There is no doubt that the future of business will be conversational.

Conversational commerce – consumers conversing with brands through the digital channels they already know and love such as Facebook Messenger, Apple Business Chat and WhatsApp – is driving customer satisfaction and business efficiencies in a variety of industries, from tech and telco to retail, banking and travel.

Brands that have deployed messaging, on average, see a 20% increase in customer satisfaction (CSAT), a 2–4 times increase in contact centre agent efficiency versus voice calls, and a 4% rise in converted sales.

With active user numbers on social platforms including Facebook, Instagram and WeChat continuing to soar, and new conversational mediums such as voice-activated assistants starting to make a dent in the local market, we can expect consumers will increasingly favour using these channels to interact with brands.

By now brands should have adopted, or at least be moving towards adopting, conversational commerce. For those that are behind the curve, often the biggest challenge is simply knowing how to get started.

The idea of new tech adoption – especially when it involves artificial intelligence – can be daunting, but the task is not as difficult as it seems. Here are five steps to help your business get going.

  1. Pick an achievable goal

    Begin by identifying a business goal, purpose or an issue. Is your immediate goal to drum up brand awareness and drive leads, enhance customer loyalty, or aid customer service staff to be more efficient?

    How will conversational commerce help the business achieve its goals? And what key performance indicators will you tie to this goal to measure success? KPIs you consider might include CSAT, agent efficiency and attrition, customer churn and converted sales.

    For instance, if your goal is to drum up brand awareness and drive leads, establishing web messaging or deploying Facebook Messenger for business may assist prospective customers with easily and quickly finding information they’re after. An obvious KPI to tie to this goal would be an increase in marketing-qualified leads.

  2. Do your research

    The next step is to research. Find virtual agents or bots similar to what you have in mind, and companies that are using messaging well. Use these to set benchmarks for your business.

    But, more importantly, listen to your customers. It’s essential that you understand your customers’ intentions. What do they want to talk to you most about? What are their pain points when interacting with your brand? Take small intents and automate them, for example, password resets, shipment tracking and balance checks.

    A recent LivePerson survey of 1,000 Australians found that when contacting their preferred brand, the biggest complaint consumers had was waiting on hold, followed by having to repeat their issue to multiple agents.

    Gaining further insight will lead to informed decisions that drive innovation and business improvements.

  3. People on mobile phones

  4. Find the right partner

    Conversational commerce is not something (most) businesses can deploy alone. Finding the right technology partner, or partners, is essential. Look for partners that have the platform, experience in your industry, and knowledge for turning your conversational commerce goals into a reality.

    Another important thing to consider is these partners’ flexibility. Does their platform integrate with other service providers and products for a seamless user experience?

    For instance, if you’re initially deploying a bot, remember that a bot is simply a tool in a much wider conversational strategy. Your partner should offer an opti-channel experience, which combined with other technologies allows your business to create more meaningful interactions.

  5. Develop and test

    The core capabilities of conversational commerce are voice and text-based interfaces, often powered by AI and humans working together. Simply integrating technology isn’t enough – brands need to clearly define the role conversational commerce plays in their business, and continually measure and optimise to gain the best result.

    For example, bots consist of as much social science, linguistic and psychological know-how as code. Be sure to research, experiment and carry out thorough testing.

  6. Deploy

    Conversational commerce can support better customer experiences and enhance employee productivity, but only if it’s implemented with the right care, tools for automating conversations, and partner. Further, your job is never done. It’s important that your business constantly takes user feedback on board and continues to optimise their experience.

    We can expect to see conversational commerce continue to gain momentum, with brands shifting to a fully conversational method of customer interaction in 2019. Businesses need to design today for the future, or risk getting left behind.

    By taking the above steps, your business can ensure it’s ready to begin its conversational commerce journey.