Is the core of today’s retail business all that different from 150 years ago when The Galleria Vittorio – one of the first shopping malls – was opened in Italy. Let’s look at the customer-facing touchpoints like window displays, store shelves, and cash counters. Even back then, the intent of the retailer was based on three major expectations:

  1. Attract customers to the store
  2. Keep them inside for as long as possible
  3. Impress them enough to return

Retail backend technology has been steadily evolving since Mr. Charles Kettering designed the world’s first electric cash register in 1906 to accelerate the checkout process and improve record-keeping. In recent years, there have been AI-led innovation leaps across the core systems that run behind the closed doors of any retail company, be it online or in-store. What hasn’t remained unchanged has been their twin focus on creating more business efficiency while building smarter buying journeys.

 85% of customer support interactions will be performed by a chatbot - Gartner

Now, the average shopper’s journey – from discovery to purchase – has witnessed enormous growth, with the rise of mobile devices and internet accessibility. With modern retailers adapting to digital transformation initiatives like deploying virtual assistances, building a social media presence, enabling voice search on the website, etc., conversational commerce is powering front-end customer experiences.

What exactly does conversational commerce mean in 2021?

The first time the world heard of conversational commerce was when Chris Messina used it in his article on Medium about “Messaging apps bring the point of sale to you.” Some of the popular conversational commerce platforms are chatbots or virtual assistants, live chat, and voice assistants.

However, in 2021, the need for retailers to deliver this type of experience has exponentially increased – extending way beyond the footprints of Facebook Messenger and Amazon Echo. Led by rapidly-evolving Natural Language Processing (NLP) technologies, retailers are proactively engaging shoppers with automated, real-time conversations. It fuels the shopping journey with more speed, accuracy, and convenience, and availability.

Benefits of conversational commerce

  • Automate a considerable chunk of customer interactions – free up your workforce to focus on more value-driven initiatives
  • Accelerate the complete shopper journey – from awareness and purchase to support
  • Provide “anytime, anywhere” human-like experiences
  • Be proactive, not reactive – engage based on real-time data insights and historical patterns
  • Personalize offers, discounts, loyalty programs, and recommendations
  • Lead customers to safer and faster payment methods
  • Create more brand advocacy with an unintrusive customer feedback strategy
  • Extend customer lifetime value by up-selling and cross-selling based on context
  • Offer top-notch 24×7 technical support in multiple languages

 Benefits of conversational commerce

Conversational commerce also equips retailers with data-rich analytics to better understand customer trends and increase the level of personalization in every interaction – no matter the touchpoint. This is crucial because advanced content personalization requires an in-depth analysis of various patterns in search data, customer behaviour, and content marketing delivery.

Future-ready retailers have already deployed AI-led conversational commerce to help create segments with data on the profile of the customers. It could be based on who completed a purchase, added an item to an online cart, viewed website content, etc.  It then identifies “similar” customers who have shown interest in talking to an associate. With this data, the AI engine can develop microsegments of targeted promotions on niche sets of sample customers.

After determining what worked and what didn’t, the engine can scale the campaigns by autonomously allocating resources from channel to channel, making content recommendations, and so on.

AI-driven conversational commerce also helps unearth potential high-value customers who are ready to make a purchase. It can trigger information to the sales representative to directly connect with the customers and walk them through the purchasing process.

Voice channels

It’s also important to note that voice Technology is no longer a flashy new channel to interact with customers. It has become a proven channel that seamlessly allows for the capture of robust consumer data through a dialogue mechanism that makes it more humane.

Advances in voice assistant technology will continue, as evidenced by Google’s landmark partnership with Walmart. Modern shoppers can now say “Google, talk to Walmart,” and Google Assistant will directly add products to their Walmart grocery carts.

With Amazon Alexa continuing to add new skills and constantly evolve its NLP ability, today’s retailers can create a more personalized experience – knowing what, when, and how the customer wants. Especially during this unpredictable lockdown period, voice channel-driven customer experience has turned into a gamechanger for many brands.


If retailers want to survive and stay relevant in the current hyper-competitive marketplace, they have no choice but to create an omnichannel interaction strategy that meets customer expectations in real-time. Hence, conversational commerce is a win for both sides: customers receive personalized service the moment they’re ready to purchase, and the retailer can focus on other customers to grow the business.

Wouldn’t that be similar to what a store owner at The Galleria Vittorio once aspired for?

In the world of retail, as the adage goes, the more things change – the more they stay the same.

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