What’s New in Conversational Commerce

Woman messaging chatbot on mobile phone

A year ago, I wrote a blog post about Conversational Commerce, the emergence of messaging apps as a major communication channel, hotly tipped to be the next revolution in consumer convenience. A year later, how has this trend developed?

In August 2017, there was great global variation in the use of chatbots for ordering products and services. In Brazil, 52 percent of consumers had used a chatbot to order a taxi, while in the U.S. the number was 10 percent, and in Sweden just 3 percent.

Last month, IGT’s trendspotting partner, Foresight Factory, measured worldwide social media commentary on chatbots and discovered that while overall sentiment is largely neutral, many consumers are now comfortable with artificial intelligence (AI)-powered chatbot services.

In the last year, many brands have launched conversational commerce services, powered by AI chatbots, through messenger apps. A 2018 Business Insider Intelligence research report on messaging apps notes that the four top messaging apps (WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, WeChat, and Viber) have grown to about 4.1 billion monthly active users, surpassing the number of users of the four largest social networks, including Facebook and Twitter.1 Given that, messaging provides a lot of potential customers.

Jetstar, one of Asia’s fastest growing airline brands, has launched its virtual assistant on Facebook messenger, and updated its capabilities to include adding baggage to bookings. The new service has cut response times significantly and reduced the number of customers contacting the airline by phone.

SnapTravel lets users find and book hotel rooms via Facebook Messenger, using both AI and humans. The chatbot answers simpler questions around pricing and availability, but agents are on hand should the user have more complex questions, such as what would happen if you booked a non-refundable hotel, but your flight gets cancelled due to weather. The human agents are also able to call a hotel on your behalf, and SnapTravel even claims to try to negotiate a free upgrade for you the day before your arrival.

Charities have been particularly active in using chatbots, both to identify those potentially in need of charitable support, and to drive donations.

The Singapore Red Cross (SRC) has developed a Facebook messenger chatbot called Ella. Ella is designed to communicate and connect with senior citizens living alone in Singapore. It messages the community on a daily basis to check on their mood and remind them to take their medication. If the users respond, “I’m not okay,” Ella automatically sends an email alert to SRC, so volunteers can reach them instantly. The chatbot also allows users to sign up as volunteers for Home Monitoring and Eldercare, SRC’s social and wellness program. Preetham Venkky, director at KRDS Singapore, a digital agency that helped develop Ella, said, “The Singapore Red Cross has been instrumental in assisting the community of citizens in Singapore that need special assistance. Ella was designed with a simple user interface to deliver its objective of lending a helpful hand at all times. We are positive that this will have a considerable impact on assisting this community in Singapore.”2

AI-driven finance chatbot Cleo markets itself as a replacement for consumer banking apps. In January 2018, Cleo added a feature for donating to affiliated charities – currently Toynbee Hall and The Money Charity – with one click. The bot is targeted at Millennials and assists users in saving a flexible amount each month. Through the new one-click feature, users are now invited to donate a percentage of this saving each month.3

To date, few lotteries have developed chatbot technologies. Among those who have, Austrian Lotteries launched “Lotti” in 2017, a chatbot who answers player questions about Lotto, EuroMillions and Joker games on Facebook messenger. Lotti can check whether a ticket has won, give current jackpots and the last ten draw results, and can generate Lotto and EuroMillions quick picks via Amazon Alexa.

Française des Jeux offers bettors the ability to search and create bets in natural (human) language during a conversation with their chatbot. Initially limited to football and simple bets, the chatbot creates bets and presents them as a QR code, then geolocates the user and offers locations nearby where the bet can be placed.

Foresight Factory also sees a clear opportunity for lotteries to use chatbots to reach players cost-effectively, with inspiring content about lottery fund beneficiaries. Storytelling, including photographs and videos about the positive impact of lottery donations, can help players feel more involved and see the importance of their contributions to the lives of beneficiaries.

Chatbot-based campaigns, integrated with the major messaging platforms, will become a key tool for lotteries to provide a degree of immersion for their players, and as technology progresses, this tactic will spread to full virtual reality experiences that let players really see through the eyes of lottery funding beneficiaries. From there, the “Play now” button is the logical next step.

1 Source: Smith, J. (2018, April 4). The Messaging Apps Report. https://www.businessinsider.com/messaging-apps-report-2018-4
2 Source: Tan, J. (2017, September 25). Singapore Red Cross unveils “Ella” chatbot to help the elderly living alone. https://www.marketing-interactive.com/singapore-red-cross-unveils-ella-chatbot-to-help-the-elderly-living-alone/
3 Source: Foresight Factory, August 2018

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