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Conversational commerce – the new trend for consumer computing apps

Written by: Nathaniel Foulds

Published on: February 18, 2016

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Industry voices have recently pointed to one of 2016’s most promising technology trends - “Conversational Commerce.” Essentially, it’s utilizing chat, messaging, or other natural language interfaces (i.e. voice) to interact with people, brands, or services and bots.

Imagine having your own personal concierge to whom you could text or chat restaurant reservation requests, your own personal shopper who could source clothes and other hard-to-get items, a personal chef who would pick up and deliver ingredients to your home…

Conversational commerce minimizes the user interface and ultimately creates the simplest experience possible. Instead of having to use many apps, each with their own branding and logos and designs and interfaces, you’ll be able to leverage these services all via a single chat interface. This takes the pain out of having to use, and get used to, multiple apps.

For startups, it also makes it easier to get to market and test ideas more quickly. For instance, rather than having to design an entire app (multiple versions for multiple platforms and devices), get it approved by app store, acquire customers from scratch, etc…. you can design a service that simply integrates with existing apps like Slack or Messenger via the chat interface.

A number of companies like Kip, and famously Magic (where you can text a bot, which links to a concierge service to order you things like products or takeout food), are growing in this area. Magic has generated a lot of buzz for its text bot interface.

The introduction of apps using these text bot interfaces marks a visible shift in user behavior. Messaging apps have eclipsed social networks in terms of monthly active users, and it seems that the development of a bot culture capable of communicating in normal user language is driving the rise of conversational commerce.

This bot-based model is far more capable of personalizing and making relevant the information that enters your consciousness, which is not the case with current knowledge sharing; marketers, editors, SEO experts choose how to disseminate information, and none are interested in their audience as individuals. It’s likely this level of personalization will attract more and more people to use bot-based interactions and transactions.

It’s clear that there is immediate value for existing companies to use bots to establish another form of communication. But, it will be interesting to see what opportunities this bot revolution provides for new businesses – especially ones that intend to operate solely on bot platforms – and how this will impact the way we design interfaces.