Conversational commerce and the apps of tomorrow

Andrew Lawson Profile picture for user Andrew Lawson September 30, 2021
An agile approach to CX means seeking to understand and assess how your customers want to communicate with you. Zendesk's Andrew Lawson shares lessons from the rise of conversational commerce.

App icons in shopping cart standing on laptop keyboard © Maxx-Studio - shutterstock /
(© Maxx-Studio - shutterstock /

While the parameters for how we gather in person are growing and then shrinking again from week to week, per a dizzying list of factors, how we gather digitally continues to expand.

Earlier this year, we tuned in as Clubhouse reinvented the idea of a chat room – the audio-based app creates virtual spaces for discussion. And don't write off TikTok as an app for my kids and their friends: It's now a place where authors market books and doctors promote vaccination.

No doubt, a year from now, a new way to network will be drawing us in… and pushing us to do business a little differently.

For now? Your business has to be meeting customers where they already are. This includes their favorite social networking apps today. Tomorrow it might include something else. The key here is keeping a finger to the pulse of your customer base. Your customer support cannot be a "set it and forget it" operation. Rather, an agile mindset and approach to CX are pivotal. In an ongoing way, seek to understand and assess how your customers want to communicate with you.

Time to get fluent in conversational commerce

This concept is central to doing business in 2021 and beyond. Conversational commerce is where messaging and e-commerce intersect. Think of it like this – your customers want to ask questions, research products and services, and get support all within one thread. Research by Facebook found that 75% of these people go on to make a purchase.

The days of your product or service alone being the heart of a customer's experience with you are past. When we talk about conversational commerce, we're not referring only to the chatting, the rapport between your customer and your agent, or even your general brand experience. The conversational element also encompasses the sense of continuity and relationship. In these channels, everything can be done at once and there isn't a need to 'step out' of the conversation-the relationship lives in the contacts of the customer's phone next to the thread with friends and family. And when this happens, it's possible for the customer to feel in tune with and connected to the company with which they're engaging.

Social media companies like Facebook and Twitter are both aggressively expanding their footprint in ecommerce, a work in progress for both companies. Last month, Facebook made its Facebook Pay service available on Shopify and similar services, an integration that makes it simple for companies to create ads and for users to shop without leaving the social media app. Mark Zuckerberg said in a statement: "What we found is that when these ads link off site, you often land on a webpage that's not personalized or not optimized or where you have to re-enter your payments information."

API – three need-to-know letters

In the universe of business messaging, APIs-application programming interfaces-open up the possibilities of what enterprise businesses can do in terms of customer conversations. With an API, your agents can turn a conversation into a support ticket, mine it as a data source, and integrate it into your CRM and customer support software. This way, companies can have multiple agents managing conversations while leveraging tools like chatbots and automation. In order to connect all of these points, a flexible platform is a must. When a platform uses open standards and common languages, developers and administrators have what they need to create the support tool that's exactly right for their company.

Why the Instagram API matters so much

Instagram, once a simple photo-sharing service, is increasingly becoming a must for businesses. First of all, it exemplifies this reality of customers wanting to meet you where they are. People post their own images and moments, DM friends, watch stories and reels… and they follow the same kind of content from their favorite businesses, influencers, podcast hosts, fashion icons, career and health coaches – the list goes on. Above all, Instagram exemplifies the potential and power of conversational commerce.

Shein is a great example of this – a global B2C ecommerce platform, it sells 'fast fashion' items, across the gamut of clothing to accessories. Many companies scale out of need or necessity. With Shein, a customer base of avid Instagram users was a driving force behind their push to scale.

The goal? A solution that would make it faster for its customer service team to organize, respond to, and resolve queries. Teams also needed a method of tracking key business metrics like customer satisfaction (CSAT) and response time.

Using Zendesk and Messenger API for Instagram, Shein integrated the messaging solutions from Zendesk with its own IG account.

The results? Not magic, but close. When a follower DMs, or posts a comment or IG story, Zendesk automatically generates a ticket for the Shein customer support team. It's much easier for the team at Shein to respond with up-to-date information, promotions, or support guidance. Results have included:

  • 73% decrease in first-response reply time after Messenger API for Instagram integration with Zendesk.
  • 50% increase in number of Instagram messages SHEIN customer service agents could respond to in one hour.
  • 18% improvement in overall service-level agreement (SLA) for comment and ticket responses.


CX can learn from the different directions in which people are starting to engage. Bringing an agile mindset and approach to CX means meeting your customers where they are – particularly on their social media apps of choice. When you give your customers choices and provide your teams with a flexible platform, you pave the way for efficiency all around, and an engaged customer base that really feels that you get them.

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