Tech is Changing the Nature of Commerce: Do We Want More or Less Conversation?
The nature of commerce is conversation. Sometimes, the exchange is verbal, like an employee helping you find things, and other times, it’s non-verbal, like eye contact and a quick nod between you and the cashier.
In their pursuit of efficiency and convenience, businesses have tried eliminating the “inefficient conversations” to keep transactions quick and simple. However, they’ve been largely unsuccessful. Today, even e-commerce businesses have digital assistants, chatbots, and customer support on standby to assist shoppers. That does not change the fact that some of us prefer shopping online to avoid unnecessary store trips and conversations with strangers. Even those of us who mostly shop online get anxious when online shopping goes wrong — late deliveries, incorrect deliveries, etc. — and immediately seek the assistance of a “human” customer support executive to resolve our issues.
So, do consumers want or do not want conversations? Perhaps, some research can shed light on the matter, and fortunately, there’s plenty available. According to HRC Retail, 95% of consumers want to be left alone in stores. However, studies revealed that conversations between brands and consumers have 30% more ROI than retargeting ads. If these examples send businesses mixed signals, it’s not the consumers’ fault. That’s because the real question is not whether consumers want or do not want conversations. Of course, they do! What they do not want are unsolicited conversations and interactions. They also want natural, helpful, and contextual conversations, not template messages.
The emergence of chatbots, self-checkouts, AI (ChatGPT-like solutions in particular), advanced payment systems, and other advanced conversational technologies are changing how consumers “converse” with businesses. The pace of training, learning and scaling is rapid in this space and it is expected to accelerate automation and learning in businesses, impacting everyone from the employees to the customers. The time to act and adopt is now — if you want to continue accelerating rather than aging in the markets of today.