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The Social Commerce Shopportunity of Conversational AI: an Expert Weighs In 


Social commerce is changing how people shop—and conversational AI is letting brands take this new trend in stride, with the power of automation in their back pocket.

Here’s how: AI-powered chatbots empower brands to connect with customers wherever they are, whenever they want, without adding new human teams into the mix. We spoke to Heyday by Hootsuite’s senior product manager of AI, Joan Walters, to get a deeper look into how combining AI and social commerce helps “digital-first” brands create first-class customer experiences (CX).  

In this Q&A, Joan lends her AI expertise to give an insider’s view into how the top social commerce tips for brands looking for an edge all boil down to one thing: ensuring customers get what they want, without any friction. Seems easy enough, right? Read on to learn what steps you need to take. 

Are you ready to seize it? Keep reading for her expert conversational commerce takes—they’re just what you need to get the ball rolling.


  Heyday: How are social commerce and automation transforming customer experience? 

Joan: We’re seeing the evolution of a very sophisticated digital first in CX that lets customers easily search for products, find what they want, and swipe their credit cards. Brands that catch on very early are transforming their businesses on social media, through social commerce. They’re building awareness and creating meaningful experiences for customers, letting them find products and buy them faster—with even the potential of 24/7 support and instant responses to questions through the power of AI.

In the post-pandemic world, the way customers interact with brands has changed dramatically. Most shoppers have either worked remotely or are connecting with family using messaging apps. In retail, brands are taking advantage of social commerce and automation to connect with customers, which is another gigantic shift. 

From a customer standpoint, you no longer have to imagine being able to shop, socialize, search the internet, and get the scoop on what’s happening. Everything happens on social media. The flipside is, brands know where to find customers and can sell on social without human intervention. 

Enter the newest (and biggest) shopping mall!


  Heyday: How much of a “shopportunity”—or requirement—is social commerce for brands today? Is 2022 the year to start a social commerce strategy?

Joan: If you want to meet the needs of your customers and do so profitably, you want to tap into their needs, hear what they’re saying, and launch the right solution. You’ll often hear social commerce proponents say you need to get ahead of the curve to stay relevant. The brands that do that, who are first movers, they’re going to get more of the pie.

The Social Commerce Shopportunity of Conversational AI- An Expert Weighs In -02

Customers are also more likely to buy from brands using conversational AI, with 41.3% saying they are willing to purchase products from a chatbot in 2020, an increase from 17.1% the year before. So: customers are on social ready to buy, and conversational AI is the solution to ensure you’re available all day, every day. 


Heyday: How do AI chatbots empower customers and brands?

Joan: By integrating an AI-powered chatbot with different social channels, brands create an intersection where they can chat with their customers on their turf. Conversational AI helps retailers extend traditional brick-and-mortar operations from regular business hours to the 24-hour, always-on model. With Heyday, they build their own chatbots aligned with their brand personality and messaging to give customers consistent service. 

What truly makes it powerful is brands can offer the same level or an even better level of service through multiple social channels, all without human intervention. It’s a win-win, because customers get what they want at the time they want it without any friction. Retailers also get to do it in less time and at a fraction of the cost. 


Heyday: We know that personalization continues to be a key need for online shoppers. Where does this fit into social commerce strategies? 

Joan: Before social commerce, it was really difficult for customers to even reach some brands at all. Customers needed to fire off an email and they might wait days—even weeks for a response—and sometimes never even hear back.

With social commerce, messaging app usage has surged: almost half the total time customers spend on their smartphones is on social and messaging apps. Messaging makes it instant and personal, as customers chat with friends and family (and now brands more and more). It’s a shift from one-to-many marketing to a one-on-one setting where people are able to jump into their DMs and ask questions, search for a product, get support, and so on. 



Brands get to do all of this, nurture customers on social media, one on one. And it gives them more insight into who their customers are, so they can deliver more personalized experiences.


Heyday: Conversational AI products are everywhere. What are the benefits of going with retail-specific AI? 

Joan: With AI, brands use statistics and data to discover patterns based on customer behavior. Using that data, they can build models that help them respond to customer queries. 

In that sense, you can’t use conversations from a different sector to drive a retail brand. You need lots and lots of retail-specific conversations, like “Where is my order?” or “What is your return policy?” to establish patterns and make predictions as to how customers will respond or the type of questions they’ll ask. That’s the power of an AI solution built specifically for retail.

Researchers estimate AI will impact retail more significantly than other sectors and this will account for  70% of chatbots conversations by 2023. That’s not surprising considering e-commerce’s rapid growth. And in a relatively short time I think we’ll see greater personalization when it comes to product recommendations, as chatbots capture past behaviors of customers more and more. 


The key takeaway: conversational AI takes your social commerce strategy to another level  

On its own, social commerce is the next logical step for retail brands—at least for brands who haven’t yet taken the plunge. But, like Joan hinted, conversational AI is the secret ingredient that gives them an edge over competitors. 

The key takeaway here is that social, combined with AI, is a can’t-miss opportunity (or “shopportunity”). It’s a win-win, because:


Conversational AI makes social commerce frictionless for customers

Brands are now equipped to better predict (and meet) their customers’ needs

As a result, AI-powered chatbots built for retail let brands deliver more personalized CX


Read more of Joan’s social commerce insights in our latest ebook: “Social Commerce 101: the Why, What & How”. Book a demo today to find out how you can harness the power of conversational AI for more sales and five-star customer support in the age of social commerce.


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