Many Brand Marketers Plan to Try Conversational Commerce

Chatbots and virtual assistants are a top future priority

What will the retail space look like in 2020? Certainly, more technology-focused—at least according to new data from Econsultancy and Conversion.

The survey, conducted in October and November 2017, polled 408 ecommerce professionals worldwide, representing agencies and client-side/brand marketers who work for companies with a transactional website or app.

A large share of client-side respondents (56%) rated the impact of running digital technology experiments as “high” or “very high,” while 53% of agency respondents said it was “average.” 

The study also found brand marketers and agencies had different priorities when it came to the technologies they plan to test by 2020. For brand marketers, conversational commerce—encompassing chatbots and personal assistants—and artificial intelligence (AI) for personalization were the top choices. Meanwhile, agencies were more likely to examine social commerce.

Investment in chatbots makes sense because consumers are becoming more accustomed to using them—especially for customer service. An October 2017 survey of US internet users by PointSource found that more respondents would prefer a chatbot than a human when looking for pricing or discounts while online shopping (36% vs. 34%), searching for delivery information (36% vs. 34%), checking if products were in stock (38% vs. 33%) and tracking delivery, which recorded the highest preference for chatbots over humans (40% vs. 29%).

The low marks given to voice technology like Google Home in the Conversion/Econsultancy survey are slightly puzzling, as it would seem to go hand in hand with conversational commerce. A November 2017 survey of US adult consumers by Aspect Software found 49% of respondents used chatbots or virtual assistants for customer service at least weekly, a figure that rose to 66% for millennials. At the same time, over a third of total respondents liked the idea of using a home-based assistant like Amazon Echo for customer service (38%) and making a purchase or ordering a service (36%).