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Conversational e-commerce, how to properly invest in retention6 min read

When we talk about Conversational Commerce (and in this case e-commerce), we usually think about the stages of the Customer Journey that should lead to a conversion. Yet the greatest strength of this mindset remains in its potential for customer retention. Let’s read a bit about this from MBK’s research.

If there is one thing that has jumped out at everyone in recent years, it is the changing nature of communication and sales channels. Once traditional retail has given way to e-commerce, it has exploded soundly, leaving a whole series of fragmented side businesses to mark its terrain. From mCommerce to H2H, to conversational e-commerce: subtle nuances and declinations of a new way of selling.

To get to the very centre of this type of business, and therefore to its core marketing, it is necessary to rethink the communication strategy, not only the message, but also the means (and often reusing old technologies).
A study on this phenomenon by MBK, which has been aiming for some time at implementing its CX from a conversational point of view, has drawn interesting contours; the aim is to consolidate retention, and thus increase savings in lead generationand induction.

What we are talking about

Even the definition (which we owe to Chris Messina, 2016) is quite eloquent; conversational commerce (for us here e-commerce) is based on a dialogue, a conversing and talking with the user. As with any exchange, it is assumed that it is not one-way, but a two-ways type; it is the user who asks, and the brand responds actively and in real time to what is requested.

This is a move away from the eternal dynamic of I SPEAK – YOU BUY;
Communication and marketing are starting to identify with the customer’s point of view, and to do this they must learn to really listen to them, to understand what they want, so as to personalise their experience as much as possible.

In practical terms, these are all those digital (but not exclusively) marketing operations (but not only) that consider an exchange with the user; this can take place at any point in the relationship, not within specific steps of the customer journey, but in relation to the user’s need. Normally, the most used means are chatbots, eMail, SMS, messaging apps (Whatsapp, Messenger, Telegram, WeChat); connection and interaction are in real time (with a manager or with an AI), and serve to build/reconstruct a relationship on the basis of a question or a research of the customer himself, maybe triggered by a telematic push of the brand.

Communication, which in a perspective of implementation (on the CX and UX side) of the means and languages was set on a multichannel vision, thus becomes omnichannel; no potential touchpoint is ignored, so that we can always be ready to personalise the relationship with the customer and guarantee him the best possible experience.

Some interesting data

If you want to analyse the phenomenon from a data-driven point of view, the numbers speak for themselves.

Take, for example, a medium considered by many to be on the verge of obsolescence, such as SMS:

  • the customer response rate exceeds 200%;
  • almost all SMS messages (99.9%) are opened, 90% within three hours of receipt;
  • almost half of users (around 45%) prefer SMS as a method of communicating with brands;
  • promotional coupons sent by SMS are redeemed 10 times more often than other means.
Conversational e-commerce: from Multichannel to Omnichannel
Conversational e-commerce: from Multichannel to Omnichannel

The same data, with percentages reduced by the new implementation, can also be read for messaging apps such as WhatsApp or Messenger (among the first to integrate commercial services).

As we have anticipated, this is not a one-way relationship, but a two-way exchange; users also write to brands. There are essentially three intentions:

  • more than 80% (85) of consumers send messages to request information;
  • 76% request support and assistance (generally after sales);
  • a similar percentage (75%) write with sales intent, which is often integrated into the same communication (Pay-by-link).

Why evolve your e-commerce with a conversational perspective?

Setting a target audience for your business certainly makes it easier to organize your strategies. While profit generation is the ultimate goal of any brand and related commerce, it is certainly more consistent (and secure in the long term) when you achieve appreciable results in terms of retention.

By gradually building the loyalty of one’s audience, and leading them to continue buying, first of all a considerable part of the budget for the acquisition of new customers is saved (which has a significant cost); moreover, a confirmed customer is in turn a brand ambassador, who brings in an average of 9 new customers by word of mouth (not to mention reviews).

Other goals that can be achieved by the proper implementation of conversational commerce (and related transactional communication) are for instance:

  • an increase in lead generation (essentially due to the dynamics of positive brand awareness);
  • an incentive to subsequent purchases (crucial in confirming loyalty);
  • reminding activities (e.g. through news, bookings, cart closing messages);
  • order completion (OTP, Pay-by-link) and follow-up (tracking, review)
  • updating (catalogue, promos, campaigns).

Best practices

As with any dynamic, you need to know how to move in the right way and in good time. The two key words in this case are automation and personalisation; one to make the process smooth and more cost-friendly. The second is to improve the CX and UX, so as to close the entire strategy in a positive way according to the results set.

Actions to be worked on proactively:

  • technological implementation of communication resources, i.e. “putting into action” the main technologies and applications (from SMS or DM manager, to communication apps – properly localised);
  • analysis of responses and reactions in real time;
  • working on communication, so as to be able to use content to influence the client’s decision-making process, but without being intrusive;
  • designing and proposing ideal touchpoints for the busy generation (which includes boomers, millennials and iGens);
  • proposing and offering personalised support, always in line with the client’s communication needs.
Conversational interface to improve Customer Experience
Conversational interface to improve Customer Experience

By developing a strategy that knows how to define objectives and design activities, using appropriate means, entering the Conversational (e)Commerce mainstream undoubtedly guarantees much higher response and engagement rates (especially in view of future changes in dynamics).

In conclusion

Nothing new on the CX/UX front; working on your communication, and on the means to implement it, remains a paradigm inseparable from the objective of conversion and retention.

In general, a cutting-edge e-commerce must have not only an IT system that is up to scratch, but above all an MKTG department that can propose the most appropriate strategies in terms of innovation.

  • Corporate PR
  • Marketing Dept. ProduceShop (
  • The Economist
  • UX Collective
  • ADN Kronos
  • Transactionale
  • Shopify Italy
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