Despite the 7000 marketing messages consumers face every day, retail leaders are constantly searching for and finding new ways to cut through the noise, and their latest choice allows them to access consumers on their terms (Econsultancy, March 2016). The solution? Messaging apps like WeChat, Whatsapp, Viber and Facebook Messenger. Between them the big four have over two billion users and last year passed social media in terms of usage (Business Insider, April 2015).
Customers in the expectation economy live in the moment, find satisfaction in convenience and expect instant gratification. Chat apps enable brands to put themselves at customers’ fingertips. Achieving “contextual omnipresence” is now a priority few retailers can ignore if they want to secure sustained success. Brands that aren’t interacting with customers in the right place, at the right time, will be setting themselves up for a fall. The retailers embracing chat understand that being available to resolve customer frustrations and boost engagement throughout the journey can make the difference between winning or losing customers.
Messaging apps aren’t just for small talk anymore. They are where consumers can buy their groceries, get tickets to gigs and movies, make reservations and travel overseas. They can catch up with their friends, and do everything else they need to, without leaving the app. Combatting customers’ shrinking attention span means providing this kind of convenience. Zalando is taking advantage of Whatsapp to make its experience more engaging and convenient for the customer. Visitors don’t even need to register for the service, which offers free style advice and information on where to buy products offline.
For the moment, most messaging integrations depend upon humans, but increasingly artificial intelligence will aid automation of the process. Sephora have launched a chatbot in Kik that automatically gives makeup tips to customers. These efforts are aimed at achieving “conversational commerce” and automation like Sephora’s will make achieving it at scale a reality.
Advances in artificial intelligence may seem like science fiction, but they are fast becoming a reality and bots will remove processes, taking the best elements of human interaction like reassurance, and combining them with technological ease for a winning proposition. As Ted Livingston, CEO of Kik said, “This is the beginning of the new internet.”Chat is just one of the ways retailers are differentiating their experience, and understanding how to constantly evolve and refine the experience with such new innovations will be critical to understanding how to fit into consumers’ busy lives and secure success tomorrow.