Photo Credit: flickr
At the start of every year, it’s easy for pundits and so-called experts to toss out their predictions for the coming 12 months. Most people don’t really check up on how well they did, and within a few months, most of those predictions are already forgotten. But there’s one huge, out-of-the-box social media prediction for 2016 that came true, and in a big way.
Conversational commerce explained
Back in January, tech guru Chris Messina wrote an interesting and persuasive piece about social media on the Medium blogging platform called “2016 Will Be the Year of Conversational Commerce.” What Messina did was define an entirely new space – conversational commerce – and then give very concrete examples of how it would begin to take over social media over the course of the year. At the time, the piece was widely linked to and shared, but nobody could have possibly predicted how closely Messina nailed it.
As Messina defined it, conversational commerce “pertains to utilizing chat, messaging or other natural language interfaces (like voice) to interact with people, brands or services and bots that heretofore have had no real place in the bidirectional, asynchronous messaging context.”
Messina laid out a vision in which we would be talking to brands via Facebook Messenger or WhatsApp and find it completely normal. Moreover, all of us would being to think and type more like a programmer, so that this “interface” could understand us better. This is really big stuff and remarkably visionary, because look at what happened next…
Chatbots, messengers and Amazon Echo
Think about two of the biggest tech developments of the year – the growth of “chatbots” powered by AI and the sudden popularity of natural language interfaces like Amazon Echo and Google Home.
All of a sudden, every brand is trying to figure out how they can use chatbots to solve their customer service problems. Instead of people calling in to a 1-800 number, waiting on hold for 30 minutes, and being forced to navigate a confusing phone tree, it’s almost possible to get personalized, one-on-one customer service via a chatbot. (Just be sure to ask simple questions)
And these new chatbots are now being used to push the boundaries of commerce as well. You can now order an Uber via Facebook Messenger, as well as a pizza from Dominos.
And, finally, look at the unexplained popularity of Amazon Echo and Google Home. You can’t watch TV these days without seeing commercials for these devices. And just try making a purchase on Amazon.com without seeing a promo for Amazon Echo! This is very interesting, because it gets to the idea that Messina first expressed back in January 2016 – that natural language processing capabilities will change everything. We won’t think it strange to ask a lump of plastic just about anything.
In fact, that will mark the final proof that conversational commerce has hit it big – we will begin changing our vocabulary of how we describe these bots and interfaces. We won’t “buy” or “download” them – we will “invite” them and “talk” to them, just like real people. Mind officially blown. Chris Messina, you just won 2016.