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Beyond conversational small talk

Kees Jacobs

Twenty years ago, when internet adoption was growing rapidly, many companies wondered what to do with this new development, the implications of which they did not fully understand. The typical reflex was “OK, so now I will build a transactional website, and I’m in the game.” It took some time for many companies to realize that this required something more than a tactical and technical play—and the laggards spent years catching up in lost sales.

Ten years ago, when smartphones came to the fore, we saw a similar tactical and technical reflex: “Ok, I’ll develop an app, and I’m in the game.” Again, it took time for many companies to find out that merely building a mobile app did not address the complexity and far-reaching effects of the new world of e-commerce. Shopper behavior changed faster than the industry. The same pattern emerged: leaders prospered—enormously, laggards had to catch-up.

Now we are on the verge of yet another major, disruptive development that will change consumer behavior and the way consumers expect to be served by companies: Conversational Commerce. Again the tactical and technical reflex is: “Let’s develop a voice skill for Amazon Echo or Google Home, and then I’m in the game.” Capgemini’s consumer research on Conversational Commerce, and the research initiative with MIT and Intel, give a very clear signal: this goes much beyond “just another user-interface or channel.”

This is no small-talk!

This is about creating new human and emotional relationships between consumers and brands, as providers of curated services and customer experiences that solve problems and engage consumers, whether at home, in the store, or on the move. This about building the capability needed to facilitate natural dialogues with individual consumers in the context of their daily living—and serving them in completely new ways. This is about leveraging vast amounts of data (internal and external, structured and unstructured), and building advanced levels of conversational and shopper intelligence to provide new customer experiences, and commercial and operational intelligence to effectively and efficiently drive business operations (like marketing, commerce, stores and supply chain) to deliver on the promise.

Conversational Commerce will be a strategic business journey. We’re only just at the beginning, and current conversational experiences are still rather robotic and basic. But, we will see a steep growth path towards genuine personal assistance via human-like, playful, personalized, and trusted dialogues.

Companies should start their journey small (yet with a strategic ambition in mind), demonstrate success in real-life pilots, and gradually build out their Conversational Commerce capabilities across three dimensions: consumer experience, technology and intelligence, and business operations.

Capgemini would be happy to be a fellow traveler in your Conversational Commerce journey, leveraging our multi-disciplinary experiences and practices. If you’re interested in finding out more, please click here.