Amazon’s Alexa platform may be helping users get accustomed to voice-driven interactions, but its underlying purpose isn’t just to help get weather reports or control smart-home devices. As a storefront, first and foremost, Amazon’s original intention with Alexa places a virtual assistant at your fingertips or in your home to help you shop.
Through AI tools like natural language processing, Alexa has led the retail industry in its rise towards conversational commerce. As if a customer was interacting with a clerk in a retail store, conversational commerce makes it possible for users to engage with software to research, purchase, or get customer assistance with products and services across a wide range of industries.
With Alexa, for example, users can ask any Alexa-enabled device to add an item to an Amazon shopping cart, set a purchasing reminder when a product is running low, or carry out a complete purchase without having to access a shopping cart. The result is a seamless conversational experience that enables consumers to carry out transactions as quickly as it takes to speak a sentence.
On other chat-based platforms, conversational commerce makes it easy to engage with brands without the need for human intervention. AI-based chatbot technology gives users a recognizable chat-based interface to ask product questions or purchase items. Chatbots also don’t always require their own separate app download, offering interactions over popular platforms like Apple’s iMessage, Facebook Messenger, and Google Home.
For many common user requests, it’s possible for chatbots to offer better user experiences with more efficiency than a phone call or email to customer support. A product return, for example, could be automatically coordinated through a chatbot instead of having to go through the lengthy process of speaking to a representative for return authorization.
One of the clearest models of the future of conversational commerce is Jetblack, the product of Walmart’s Store №8 tech incubator for the future of retail operations. Jetblack is an entirely chat-driven store currently serving Manhattan, where users can make shopping requests, get customized recommendations, and process returns.
While an exclusively chat- or voice-based shopping experience for all scenarios may never completely replace the in-person experience, conversational commerce will continue to grow as an added method of convenient and efficient communication. As users continue to become more accustomed to engaging with chatbots and voice-driven interfaces, expect more innovations in the space as brands continue to develop their unique conversation-based solutions.