Let’s Talk About Conversational Commerce
While using his grandmother’s computer a few years ago, a young man noticed something peculiar when he opened her web browser that made him double over laughing. She was typing questions into Google followed by “please and thank you.” He asked his Nan why she was so formal. Her explanation? “I thought a real person saw the questions and answered them.”
This story appeared around the world after the young man tweeted about it. But the grandmother appears to be having the last laugh. While just years ago, we searched using single words, now we use small phrases and, increasingly, questions. With the advent of voice-activated speakers that are connected to the Internet, we’re
not typing words or even questions into the search bar anymore …we’re using our voices.
Conversational commerce is changing the way we interact with customers online. In the near future, a person will yell across the kitchen, “Help me order flowers for my girlfriend.” A virtual assistant will then locate a flower shop nearby and might even recommend he order yellow flowers because his girlfriend recently had purchased several yellow items from other online stores and, thus, seems fond of the shade. With the amount of data available to guide the purchase decision, it’s a matter of when not if this situation happens. It’s
tempting to pull the covers over your head and assume you can’t keep pace, but don’t be intimidated by the wizard behind the mirror. These speakers are simply pulling from information that is easily found on the Internet, and companies that practice good digital hygiene (more on this soon) stand to win the race because they’ll be more visible.
Tip 1: KEEP YOUR DIGITAL FOOTPRINT UP TO DATE
When people search for your business, they’re often looking for fairly basic information such as your hours of operation, your phone number, and location. If you move or change your hours, all of your online touch points need to be updated immediately. You might think that closing early one night because you have to be somewhere else isn’t worth announcing, but a customer met with a locked door after checking online to see if you’d be open could feel the urge to vent on their Twitter feed or Facebook page.
Tip 2: ENGAGE YOUR AUDIENCE
In the past, Google indexed websites and ranked them based on keywords and meta tags embedded in the website coding. Those days are long gone. Google wants people to continue to be delighted with the content
it serves them, so Google rewards websites that appear more appealing than other sites. The content must be “engaging,” which means people will want to linger over it, click on it, and comment on it. This takes more effort than simply stuffing a keyword into the coding. Vanity metrics, such as the number of website visitors or “likes” on Facebook or Instagram matter less than the number of pages viewed, length of time on site, and even bounce rate.
Tip 3: CREATE USER PERSONAS
Start by developing a profile for the archetype of your ideal customer. Make this user as real as possible by giving them a name and identifying what a typical day might look like for them — their hopes, fears, comfort
with technology, etc, — and, most important, what problems they might be trying to solve. For instance, your perfect wedding client might be a woman in her late twenties who works full time in an office. She uses Facebook to keep in touch with old friends but loves Instagram to showcase her favourite visual moments. A user persona helps your marketing director know what language to use and what social media channels to focus on, and it can even inspire you to create new products and services.
Tip 4: TARGET THE RIGHT MESSAGE TO THE RIGHT SOCIAL MEDIA CHANNEL
Don’t try to be everywhere. It’s better to focus on the places where your goods and services will find a robust and interested audience. Twitter and YouTube skew slightly more male. Facebook appeals to a wide range
of ages and genders but may be better for celebration of life messaging than Instagram, which appeals to young females of marrying age. A good marketing advisor will understand what best fits with your strategy. Posting
on numerous sites leads to an overwhelming maintenance schedule, and if you end up letting a channel (or two or three) go dormant, it doesn’t look good to customers.
Tip 5: CREATE A DASHBOARD OF DATA POINTS
Technology allows us to track so many details with more accuracy than ever. Your website should use Google Analytics while your Point Of Sale system captures transactions, timing, average sale, and number of items per
transaction. Set up one spreadsheet that lets you see it all together so you can understand how one data point affects the rest. Weather, for instance, can have an impact. A harsh winter with a late spring can cause a spike in the purchase of fresh cut flowers. (Hint: if the same weather pattern happens next year, launch a campaign to promote treating yourself with flowers.)
Tip 6: FOCUS YOUR MESSAGING
Facebook is a very powerful marketing tool, as it gives small business owners the ability to target ads to very specific demographics. You can take your email list of existing customers, import it into a tool that Facebook provides, and it sends back an audience of people who match the profile of your existing customers. You can create ads that will appear on the timelines of people with similar tastes, wants, and needs and people who already shop with you.
Tip 7: MOVE THE CONVERSATION THROUGH THE SALES FUNNEL
If you’re posting on social media, think about what you want to happen after people see your posts. For instance, if you post about a workshop you’re offering, make sure you include a link that says, “sign up here.” The link should point directly to the landing page on your website that has the workshop registration, so customers don’t have to hunt for it. Think of social media as a venue that should always lead back to your store.
Tip 8: REMOVE BARRIERS FOR YOUR CUSTOMERS
People want their information quickly —the fewer clicks to get the answer, the better. Broken links or pages that require people “click on all the pictures that include a vehicle” or perform a math calculation to prove they are human may be advised by your web developer for security, but these tests create a barrier between you and the customer. Challenge your web developer to come up with ways to protect your site that don’t put the onus on the customer.
Tip 9: OPTIMIZE YOUR LANDING PAGE
Your landing page functions much like a traffic cop. It directs customers to the information they want. Use language that’s clear and concise. Keep important information at the top of the landing page and have buttons that connect to specific segments such as, weddings, bereavement, gifting, workshops. Under each category, you can post product photos and descriptions, blog posts, etc.
Tip 10: KNOW YOUR KEYWORDS
There are several tools that let you identify the key search terms that your customers use the most often. Google Adwords can help, as can serpstat. com. Once you identify the words, cleverly weave them into your website copy online so you’ll be more easily found.
Tip 11: USE CHATBOTS TO INCREASE CONVERSION
Chatbots are replacing the impersonal contact form on websites. They’re easy to set up, and you can use them to connect with people immediately. A chatbot can collect customer information so you can call them back at your earliest convenience. Customers feel as though the conversation with you has already begun and they’re more likely to buy.
Tip 12: LEARN TO “SPEAK GOOGLE”
Google is the bouncer at the bar. It controls the search engine world, so you need to stay on top of the ever-changing algorithms it creates. If you can’t “speak Google,” find a resource who has the time to stay up-to-date. Searchengineland.com is an excellent resource for updates about changes impacting digital search.