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jerryking : conversational_commerce   6

Tech groups push ‘chat commerce’ to western shoppers
SEPTEMBER 23 2019 | Financial Times | by Patrick McGee in San Francisco.

From wishing a friend happy birthday to contacting a colleague about a meeting, text messaging is central to much of 21st-century life, with one glaring exception: commerce....the potential for brands to engage with customers and sell goods using pithy, personalised messages is vast. On the Chinese app WeChat, 170m people browse for products — and pay for them — every day on more than 600,000 “mini-programs” within the app. They hail cabs, buy groceries, book doctor’s appointments and even get tourism recommendations through real-time crowdsourcing.

Now, after a series of failed starts, so-called conversational commerce may be set to gain traction in the west, as a host of tech companies attempt to follow WeChat’s lead.

In its new iOS 13 software update, Apple is prompting users on its iPhones who attempt to make a call to companies such as Burberry, Hilton and Verizon to “start a Business Chat instead, so you can interact with a business from a text instead of waiting on hold”.

Apple Business Chat, which was first announced in 2017, lets consumers communicate directly with brands within the Messages app — usually via sophisticated artificial intelligence chatbots — enabling them to ask questions about products and pay for them through Apple Pay, which is integrated into the platform......

‘There is no shortage of demand’

Proponents say the reason texting works in commerce is the simplicity and intimacy of the experience. Consider what happens when a flight is cancelled, causing 200 people to suddenly need to make new plans. Customer service is bombarded; passengers are left waiting on hold. Instead, an airline could let each person text their preferences, then put their phone away as an answer is worked on.

“The idea that [customer service] has to be this synchronous thing where you settle down for a 10-minute conversation on the phone is ridiculous,” said Charles Golvin, researcher at Gartner. “The actual aggregate amount of time you need might be 30 seconds.”.....Making customers feel they are engaging with an individualised service that responds quickly with helpful answers is critical. Instead of hiring a massive staff to respond to each and every query, companies are deploying AI to field customer questions using chatbots, though these can defer to human employees when necessary.

Into the west

So far, attempts to bring conversational commerce to the west have received a lot of hype but little traction. Three years ago, after Uber integrated ride-hailing into Facebook Messenger, product designer Chris Messina hailed 2016 as “the year of conversational commerce” — a prediction that never materialised.

“I don’t think ‘fail’ is too harsh — the uptake of commerce through messaging in the US has been dismal,” Mr Golvin said.

Nevertheless, momentum is beginning to pick up, with sales volume tripling in the past three years, led by in-app messaging within Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest.

Brian Long, chief executive of Attentive, a Sequoia-backed start-up building text platforms for more than 400 brands ranging from Jack in the Box fast food to luxury apparel brand Coach, said it is becoming clear that email marketing does not work, especially among younger people.....Apple declined to say how many brands are participating on Business Chat, but a deal inked earlier this year enabled all 800,000 online merchants on Shopify to engage with customers over text and transact with Apple Pay.

Michael Perry, director of product for conversational offerings at Shopify, said brands using text to engage with customers are building trust that translates into higher spending habits.

“You’re more likely to pay a premium [for] a brand you like,” he said. “And messaging, more than any other medium, powers that.
Apple  brands  chat  chatbots  conversational_commerce  messaging  mobile_applications  Shopify  text_messages  WeChat 
september 2019 by jerryking
What’s Next for Company Chatbots - WSJ
By Sara Castellanos
Sept. 24, 2019 5:30 am ET
Early corporate adopters of chatbots, finding that the technology has saved them money, are working to improve them and exploring other areas where they could be put to use.

Chatbots use artificial-intelligence-based algorithms to understand and answer text or voice questions from customers and sometimes employees. Companies such as TD Ameritrade Holding Corp. , Ernst & Young LLP, Progressive Corp. and International Business Machines Corp. have rolled out chatbots in recent years and say they are seeing tangible benefits.

“It’s a key part of our strategy and we’ll continue to invest in it,” said Vijay Sankaran, chief information officer at brokerage firm TD Ameritrade.

Since it began offering text- and voice-based chatbots to clients in 2017, TD Ameritrade hasn’t needed to hire any new human agents, even though it has added many more clients, Mr. Sankaran said. Chatbots can answer basic questions about trade statuses and resetting passwords, while humans help with more complex problems related to taxes and beneficiaries.

Insurer Progressive offers text-based chatbots on Facebook Messenger and in apps; it plans to roll one out on its website later this year. Chatbots are expected to save the company about $5 million this year%
algorithms  artificial_intelligence  bots  chat  chatbots  complex_problems  conversational_commerce  IBM 
september 2019 by jerryking
China, Not Silicon Valley, Is Cutting Edge in Mobile Tech - The New York Times
AUG. 2, 2016 | NYT | by By PAUL MOZUR.

Silicon Valley has long been the world’s tech capital: It birthed social networking and iPhones and spread those tech products across the globe. The rap on China has been that it always followed in the Valley’s footsteps as government censorship abetted the rise of local versions of Google, YouTube and Twitter.

But China’s tech industry — particularly its mobile businesses — has in some ways pulled ahead of the United States. Some Western tech companies, even the behemoths, are turning to Chinese firms for ideas.

“We just see China as further ahead,” said Ted Livingston, the founder of Kik, which is headquartered in Waterloo, Ontario.

The shift suggests that China could have a greater say in the global tech industry’s direction. Already in China, more people use their mobile devices to pay their bills, order services, watch videos and find dates than anywhere else in the world. Mobile payments in the country last year surpassed those in the United States. By some estimates, loans from a new breed of informal online banks called peer-to-peer lenders did too.....“The cool thing about chat is it becomes an operating system for your daily life,” Mr. Livingston said. “Going up to a vending machine, ordering food, getting a cab: Chat can power those interactions, and that’s what we’re seeing with WeChat.”....Chinese companies also approach the internet in a different way. In the United States, tech firms emphasize simplicity in their apps. But in China, its three major internet companies — Alibaba, Baidu and the WeChat parent Tencent — compete to create a single app with as many functions as they can stuff into it.

On Alibaba’s Taobao shopping app, people can also buy groceries, buy credits for online games, scan coupons and find deals at stores nearby. Baidu’s mapping app lets users order an Uber, reserve a restaurant or hotel, order in food, buy movie tickets and find just about any type of store nearby.

Tencent has opened up WeChat to other companies, allowing them to create apps within WeChat.
chat  China  conversational_commerce  Facebook  Kik  mobile_phones  mobile  Silicon_Valley  Stratechery  Tencent  WeChat 
august 2016 by jerryking
What Comes After Apps - WSJ
By CHRISTOPHER MIMS
Updated Feb. 22, 2016

The first and most intriguing alternative to apps is chat. This is hard to understand for anyone who hasn’t spent time in Asia or at least read about the dominance of WeChat and its competitors, but in China chat apps are used for everything from hailing a car to paying for your Coke at a vending machine.

Kik, a chat app that doesn’t get as much attention as rivals but for U.S. teens is on par with Facebook Messenger and Snapchat in terms of users and importance, will roll out similar functionality within six months, says Chief Executive Ted Livingston.

A growing share of these commercial chats take place with so-called chat bots—interactive computer programs that prompt users to select from among several options, for example. Imagine scanning a chat code on the back of the seat in front of you at a ballpark and having a brief conversation with a chat bot about how many and what kind of beers you want to order.

Chat, says Mr. Livingston, could manage most of the real-world interactions that previously would have required us to visit a mobile Web page, download an app, or—in some cases—give up in frustration with a phone’s constraints. Chat apps won’t solve the walled-garden problem of apps, but they could at least create lightweight interactions with services that happen in seconds and don’t require us to spend time downloading or loading anything.

A TechCrunch article in January indicated that Facebook will soon reveal similar technology within its Messenger app. At least at first, building chat bots that work on any chat app should be easier for developers, because they have similar interfaces. Chat, in other words, could become the new Web browser.
bots  chat  chatbots  Christopher_Mims  conversational_commerce  Facebook  Kik  lightweight_interactions  messaging  mobile_applications  walled_gardens  WeChat 
february 2016 by jerryking
Why Apps for Messaging Are Trending - NYTimes.com
By MIKE ISAAC and MICHAEL J. de la MERCEDJAN. 25, 2015

a glimpse into how some personal messaging apps like Instagram, WeChat and Snapchat — already used by millions of people sharing text or images among friends — will be used in the future.

Some publishers, game makers and e-commerce companies are using the apps as a new distribution and moneymaking platform. Developers have been expanding the uses of the apps, making new functions possible. And investors, seeing huge potential, have driven the apps to ever-higher valuations.
...The initial appeal of the apps is simple. They are faster to use than email, and they generally allow you to send text, links, video and photos to friends more cheaply than traditional texting services offered by wireless carriers like Verizon or AT&T.
chat  chatbots  conversational_commerce  mobile_applications  messaging  Instagram  WeChat  SnapChat  ephemerality 
january 2015 by jerryking

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