How Conversational Commerce is Changing Your Customer Relationships

Guest writer Written by Guest writer - Mar 29, 2017

Could selling just be about having a friendly conversation? Is it really that simple?

Ecommerce in the 21st century is less about piling stock high and posting up obnoxious product ads, more about brand consideration and considerate customer support. Whether you’re looking at the latest industry figures, or your own sales dashboard – you are going to have to develop a sixth sense for what your customers want to hear. Start thinking about online selling as a conversation and a dialogue, rather than a one-way street.

Need some help? Here is how a conversational attitude to commerce is changing how your customers want to be treated – take these lessons on board to take your brand to the next level.

People want to contribute

User generated content (customers posting selfies and sharing videos with brands and charities) isn’t just a vacuous trend – it’s part of people’s deep desire to be part of something and contribute. Make contributing to, and engaging with, your brand easy. Reviews, opinion pieces, selfies – they are all great ways for your customers to have a stake in your store.

  • Recognize that your customers want to tell their version of events  – open up your store to customer reviews. Make sure that other people can easily comment on reviews to create a sense of community. Help strengthen ties between customers and your brand by making your ecommerce website a place for encounters and exchange.
  • Use real language and real stories as part of your content strategy – look to customers, not your creative team, for new ideas. When it comes to promotional campaigns, using real customer stories can help your content fit in better with the stories that people are already reading and sharing. On social media a heavily promotional piece can seem jarring, whereas as inspiring product story doesn’t. (Even advertising should follow these same guidelines – try storytelling in your next social media ad).
  • Many fashion brands have created their own hashtag that allows customers to send in their own stylized shots and outfits. This is a great way to find out more about your target demographic, whilst simultaneously helping them develop their own online brand.

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Finnish textile brand, Marimekko, encourage people on social media to share their own Marimekko moments. Marimekko frequently share these posts on their own Instagram to a wider audience. By giving people a chance to elevate their own personal brand and readership, Marimekko create a great sense of reciprocity. This helps establish a global community connected by great product design and similar aesthetic values.

Everyone’s having conversations on social media

As a brand, you want to invest in social media that is led by conversations and exchange. Use your social media platforms for conversations  – both your customers and online influencers can be found on social.

Here’s how:

  • Speak to your customers and followers through your social channels. Actually speak to them – ask them how they are doing and get involved with their lives (but not in a weird way).
  • Always thank people for sharing, liking, or commenting your posts. Social media engagement is gold dust – you want people to keep coming back to you.
  • Want to be featured on some cool websites? Need to get to know more bloggers and online influencers? Use social media as a way to find (and connect with) crucial media contacts. A lot of idea exchanges happen on social media – it’s always worth striking up a conversation with someone and seeing where it leads. Lively social media accounts will make your brand seem more alive, but don’t court controversy or get too personal.
  • The ultimate social media turn-off is a brand that just can’t stop broadcasting promotional offers. Don’t be that guy.

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Iittala, who make award-winning glassware and tableware, are a great example of a brand who keep their social media posts very product-based, but still manage to engage people with interesting information and product stories. Whether they are sharing insider knowledge about glass-blowing, celebrating Finnish design figures, or inspiring people with harmonious settings, their social media posts are direct, clear, and conversational. Questions, motivational posts, and competitions occasionally lighten the mood.

Immediacy is key

Conversational commerce is all about immediacy. Customers expect responses, interactions, and acknowledgements. (There is nothing worse than wondering whether you’ve been heard). Make your customer service and support as seamless and comprehensive as possible.

  • Even if you can’t deal with customers 24/7, use chat software and customer support management services like ZenDesk to help you reassure customers that they are being heard, even when they can’t get you on the phone.
  • In the interest of speed, don’t sacrifice personality. Faceless auto-responders and thinly disguised templates will cheapen your brand. Invest in some great customer service templates that can be easily personalized and employ talented copywriters to save your automated emails from being ‘blah’.

Connect with content

Brands that are tone deaf aren’t getting conversational right. The brands who are getting it right, are hitting people with messaging and content that is instinctive. You want customers to be nodding along with you, not wondering what the hell you’re talking about.

A conversation is a two-way street – active listening should be a vital component of your marketing and sales plan.

  • Use the vocabulary of your audience and reach them where they are. Do your customers love to create mood boards and inspirational scrapbooks on Pinterest? Do they love to share deep, personal messages on Facebook? Try to echo and emulate content consumption habits that are already natural to your target audience, rather than ‘forcing’ them into adopting new ones just so that they can access your sales messages. By connecting with people where they are, you will be able to start a mutual conversation.
  • Better email marketing is also a big part of connectivity. People are used to getting sales emails (they are usually quite tolerant), but the best results are achieved by brands who nurture their email list. It’s often as simple as engaging with segmented lists of subscribers who are all served up with relevant, targeted content. Ask questions, offer value, show personality.

Conversational marketing

Messenger marketing is on the rise. Conversational marketing means that brands and ecommerce stores can reach customers on the go and sit seamlessly amongst personal communication.

Voucher codes, flash sales, exclusive deals – encourage  people to buy off the back of short, snappy, and inexpensive message-based marketing.

Messenger marketing has to toe the thin line between interrupting and offering value. Email marketing legislation is something that’s drilled into marketers – but are you clued up on messenger rules?

Make opting out easy, and read up on what you are allowed to (and not allowed to) do with people’s numbers and personal data.

Humanizing support + simplifying management

Though chatbots and messenger marketing may seem a bit ‘robotic’, they often have the opposite effect on customer support. Rather than lengthy email exchanges or awkward phone calls, quickfire back and forth messages over messenger can help build a warm and congenial relationship faster. This new kind of ecommerce support is easier to understand, faster, cheaper, and ultimately more effective. Customer support via chat is a great way to help customers quickly and painlessly (and it’s often cheaper than traditional support).

Chatbots are also revolutionizing the way that people manage their online stores and their marketing. Shopify offers its store owners a CRM software they’ve named ‘Kit’ who can undertake small marketing and admin tasks for busy merchants. (Never heard of Shopify? Here is what Johannes thought of the platform as a whole). Ecommerce management like this is taking hands-free marketing to a new level – offering aspiring merchants the chance to benefit from the latest technology.

Less formality

Companies in the past have sometimes felt the need to sound ‘clever’, veiling their communication in platitudes. Conversational commerce is all about getting comfortable and loosening up your brand voice. Formal emails, convoluted instructions, staid corporate greetings – bin all of these for plain English communication that allows your brand personality to shine. Especially when dealing with global markets – plain is best.

Break away from bad corporate habits and embrace a more conversational tone online. Think about how you communicate with friends and family. Great messaging doesn’t have to (and shouldn’t be) obscure. Focus on connection and simplicity.

Conversations aren’t just about great branding and content – they extend to your store technology and payments too. Don’t forget that a big part of customer experience is giving people easy and convenient payment options – customers often abandon transactions if they can’t find their preferred payment method.  Listen to your customers and take note. Embrace conversational commerce and get to know your customers better. Make sure that you focus on the listening side more than the broadcasting one! What new ecommerce trend do you think we’re going to see emerging in 2017?


Patrick Foster, Ecommerce Writer

I love to help ambitious ecommerce and online businesses grow. By focusing on great content and awesome customer experiences, even small businesses can grow and thrive in the online marketplace.

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