Episode #48: 2021 Predictions — The Revolutionary Future of e-Commerce

Grad Conn

December 30, 202010 min read

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Prediction Week continues. Today it’s all about conversational commerce — a customer-led, AI-driven online experience that creates better sales engagement. Is this the future of commerce? Take a listen, and see what you think.

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Welcome to the CXM Experience and this is predictions week. It’s our last week of 2020. The rarely missed 2020. I think it’s one of the few years where I’ve seen people so eager to move on. And I actually had a pretty good year, but it was challenging for many people, and it was a challenging year overall. So, I’m excited about 2021. And as part of this week, we’re doing predictions every day.

So yesterday, we talked about Bitcoin and blockchain. Today, we’re going to talk about conversational commerce, because my prediction for today’s show is that conversational commerce is going to be the number one topic on the minds not just of existing online retailers, but also in general across the distributor, retailer, and manufacturing businesses. Manufacturers will look at this as a DTC channel for them to get to connect directly with their customers. Retailers will be thinking, how do I make sure I compete with conversational commerce as it represents a significant threat, and I’ll talk about that in a minute. And for distributors, it’s going to be a whole new channel, but also a whole new way of buying that they’re going to need to adapt to and there’ll be a few large platforms that will be amazing at it.

So, what is conversational commerce? Let’s talk about that for a second. So conversational commerce, sometimes you’ll see it shortened into c-commerce or c-om, or I’m sure cc pretty soon. Let’s just stay with c-commerce for now. It allows people and businesses to connect through chat with the intent to drive the purchase of goods and services.

One of the reasons I’m talking about it, of course, is that I am Grad Conn CXO at Sprinklr. And at Sprinklr we do have a conversational commerce solution. We obviously work very closely with the 21st century conversational platforms like Facebook, and Instagram, and others. And there’s a lot of really interesting stuff happening in those spaces. And so we have a c-commerce solution, where brands can engage and transact with customers via messenger. Through messenger Customer Care agents can send messages directly from their product catalog. And products can be selected manually by the agents or suggested by an AI recommendation engine. And if you’ve been listening, you’ll know that Sprinklr’s got one of the strongest AI engines in the business because our training data set is so huge.

What’s cool about conversational commerce is that it lets you meet people where they are shopping in their favorite messaging apps. And it’s uniquely positioned to meet the needs of today’s customer. If you think about the advantages and disadvantages of the various types of shopping, we’re all pretty familiar with retail stores. But today, there’s a lot of health concerns about going into a physical store. You know, even in the store, there’s a one-to-one experience, but even that is definitely been hampered over the last year. There is a limited product availability in stores now, it can be expensive to run stores, and the availability of the stock in the store is usually unknown. If you think about online shopping, which we’re also pretty familiar with, it’s really quite frankly very self-guided, there’s not a lot of guidance during shopping. Product quality is tricky, because there’s a lot of fakes in the online shopping experience, a lot of counterfeits. Sometimes the UX is difficult to navigate, but even if it isn’t, you’re switching UXs over and over again. So you’re going from Instacart, to Best Buy to Amazon etc. And each time you context switch, you’re having sort of a mental shift, and you have to rethink the UX that you’re using. And there are there are very few if any human touch points. So really no human touch points in that process.

And so you’ve got retail stores with not a lot of stock, a lot of health concerns, some limited one to one interaction, because of the staffing issues. Online shopping with no interaction, lots of stock, but all self-guided. Conversational Commerce has this really interesting ability to bridge both those experiences and really being the best of the retail store environment which is the ability to personalize and help, and the best of the online shopping environment which is full availability and full transparency into one place. So, you know, at this best of both worlds juncture, it’s got a lower costs than online, and the concierge services of high end retail. So, you can try and customize products, you can bargain, get discounts, stores are open 24/7 from any device, and you get access to the entire product catalog and stock. It’s pretty exciting.

Really, I would say my prediction is that in 10 years, virtually all retail will be in this conversational commerce vein. There will be very few stores and the stores that remain will be more like physical showrooms, I probably won’t be able to walk out of that store with any of the products that you see there. And then online shopping will merge primarily into conversational commerce, because people will be hungry for that human interaction. And that guided experience.

You know, if you look at what’s going on the major platforms, now, there’s significant commerce additions that are being made. You know, it’s been a tremendous amount of conversation by Mark Zuckerberg on how Facebook is going to become a commerce platform. There have been significant commerce additions to Instagram, they now have shopping ads, stories, there’s Instagram shop, editors picks, there’s brand shops, there’s product shops, there’s cart and checkout now added to Instagram. Timeline posts and the grid, creators pics and collections, they have product launches in Instagram. There’s chat, and the shipping updates as well. These platforms are rapidly becoming really great commerce platforms.

And we’ve sort of seen this before. You know, if you think about marketing and commerce as being sort of partners in this sort of thing in the marketing world and say, early 2000s, there was this multichannel marketing concept. And then around 2012, multichannel marketing, which you know, had primarily been the web and print and computers and webinars and email and all that kind of videos, etc, suddenly added social. So, in 2012, social media became part of the multichannel marketing mix. If today you look at where we are, multichannel marketing is not adding social as a single channel. But all the individual social platforms are now their own channels. So multichannel marketing today is Pinterest, Snapchat, Whatsapp, Facebook, Instagram, X, formerly Twitter, YouTube, LinkedIn, Line, you know, podcasts, conferences, videos, email, direct mail, etc.

And so the same things happen in commerce. So in 2007, we had TV catalogs, mobile devices, e commerce, that was your multichannel commerce approach. And then today, you’re seeing people adding social platforms to their multichannel commerce strategy. But you’ll see that today Kakao, Facebook, Instagram, and Line are all actually a commerce channels today. So this idea that the individual platforms will become important separate channels on their own, is already occurring, and something to really watch out for. I saw a lot of people calling this landscape ecommerce 3.0. So it’s a customer-led AI-driven experience, and creates sales engagement across all the channels and devices.

So, if you think about it from an architectural standpoint, and there’s online commerce, which is, you know, usually web or app driven, there’s social selling, which is customer selling engagements via social media, very much in the b2b space. There’s brick and mortar commerce, which is retail stores, the physical world. And then conversational commerce is a new thing, a fourth element under e commerce 3.0, which is using social live chat and other channels to create engagement and sales.

I am going to talk a little bit about Sprinklr. I try not to make this an ad for Sprinklr. Because experience is something that’s pretty broad. But I do need to jump in here. Because what we’re doing here is amazing. And because of our unique ability to connect across all these platforms and bring value to these platforms. There’s something that we’re doing that is going to make a big difference for large brands. So why you’d want to have Sprinklr as part of your team to make this happen. Well, you’ve got to manage a product catalog connected to the shops and that’s not possible in Facebook. You need to recommend products by agents and community managers. Our AI is a great recommendation engine that doesn’t exist in the platforms. You need to utilize AI for intelligent product recommendations. You need to view and manage customer experience as part of the overall experience across the other channels. So you need to coordinate. Obviously, that’s not possible in the single platforms.

You need to analyze and understand conversational commerce within the overall paid owned and earned metrics. So what your overall plan looks like you need to tie in insights. What are your customers asking for? You know, we’ve talked a lot on this show about listen, learn and love. If you’re listening and learning from your customers, you’ll be able to love them in conversational commerce by knowing what they’re looking for. And knowing what they want, again, something very difficult to do in the platforms. And then you can take the insights that you have, and you can share them in other parts of the Sprinklr platform like advertising and marketing.

So kind of exciting. I think that one thing we’re getting a lot of our customers doing is asking us to mock up what that looks like. So we’ve got multiple examples now of conversational commerce using a mobile interface, and how a sale would happen and go through. And so if that’s something you’re interested in, send us an email, just go on our website, and just contact us on sprinklr.com. And we can spend a bit of time taking you through how conversational commerce can change your business as well. We do have a roadmap and milestones as we’re building this out. And we’ll share that with you as well if you contact us and spend some time with us.

So that’s my prediction for today, conversational commerce. And the nice thing about this prediction is that we are all over it at Sprinklr. And I think this is going to be really big. I also would say that Mark Zuckerberg and many others think it’s going to be really big. And it’s going to be the future, the social platforms, which is to really become commerce platforms, that has big implications for people who are sticking with a traditional website approach has big implications for Shopify and other selling platforms that don’t have that social connection. I do think it’s going to be very disruptive as we go into the next year. And I would say by this time next year, you’ll see major brands, running major conversational commerce motions, and then by, say, five years from now, it will be majority channel. So that’s it for today.

Tomorrow, we’ll have another exciting prediction, kind of excited, sort of looking forward to tomorrow’s and to keep it a surprise for now. And for the CXM Experience. I’m Grad Conn, and I’ll see you next time.

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