Jan 25 2015, Written by - Ankur Girdhar
Conversational Commerce – Marriage of Old and New in Mobility
A colossal shift in mobility space is in the offing; with the marrying together of messaging and commerce, former being the proven veteran of the telecom industry, while latter a new entrant, grabbing routine attention at telecom and financial innovation forums. Read this for example – a third of facebook users will be able to order food, buy products and what not in shopping by texting directly to the merchants. Sequoia Capital, a venture capital firm, have ever growing quest of funding innovative businesses has found its new destination in magic, a text based chat service that will now enable a user to order any on demand service from comfort of a text based interface. By the way, Magic claims that users can even order and rear a tiger at home through their on demand service.
The aforementioned has been christened as conversational commerce in which people can shed the yearning for downloading numerous mCommerce apps, giving that desired breathing space to poor handsets and rather carry out shopping and purchase through the routine text messaging interface. The disaster bells for mobile commerce apps rang earlier itself with the advent of aggregator apps that enabled users to take an informed purchase decision by helping compare prices across m/eCommerce providers and then directing the user to the WAP portal of the preferred seller. In a nutshell, no need to download individual sellers’ apps, with intelligence to buy from the most economical source. Junglee, mySmartprice, Trivago are some of the examples of the intelligent aggregator league. While the former two aggregate prices from ecommerce portals such as amazon, flipkart, snapdeal, indiatimes shopping, ebay; the latter enables hotel and travel price aggregation from sources as makemytrip, yatra, cleartrip, goibibo, etc. Select sellers as Myntra, Flipkart have found solace in app only strategy, but –my take is with the commoditization of mobile app space, even these mCommerce biggies would have to redraw their access boundaries to cover conversational commerce in some form.
In conversational commerce, the focus is on delivering handiness, personalization, and decision support while people are on the go, with very little attention to spare towards scrolling through the mCommerce apps and making multiple clicks to fill a shopping cart. In simple terms, we all text more than ever through likes of WhatsApp, facebook, line, so why not augment texting’s potential to commerce and more? Catalysts in the arm of conversational commerce are ‘doorman’ messaging services that deploy the aforementioned messaging intelligence and a human in the loop chat assistance to handhold personally when carrying out purchase.
While facebook and Sequoia are big names, the messaging treasure hunt has also been joined by the likes of SnapChat (funded by Alibaba) – a messaging service that also lets you do P2P transfers through its product called SnapCash, Tango (again funded by Alibaba, partnered with Walmart), Viber (acquired by Japanese eCommerce provider, Rakuten with the intent of delivering commerce through messaging), WeChat (China’s popular messaging service that also lets you call taxis, and pay bills through the all in one service), LinePay (messaging product of Line that allows you buy grocery, call taxis). Visibly, the Asian entities are frontrunners in this direction just as they innovated mCommerce much earlier than the famed western incubators.
These innovations are really thrilling and it is early to deduce whether it will change the face for the mobile commerce space. However, conversational commerce logically appears to be a win-win phenomena; a new access channel that would empower mCommerce industry quickly realize its vision of becoming a 700 billion US dollars business by the year 2018. It would certainly revive the passé messaging interface that was thought of the only access channel for mobile money at infancy, however with the difficulty of remembering different SMS short codes, risk prone due to the typographical errors, was outclassed by the jazzy apps. Over time, the use of natural language processing will automate these messaging based commerce services, persisting with the human chat companion to make mobile messaging shopping an easy, interactive and enjoyable affair.
In my routine business discussions, I get to hear this query very often if we can advise on an interactive, wow approach to mobile shopping for customers. MobiFin, the MFS platform of Panamax has helped our customers realize their wish. Through its modular and carrier-grade architecture, MobiFin enables mobile wallet and commerce based services over multiple access channels, text based messaging being one of these.