Consumer habits have shifted dramatically in the last 20 years and the pace of change continues to accelerate. The evolution of the customer experience has shifted from long lines at a brick-and-mortar store to mail-order catalogs with limited options for payment to the internet and online orders. Customers were constrained by slow, inconvenient customer journeys. Fast forward to the landscape of 2010 and the customer experience got another upgrade with apps like Uber, tablets for personalized online experiences, and social media to better connect businesses with customers.
As we look ahead to the modernization coming in 2023, we’ve been given another upgrade—conversational commerce.
At its core, conversational commerce has transformed the way people interact with businesses. It’s impacted everything from Buy Online Pickup In-Store to text payments to conversations with representatives on social media platforms like Facebook Messenger. It has expanded consumers’ access to documents and forms, made it easier to sign for consent (think: approvals via text message), and so much more.
More importantly, conversational commerce benefits both businesses and customers in ways that outpace better communication and better technology. Here are three ways conversational commerce benefits both customers and businesses:
At least 70% of consumers say that speed is one of the top priorities for their customer experience. And with 91% of consumers around the globe reporting that they want real-time assistance, conversational commerce makes speed an easier customer expectation to meet. For businesses, customer engagement increases when they offer connection on channels customers already want to use (for example—90% of consumers prefer to interact with a business via text).
Monthly billing is a costly and slow process. With rising postage prices, the cost and time required to print invoices, and the delays in customer payments, monthly billing sent via mail (and even email) is becoming more and more outdated (and severely slowing business’s speed-to-payment rates). Email open rates continue to sit low at just 20% and in the U.S., only 5% of consumers say they want to pay their bills via the mail.
With conversational commerce, businesses can speed up payment rates with text payments, payments in chat, and better processes for saving information for future use. In the case of Environmental Pest Services (EPS), they adopted Authvia’s TXT2PAY® solution and customers started paying 64% faster and up to 10 days earlier than they had before.
For customers, speed means ease of payment, essentially, how fast and easy can paying be? For a large majority of US consumers, living paycheck to paycheck or on increasingly tight budgets, controlling when a bill gets paid is also critical. This is why many customers still don’t keep their card on file for routine payments like their utilities.
With conversational commerce, customers can get the speed they crave and the control they demand. Faster payment options, faster connections to customer representatives, and complete access to the information businesses keep on file.
Our experience driven economy has created a culture of ease. Online ordering and groceries delivered to our doorsteps have all contributed to the customer expectation that experiences should be convenient. If the customer experience requires too much from the customer, businesses suffer because customers will find a more convenient option elsewhere.
Connecting to customers via email, phone, or mail is slow and inconvenient for businesses. And it doesn’t matter if that process involves calling customers for billing reminders or taking calls for complaints or orders. In today’s world of technology and familiarity with convenience, both businesses and customers want communication that can take place in channels they already use—text, chat, and social media.
With conversational commerce, connecting to customers becomes much easier. A simple shift in channel—such as using texting which has a 209% higher response rate than phone calls, emails, and Facebook—connects businesses to customers faster and more conveniently.
An inconvenient customer journey promotes a search for a new customer journey. When customers are faced with too many steps to checkout, connect with a representative, or find the answer to their question, they’re incentivized to take their business elsewhere. With conversational commerce, businesses can add convenience to the customer journey and keep more customers. With fewer steps to connect to a business, consumers are less likely to take their business elsewhere.
Nearly 60% of consumers report that they are more concerned than they were in 2021 about becoming a victim of fraud. With more apps than ever before, online shopping a common practice, and cyber attacks increasing, security is a serious demand. For conversational commerce, it’s even more critical to get right. With customer data collected and shared, payment information requested and stored, and businesses engaging with more partners and third-party applications to bring together a connected customer journey, the opportunities for fraud are high.
For businesses, security is clearly a high priority. Protecting consumer data is not only important for customer loyalty, it’s a regulated action. But there are several interactions that, while still acceptable, create more risk for businesses. A great example is taking payments over the phone. This interaction creates several opportunities for employee fraud—writing down credit card numbers, charging for products the customer didn’t purchase, and more.
With conversational commerce, the risk for fraud can be mitigated, and in some situations, eliminated. Accepting payments electronically eliminates the risk of over-the-phone payments, recording chat conversations keeps businesses and customers safe, and innovations in document storage and even payments that bypass businesses all add to the security that conversational commerce promises and provides.
Customers need to know their data is safe. But even with innovations in technology, nearly 70% of consumers report that they worry about the security of the digital platforms they use to make payments. With conversational commerce, consumers get more control over who has access to their data, who has permission to use their stored payments, and who can store their information.