In an interaction with Inc42, CM.com's Gleb Grozovskii discusses how conversational commerce can be leveraged to provide a seamless CX
He believes that there are several roadblocks in India to fully adopting conversational commerce
Grozovskii further talks about the importance of leveraging Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp to facilitate conversational commerce
Digital experiences define the everyday lives of individuals today, and reaching the modern Indian consumer is no longer about having an email address or a phone number. But many businesses are still stuck in their ‘old ways’ — emails, push notifications and SMS marketing — when it comes to reaching customers. It’s no wonder that they suffer from low marketing return on investment (ROI), sagging engagement rates and limited customer insights.
A lot of this has to do with how consumers have matured. They seek meaningful interactions with brands and businesses, instant responses and resolutions and personalised experiences. That’s an area that conversational commerce delivers on, with a two-sided promise of higher customer satisfaction and improved marketing performance for businesses.
A Research And Markets report estimates that conversational commerce will reach a market value of $51.97 Bn by 2028, at a CAGR of 18.9%. And experts believe that these projections may well be conservative as conversational AI and large language models have further changed the game.
Of course, businesses also need the right expertise to navigate this ever-changing world of conversational commerce. Business solution providers such as CM.com, the Netherlands-based cloud software major, have made this convenient with their API integration and advanced tools. Marketers are no longer searching in the dark for the best way to implement conversational commerce.
Plus, marketers are also realising that conversational commerce makes sense for Indian businesses because regardless of where the consumer shops, customer service is best delivered at a personal level — such as on WhatsApp, Instagram and other social channels. Simply put, it brings customer service closer to the end user and makes them feel valued thanks to the immediacy of resolutions. It’s also about making problem solving effortless and seamless for the end customer.
Of course, more importantly for businesses, it solves a major problem related to costs and marketing spends gives greater visibility into your customer service campaigns to curb overspending on ineffective channels and double down on what’s working to unlock growth.
How can businesses optimise their marketing budgets and implement large-scale personalisation through conversational commerce? To know this and more, Inc42 spoke to Gleb Grozovskii, the head of sales (India) at CM.com, who shed light on the potential of this approach and the right strategies for marketers looking to leverage conversational commerce.
Below are the edited excerpts of the interview.
Inc42: What is the first step in the conversational commerce journey for businesses?
Gleb Grozovskii: Like any other digital strategy, a good place to start is identifying business challenges: is it related to brand awareness, customer acquisition, conversion metrics, retention, engagement, channel sales or all of them? Once these challenges are identified, you should clearly define the marketing goals for each and break down the current costs — financial and opportunity — for each of these aspects.
For instance, you can look at the past purchase behaviour of a customer, and identify the drop-off points during the shopping journey to know where conversion is failing or where the engagement rates are low. Creating a cohort of customers on the basis of this behaviour can help arrest drop-offs.
Personalisation goes beyond including the first name in the copy. What lies at the core of personalisation is effective segmentation. A customer data platform (CDP) helps create segments and build unique journeys for different customer segments.
This not only allows marketers to create hyper-personalised campaigns for different segments of customers, but also more effectively target future customers that fall into these cohorts.
At CM.com, we also suggest starting slow and not going all-in with your first digital campaign. Running A/B tests helps monitor costs and continually optimise campaigns. These can only be done after effective segmentation. So this is more often than not, the first step.
Segmentation also helps you narrow down the channels that are working for you. Whether it is the app, the website, social media channels, WhatsApp, SMS or email. While the omnichannel approach is effective, understanding which channels work best is critical for optimising budgets using conversational commerce as each channel has different degrees of data dependency.
Inc42: Building an automation stack from scratch can be daunting. Is there a playbook marketers can use to ease some of the heavy lifting?
Gleb Grozovskii: Yes, building the right marketing automation tech stack for a brand is significantly challenging. You need to carefully choose the tools that integrate with your existing data systems and a skilled team is needed to execute.
Let’s take the example of personalisation — firstly, marketers need to think beyond sending push notifications to customers. That’s not personalisation.
Personalisation involves understanding how a customer interacts with the brand’s app or website and then intervening at the right time to optimise their journey. Tailoring messaging at various points in the shopping journey, for instance, is far more effective than the relatively broader messaging in advertisements and push notifications.
Customer engagement is about understanding the various stages of the customer journey and defining use cases accordingly. Combining the right customer engagement strategy with personalised experiences can enhance customer satisfaction, net promoter score and customer lifetime value, which are the key metrics for measuring success.
Conversational commerce interventions can strengthen weak points in the customer journey through personalisation and boost conversion rate.
Inc42: What roadblocks do Indian marketers encounter while implementing conversational commerce and how can they integrate it into their existing marketing matrix?
Gleb Grozovskii: Firstly, you need to understand that conversational commerce is a relatively new concept in ecommerce. There are no established playbooks and best practices specifically tailored for different industries. So it can be challenging for businesses to implement conversational commerce effectively and integration is also very operations-dependent.
There is ambiguity around the meaning of conversational commerce itself, multiple interpretations exist and it all depends on which of these meanings make the most sense to solve your business problem — which is the first step highlighted above.
Additionally, fully integrating a business’s existing stack with vendor tools for conversational commerce can be challenging and expensive. We suggest companies consider adding WhatsApp to their tech stack, as it is the gateway to the conversational commerce journey.
Businesses can retarget ads on Instagram or social media and drive traffic to WhatsApp to facilitate the completion of the purchase journey.
One effective strategy is running Click To WhatsApp Ads on Facebook, which can drive traffic directly to a business’s WhatsApp account and encourage conversational commerce interactions.
Another challenge is balancing AI-based recommendations and human intervention in the customer’s purchase journey. While AI recommendations can be practical for many brands, one can’t ignore the value of human interaction, especially in certain industries or specific consumer behaviour.
Inc42: We’ll come to AI soon, but earlier you spoke about industry-specific strategies — what are some examples of CM.com’s partnerships delivering results for Indian brands across travel tech, ecommerce, healthtech and edtech?
Gleb Grozovskii: Every industry has a different and similar use case, therefore it’s crucial to understand what conversational commerce means for the particular industry.
For instance, conversations in travel tech can assist customers in booking cabs, hotels and buses and travel experiences, if they have already booked a flight ticket. Conversational commerce unlocks the upselling potential of travel tech. The AI-powered conversational commerce tools can analyse best flights for customers and recommend these based on their past bookings.
In ecommerce, we have seen conversations and chat commerce create an end-to-end shopping journey. WhatsApp is a messaging channel, a storefront, the shopping assistant and the checkout counter, so conversations can be a very powerful motivator if WhatsApp is a significant channel for your business.
Similarly, in healthtech, users find the right doctor, can book doctor appointments, set reminders and evaluate symptoms and generate OTPs for insurance and other data in a natural conversation flow — just as they would with a real doctor.
In edtech, conversational commerce can help students and parents find the right course and businesses can use past transactions and outcome data to upsell courses to existing customers. It can also be a useful component in doubt solving for the K-12 and test prep space.
Inc42: Experts predict that generative AI will revolutionise marketing. What is your take on this and what practical applications can marketers explore with generative AI?
Gleb Grozovskii: Generative AI is a great example of the influence of modern day machine learning, large language models and artificial intelligence at large. It will help marketers solve their challenges while running their day-to-day campaigns in a more personalised manner. Only time can tell whether or not it will “revolutionise” marketing, but it will have a huge impact certainly.
Practical applications for marketers include generating and modifying text, images and video. It also helps marketers optimise their digital campaigns by understanding and converting large amounts of data into practical and actionable insights.
We have integrated ChatGPT into our solutions and are still discovering how generative AI can be integrated into our portfolio of products. We don’t want to jump on the bandwagon just because it is trendy. Right now, we are understanding what generative AI can do and how it will complement CM.com’s suite of products to deliver maximum value to our customers.
Inc42: You mentioned how conversational marketing strategy effectively saves business costs. It would be great to understand more about this.
Gleb Grozovskii: No one likes to be pushed to buy something. Push marketing can create brand awareness amongst the company’s target market, but pull marketing drives conversions.
Running conversational marketing is cheaper than traditional digital marketing channels because it is about finding the optimum way to reach customers. It’s also easier to track the performance of conversational marketing campaigns because channel data is not in silos.
The growth in the adoption of conversational marketing is directly linked to the growing reliance on messaging channels among Indian online shoppers and digital consumers. Messaging apps have become the new marketing hubs for consumers and here conversational commerce is indispensable. No one likes to feel like they are chatting with a robot, despite everything being automated.
Another point to consider is the cost they incur while running conversational marketing campaigns. Marketers have defined key performance indicators to track the effectiveness of the campaigns and they get access to far more granular metrics to effectively sell, instead of just looking at email or push notification click rates.
Inc42: What are some unique characteristics of Indian consumers that marketers should consider while crafting conversational commerce strategies?
Gleb Grozovskii: India is a unique market that requires a careful strategy due to its size and characteristics, it poses several complexities for businesses operating in the country. As a marketer, you have to incorporate cultural and linguistic diversity in your campaigns, no matter the category.
Marketers must also understand that regional diversity directly contributes to customer behaviour. But marketing fundamentals need to remain the same — keep your customers at the centre of your campaigns and deliver a seamless and consistent experience.
The internet revolution in India has accelerated the adoption of digital-first technologies in all age groups, but there will be minor variances in customer behaviour. Do younger people prefer low-touch marketing and do older audiences find greater value in a more hands-on experience? Each conversation can be customised according to the individual. It’s critical for marketers to address their mobile and digital-first strategies to each cohort accordingly.
Inc42: What are CM.com’s plans for the Indian market in the next two-three years and its value proposition?
Gleb Grozovskii: In the next two-three years, our top priority will be setting up a data centre in India to comply with data regulations. It will help us expand our total addressable market.
We are exploring the possibilities of launching our own payment solution or integrating with various third-party payment gateways for our customers. Furthermore, we have a new product in the pipeline that will enable us to build more personalised interactions throughout the customer journey.
CM.com offers a suite of products for a comprehensive platform that allows brands to leverage messaging channels effectively. Businesses can leverage our Mobile Marketing Cloud to drive conversion, engagement and customer retention. The Mobile Service Cloud enables real-time query resolution, ensuring prompt and efficient customer support. Our Conversational AI Cloud empowers brands to deploy chatbots across multiple channels, streamlining communication and enhancing CX.
We also plan to launch CM Connect, which is aimed at helping brands integrate with third-party tools. Brands will be able to leverage our suite of products to integrate it with their existing tools and systems.
Over the past five years, there has been a shift due to changing consumer behaviour and the rapid growth of SaaS in the country. However, we also recognised the challenges that brands face in dealing with multiple vendors and platforms when it comes to communication.