text and voice was going to be the next frontier in conversational commerce.
Making a stronger case for voice AI for enhancing CX, Rashid shared that traditional customer call centres have not often provided the best customer experience - an experience that most people will testify to. This opens up a big opportunity to solve for voice AI.
He shared that Yellow.ai is now readying itself to tap into this opportunity with a voice AI product that has been deployed for 10+ customers in India and is being tested in the US and the Middle East markets.
Why customer data is critical to CX
While a single source of truth for customer data is basic and critical, Michiel shared that 90 percent of businesses he interacted with didn't have a central source of truth.
He reiterated, “Businesses must have everything about the customer in one place - not just transactional data but also personal data behaviour, device data, customer journey data, etc. Because, when handling customer queries, customer service agents need to have a rich customer profile - transaction and personal data, payments link, etc in one interface. And, when you do so, it works out of the box.”
Another interesting point that he reiterated was about the current gaps in personalisation.
He shared, “I often ask brands if they send out the daily newsletters or marketing offers to customers who have registered a complaint. And, 9 out of 10 companies answer in the affirmative. This is because there is no integration in personalisation. When a customer logs in a complaint, a brand must stop the newsletter or marketing communication until it is resolved.”
It’s a simple use case for applying personalisation of data, but one that is missed out, he pointed. Rashid echoed Michiel’s call for brands working towards building a single source of truth when it comes to customer data and added that to provide a holistic customer experience, there is a need to plug-in automation at every customer touchpoint.
The leaders pointed towards some interesting trends likely to play out. Rashid, shared, “One of the major things, which I believe is going to happen, is the convergence of the interactions coming to a single platform.”
This, he said, could be different platforms depending on the type of industry or business. For instance, for financial companies, it could be WhatsApp, while for ecommerce businesses it could be the mobile app or the website. He added that as the payment industry gets democratised, it would get much easier to make a purchase on conversational platforms.
Yash shared that the next evolution in user experience would have much more natural interfaces and conversational experience happening via text and voice. And, that like India in the past leapfrogged many technologies, it was likely to take a leap in conversational experiences where the first experiences with brands would be via conversations on chatbots or platforms like WhatsApp. The panellists agreed that conversational AI was here to stay.
In his closing remarks, Michiel remarked that organisations will need to adapt to conversational commerce, but that it would take effort and time. “You can't just push a button and push a chatbot. You need somebody to own this process,” he said.
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