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Conversational Commerce Takes More Than Great AI

Saied Seghatoleslami
Dec 6, 2018

Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning represent the latest wave of transformative technology that is reshaping how enterprises do business, and perhaps nowhere is this transformation quite as apparent as it is in the conversational commerce arena. However, it’s important for enterprise leaders today to be able to look beyond the “shiny object” appeal of AI-driven conversational commerce and understand the deeper requirements for success in this space.

Representing a convergence of shopping experiences and messaging apps, conversational commerce is increasingly being conducted via conversational AI, and the impact on enterprises has been impressive. According to Juniper Research, conversational AI will be responsible for cost savings of more than $8 billion a year by 2022, up from just $20 million in 2017.

These messaging platforms represent a powerful expression of the real-world utility of AI. But it’s important to note that AI is not the end, or even the majority, of the story when it comes to conversational commerce.

To get a broader view of the matter, first consider how conversational AI works: You give the AI a series of utterances and tell it what they mean. The AI generalizes the information it has received so when it sees a new sentence or phrase that means roughly the same thing, it will have a high probability of recognizing the intent behind the words.

But what does natural language understanding have to do with filing an insurance claim, buying a concert ticket or getting a coupon to change the oil in your car? These concepts are intertwined when it comes to conversational commerce, but they are not the same thing. The distinction hinges on a little two-word phrase: customer experience.

Elevating Experiences via Technology

We’ve all experienced a full spectrum of customer experiences in our lives, from the good to the downright ugly. Typically the best customer experiences aren’t the ones that do something unique, but rather the ones that result in the simple, easy and complete resolution of an issue.

Generally the simpler and better the experience, the harder it is for the enterprise to build that experience.

Artificial Intelligence is helping enterprises to scale their conversational commerce capabilities, but in order to deliver a complete solution to customers, organizations require a lot more than just great AI. A good conversational commerce experience requires the following.


Given how new many applications of AI technology are to today’s enterprises, business leaders can and should have access to experts who can help them understand the potential of the technology and school them in best practices.

Strong Natural Language Processing (NLP) capabilities represent an important starting point for a conversational AI, but such capabilities won’t go far if a high degree of human expertise doesn’t go into the design and implementation of a conversational commerce experience. And that expertise can’t be a one-time application. Informed human insight and oversight are required to improve these experiences, day after day, week after week.


While conversational commerce is largely language-driven, there’s often still an important visual experience that accompanies an enterprise’s interactions with customers in a conversational commerce environment.

Enterprises must have a set of tools that enable them to create simple yet rich visual experience regardless of the device that the customer uses to engage. Gone are the days of text-only exchanges, even when it comes to basic customer service and commerce transactions. Today’s experiences must enable the exchange of images, videos and — yes — even emojis within conversations.


Too many organizations focus exclusively on the “conversation” part of conversational commerce and forget that these platforms are built for transactions. That means organizations need, and customers demand, a private and secure solution through which they can supply payment details.

The right experience will not only protect a user’s data and the brand’s customer franchise, but it will also assure customers of this protection in a credible way.

Metrics and Insights

Finally, a good conversational commerce experience is one that continues to improve over time. That means the experience must generate meaningful metrics that allow enterprises to evaluate their solutions and collect information on how to improve them in the future to better align with key performance indicators supporting their initiatives. Furthermore, an experience should feedback information to the organization on other benefits, transactions and use cases customers want and need so that the organization can quickly provide them.

Conversational AI that can understand the natural language does not necessarily translate to happy customers. Success with conversational commerce requires so much more. AI is a part of the equation, but at best it’s only a fraction of the solution. To truly take advantage of the overwhelming trend toward conversational commerce, enterprises must ensure their AI is backed up by the fundamental building blocks of a great customer experience.

Originally published in [AI]thority