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Why Millennials Are The Conversational Commerce Generation

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With over 75M of them in the US alone and representing a combined $200B of annual purchasing power, Millennials are a demographic your brand can’t afford to ignore. They’re the generation that spends more money online than any other age group, so if you aren’t actively marketing to them today, it’s likely you will be tomorrow.

Where many brands get sidetracked in trying to woo Millennial consumers is confusing their habits for values. They take a cliched concept like “Millennials love technology” and treat it as the impetus for jumping on every tech trend bandwagon that passes by (QR codes, mobile apps, social media “dark” posts) without understanding whyMillennials are tied to their smartphones and social media. Dig a little deeper and you’ll discover that Millennials aren’t into technology for its own sake. Technology facilitates the life they want to lead and the relationships they want to have — it’s both a tool of communication and a means of signaling status and belonging. Specific platforms are valuable because they allow Millennial users to make connections, cultivate their own personal brand and feel as if they’re plugged into the aspects of the broader culture that matter most to them. Facebook, Snapchat, WhatsApp, Instagram and the like are a means to an end and that end is greater engagement with each other, with brands and the world at large. It’s about people, not technology for Millennials.

What does this mean for retailers looking to foster stronger relationships with Millennial shoppers? As Douglas Brundage writes for Ad Age, “The way for brands to build loyalty in the 21st century is to behave more like people.” There is no better way for brands to behave like people than to embrace conversational commerce, which is built on the idea of genuine, helpful engagement between brands and their customers, driven by how, when and where those customers want to communicate.

If you’re a retailer committed to better connecting with the Millennial market, here’s where you need to start.

Look to the leaders

Millennials value authenticity from brands above almost every other trait and there’s little as inauthentic as pretending to be cool. Millennials see a brand’s awkward hashtags, its clunky mobile app and try-hard Snapchat filter and they aren’t impressed. Instead, look at the brands Millennials love and the tools they’re using for engagement and how they’re positioning themselves and their products. In particular, Amazon is a true standout when it comes to setting the standard for customer engagement (lightning fast shipping, on-demand content and customized product recommendations, for example) and is the bar by which Millennials judge other retailers. You can’t go from zero to cutting edge in a day, but you can start looking at what you can learn from industry leaders.

Understand the popular channels

The temptation to keep up with the competition is strong among retailers, but before you fall victim to the ‘me too’-ism that led so many brands to launch mobile apps without considering how technology was changing shopping behavior not just device usage, dig into how Millennials are already embracing conversational commerce. It should come as no surprise that the most successful current applications of the concept aren’t reinventing the wheel. Instead of trying to lure customers to your retail real estate, focus on showing up where they’re already spending their time and building relationships there. For Millennials, that means messaging apps, texting and social media. With mobile users spending over 80% of their time in their favorite 5 mobile apps, communication and media apps are the superstars of the home screen and make up the bulk of interactions.

Messaging apps

The top messaging apps are outpacing even the most popular social networking sites in terms of monthly active users, with Millennials as the largest user segment. Messaging apps users are open to interacting with brands on these channels, with almost 80% saying they were likely to engage with brands via messaging and almost half of Millennials reporting that they’ve already interacted with chatbots on a messaging app.

Texting

Almost three-quarters of Millennials send at least 10 texts/day, so it makes perfect sense when it comes to brand engagement that 60% of them say that two-way texting is their preferred communication option. If you’re still living back in the 20th century with a 1–800 number as the default method for shoppers to connect with you about customer service issues, you should know that fully 80% of Millennials would much rather text you than listen to your hold music. There’s a reason customer support teams are offering end-to-end support via Twitter — it’s one of the most established 2-way short-form communication platforms on mobile.

Social media

The average user spends almost an hour/day on Facebook properties, which explains why when Facebook opened up Messenger for brands to develop their own chatbots to operate within the channel, there was rush to capitalize on this opportunity. In less than a year almost 35,000 chatbots have been launched, allowing you to do everything from ordering pizza to making a flight reservation. Over 1B messages are already being sent every month between Facebook Messenger users and brands/brand pages.

Embrace the Millennial mindset

Studied, talked about and marketed to almost since birth, Millennials are skeptical of bombastic brand claims and stingy with their loyalty. They’re also used to having all of the entertainment,

information and connection they could want at their fingertips. You won’t win them over by competing exclusively on price or product features. You’ll need to demonstrate that you not only understand the values they look for in a brand — sustainability, authenticity, personality — but that you’re prepared to meet your customers where they are instead of trying to lure them to you. For a population that’s been used to unprecedented control and customization in buying everything from burgers to cars, conversational commerce isn’t a fad or a revelation, it’s simply what Millennials expect from any brand worth doing business with.

Interested in learning more about leveraging conversational channels to connect with Millennial shoppers? Get in touch.

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Designing a Customer Experience Strategy for Conversational Commerce

When you master conversational commerce, you’ll deliver experiences that make your customers feel as if you hired a personal assistant to help each of them.  There are several key strategies, smart brands need to think about as they go about creating their conversational commerce strategy. Don’t Forget The Data If conversational commerce is the new paradigm of customer experience, data is the engine that drives all those delightful interactions across touchpoints. Your customers are creating data every time they click, swipe, and like --it’s up to you to find it, analyze it and use it to inform customer engagement. Nordstrom, for example, uses sensors and Wi-Fi to track who comes to the store, wherein the store they shop, and how long they stay. They also incentivize their Nordstrom’s credit card and rewards program to gather data about their clients. Target is also known for its data-collecting. The mega-retailer assigns every customer a Guest ID number, which is linked to their credit card, name, or email address. This Guest ID number becomes a repository of info on a shopper’s past Target purchases and any demographic information the company has collected about them and/or bought from a third-party source. Target’s data is so accurate and fine-grained that they were even able to determine a teenage shopper was pregnant (and send her the appropriate mailer filled with baby items) long before her father ever knew. Collecting relevant data, analyzing it and using your learnings to inform which conversational channels make sense for your brand and what types of experiences your particular customers seek to have on them is the foundation of your conversational commerce efforts. Focus On The Highest-Value Activities Put your energy toward meaningful services that customers already care about. Look at service-oriented features, such as notification capability and on-demand service and support capabilities, to guide the customer journey. Don’t just focus on the “Checkout.” The main benefit of service-oriented conversational channel offerings is the ability to organically drive usage into new channels. For example, a customer might place an order on your website and learn that she can subscribe to order status updates through Facebook Messenger. What she sees as taking advantage of a perk will benefit you by encouraging her toward a channel where your chatbot can take over. ChatBots are best for organic conversations with common use cases, but also provide a sense of personalization and convenience for the shopper. Customer service should be your core use for this technology to start. Be Prepared For Bot-to-Human Handoffs The great thing about a conversation handled over text or Messenger is that the customer doesn’t have to know when they might be switching from a bot to a human. Bot design in the future will focus on what they can do, knowing what they can’t do, and designing a bridge to employee assistance that feels seamless to the customer. It’s not just the customer that will be helped by the bot, but the employee. It will provide faster information and better analytics in real time, perhaps then parsing information to pass on to the consumer. The most important aspect of innovation is convenience for the shopper. They should never have to explain their request twice. Start Simple and Grow to Brand Management You can start with bots as a single voice in the chorus of messages from your brand. The long term will have bots as representatives of your entire brand, managing relationships with your customers. You can start conversational commerce, however, with just a single entry point. You can get your customers used to interacting with you on the same channels they use to chat with their friends. You can piggyback on the culture of quick and informal communication, but be ready to meet their expectations for highly personal and meaningful results. If your bot can’t meet that expectation, your customer could walk away disappointed or annoyed. As the technology improves, and it is, even as we write this, you’ll be able to put more and more of your brand management in the hands of the bots. Authentication Giving your bot a way to confirm the customer’s identity is key to a truly intelligent communication that can leverage data from across your other channels. If this isn’t done right, your bot will see each customer as a stranger, negating the opportunity to provide personalized service. Focus On Concepts Rather Than Solutions Your customers might be on Kik today but head over to Facebook Messenger tomorrow. Focusing on the concepts of conversational commerce rather than today’s hottest medium will help you keep your sanity and provide an agile approach that can be applied to meet your customers wherever they migrate. Try not to get bogged down with the details of how to build for one particular channel, and look instead to use-cases. You can learn more about conversational commerce and engaging your customers at every touchpoint by exploring Linc’s platform and solutions pages. Or take a look at how leading brands like Lamps Plus, JustFab.com and others are using automated conversational commerce strategies in their businesses today, in our resources page.