Conversational Commerce is still just a seedling buzzword. Chris Messina wrote about this in early 2015, again this week, and he even has a podcast with USA Today discussing the topic. And although many in the startup tech scene have been quietly sensing the shift, the explosion still has yet to ignite. All signs point to 2016 being the year where #ConvComm (Messina’s hashtag) takes off, and we agree.

“How may we help?” to “Find it yourself!”

If you want to witness a great shopping experience, watch an old black and white television show. As people enter a store, they are greeted. If they need help, they can ask for it. Sales Associates can give feedback, and even offer complimentary items. The whole thing was incredibly easy. Fast forward a few decades, and suddenly brick and mortar stores all have an online presence. That presence, however, doesn’t include the helpful humans who previously made the experience great.

It didn’t matter, either. Those who were leading the e-commerce charge were early adopters who were accustomed to a reduced level of experience but an increased opportunity to play a part. However, e-commerce became the hotbed for companies, and experience continued to play a secondary role in the e-commerce experience. On top of that, social took such a central role in buying decisions that a helpful on-screen sales tool wouldn’t be utilized since many customers were shopping from word of mouth.

Today’s landscape has changed. Social media is playing less of a leading role in the buying decisions of millennials and Generation Z as they push ahead with forming their own opinions. We’ve spoken about this for two years now, but experience is everything.

When I was working with Visa in Singapore, we brainstormed experiences for customers including private chefs, personal shoppers, and chauffeurs. Services like Uber have gilded the concept that today’s consumers want great experiences, and that is where #ConvComm comes into the spotlight.

All Eyes On Mobile Messaging

There are billions of monthly active users on mobile messaging apps including SMS/MMS, WhatsApp, Messenger, WeChat, LINE, Kakaotalk, and more. When working with Adidas at their headquarters in Germany, we wrote out adjectives about “Today’s Consumer.” The top three were mobile, messaging-centric, and fickle. Let’s overlay those onto e-commerce today to better understand what isn’t working.

Nearly half of all web traffic is from mobile devices, predominantly mobile web. Nearly half of the world uses text messages or a mobile messaging app. Consumers are fickle. Data backs up that today’s consumers have expectations that, if not met, are the deciding factor of continuing to use a brand. A recent update to McKinsey’s Customer Decision Journey actually includes ongoing brand engagement. So, the Adidas Mobile team was correct in their assertions. What now?

Conversational Commerce

We all know how to create a customer persona, and right there consistently across the board is the texting and mobile messaging commonality across all personas in all geographies and age groups. Texting and messaging is the #1 activity on smartphones. The technology, however, wasn’t there for companies to take advantage of getting into the conversation.

In 2013, I laid out more data than a standard SQL database can hold that proved a trend towards #ConvComm. Here at Teckst, we’ve been blessed with record-breaking sales and adoption from companies. And the deluge isn’t slowing. At a rate far exceeding the norm, inbound leads are flooding our inbox and outbound sales are as easy as doing a demo.

Giant companies like Facebook and Google, and smaller companies like Pypestream, Heywire, Zingle, Sonar, and Teckst are bringing this technology to companies as fast as possible.

We’re inside the machine that’s bringing #ConvComm to businesses across four continents. At our current pace, and the pace of growth for other companies in this space, before the end of the year you’ll be engaging with companies by #ConvComm on the regular. It’s happening now, and it’s going to be everyday practice within 12 months.

Early Signs in 2016

Already this year, clients are sharing data with us that proves acquisition has increased from on-site or in-app customers by nearly 15%, with a steep reduction in cost-per-acquisition. The use cases are quite clear, too. A new customer downloads an app from a company they’ve never used. There’s no way for them to contact the company, so an abandon was all but guaranteed. With a “text us!” call to action the barrier to entry is so low, acquisition KPIs have all benefitted. Another use case is when a customer comes to a site from their mobile device and has a question that would be oh-so-easy to text, but a pain in the butt to email or call. With #ConvComm, it’s taken care of in a matter of seconds.

Post-conversion, when brands are trying hard to distinguish themselves by their great customer experience, nothing is more engaging to a customer than their beloved text messaging. From shaving companies to cable companies, 2016 has been a big year for a variety of verticals getting into the space. With VIP texting concierges, text-to-return, and even automated text replies with answers to various questions such as, “How do I dunk?” for video game makers, the early signs are flashing lightning-bright that 2016 is the year for Conversational Commerce to blossom.