Lately Chatbots have been the talk of the town. Whether it is the infamy of Microsoft’s Taye chatbot or the announcements of chatbot API’s and apps from Facebook at F8 and Kik, they appear to be dominating the conversation, if not contributing to them. This raises interesting possibilities for Online Retailers and Digital E-Commerce Platforms as they evaluate opportunities and investments in the conversational commerce space. E-Commerce marketing and product development organizations can formulate a winning strategy by looking at key market trends, learning from investments in mobile apps and identifying compelling areas that can provide a renewed growth impetus to their ecommerce ecosystem.

Messaging Apps MAU Surpass Social Networks

messaging apps growth and e-commerce chatbots

A recent report by eMarketer points to the massive growth and proliferation of messaging apps. Not only has the monthly active user count of the top 4 messaging apps exceeded those of top 4 social apps, but on numerous other factors like engagement rates and retention they continue to demonstrate strength. Between Whatsapp, Facebook Messenger, WeChat and Viber, the top 4 messaging apps, there are over 3 billion active users globally. Other chat apps like Kik, Line and Snapchat command upwards of 200 million users.

While chat apps boom in the US, elsewhere these apps have gone beyond messaging and offer various e-commerce capabilities including booking tickets, flight check-ins, requesting cabs, and purchasing goods all without leaving the messaging app itself. The rise of conversational commerce and chatbots, supplements the need for mobile apps or sites and engages customers where they prefer to be and an interface that requires no learning.

Shifting Trends In E-Commerce Referral Channels
e-commerce referral channels

While organic, paid and email continue to be the dominant traffic drivers in 2015, social and messaging apps have begun to make a noticeable uptick as referral channels.

Email marketing in particular is showing signs of flagging. Customers are growing weary of the traditional bulk emails from multiple marketers that show up in their inbox first thing in the morning. Not only do these emails miss the mark in terms of timing, they also tend to lack in critical elements of deep personalization and intent. Organic search on the other hand presents it’s own set of challenges for newcomers striving to dislodge the Google SERP rankings.

This is one area that is ripe for change and messaging apps as well as chatbots are likely to emerge as the referral channel that takes away share from the existing main traffic drivers.

Mobile Garners Largest Share Of Traffic

Share_of_App_Time_Spent_by_Rank_Chart_reference

A quick review of total engagement and share of app time spent continues to demonstrate mobile garnering the majority share of shopper traffic and the top 5 apps cornering over 90% of that time. Not only are the remaining apps relegated to infrequent usage, a full 25% of downloaded apps are used only once and then abandoned!

By mid-2015, Americans on average had spent approximately 68 hours per month on their mobile devices. That number rises even further to more than 90 hours per month among millennials.

E-Commerce product development organizations should consider these statistics as they decide on how best to invest in messaging apps and chatbots to grow their e-commerce ecosystem.

3 Ways To Leverage These Dominant Trends And Chatbots

Better Customer Engagement

Retailers have the opportunity to converse with customers where they desire and demonstrate maximum intent to engage and complete their transactions. Instead of one size fits all email blasts that continually indicate decreasing open and click through rates, by tailoring interactions based on customer and demographic preferences, better convertible traffic can ensue. Varying these across messaging, social or email based on big data analytics, sentiment analysis and other signals, allows for fruitful customer engagements overall.

Explore New Revenue Streams

As e-commerce businesses look to attract millennials and look to increase revenue from younger demographics, messaging provides an excellent extension to their e-commerce platform. Secondly, mature platforms now have the ability to extend their reach far beyond site and instead conduct various forms of commerce transactions that would not be readily possible or costly via traditional site development.

Proactive Customer Service

While site chat has been around for a while now, messaging apps allow customers to engage via an interface of choice and enables the scale that comes from automation of most frequent customer service calls. When is the item going to be shipped, what is the tracking number, what are available discounts, price match commerce transactions are some of the few ways in which customer service can be taken to a new level and can be a revenue generator too.

While we are in the initial stages of chatbot technology adoption and e-commerce enablement via messaging apps, Retailers and E-Commerce Platforms have the opportunity to make appropriate strategic bets, that will both protect and grow their brands and customer bases.

Is your organization considering investments in messaging apps and chatbot technology? Would love to hear how you are planning to stay ahead of the curve, stay relevant across your customer base, and optimize your e-commerce platform and ecosystem.

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