In this guest post, Tom Glover, strategy director at VERSA, discusses digital islands, digital transformation, and questions what we actually need to transform.
Have we been relying on building traditional platforms or ‘digital islands’, AKA the digital fortress, for too long? Are we still too focused on the all too familiar buzzword ‘digital transformation’ rather than thinking about what it really is we need to transform?
The team at VERSA have just come back from SXSW and while we were there, we saw a fascinating talk by Alex Spinelli called ‘RIP Websites, the End is Nigh’ which aligned with our future vision of commerce.
Spinelli is the Chief Technology Officer at LivePerson where he oversees all R&D globally. Prior to working at LivePerson, he was the global head of the Alexa OS for Amazon.com.
Spinelli is a leading advocate for this shift from ‘Digital Transformation’ to ‘Conversational Commerce’ and, after hearing him speak, I’m a believer.
After some reflection on SXSW, it’s apparent that the website as we know it is on life-support.
We still haven’t solved the simple problems like decreasing calls to call-centres around the world even though 70 per cent of calls to call-centres begin from digital interactions. In addition, only 16 per cent of retail sales in the US are made online and half of those are made on Amazon.
With so much rapid change online, on our phones and new platforms being built every day, users are looking for a way to ‘quieten the chaos’.
Our mobile phones have become an app circus, websites are giving NASA a run for its money in terms of complexity, whilst the user is craving a frictionless experience that makes it easier, not harder, to transact online.
So where should we be looking, if websites and apps as we know it are dead?
After spending a week at SXSW, the most convincing solution to true digital human-centred brand experiences was the most-simple one – ‘Conversational Commerce’.
By ‘Conversational Commerce’ we’re not talking about Alexa Skills, Google Actions. We’re talking about ecosystems that talk and act like humans, yet powered by Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning.
Conversational Commerce delivers faster, more personalised experiences with closer feedback loops than humans can ever deliver.
Conversational business platforms are branded conversational experiences, such as Apple Business Chat or Google Chat that create rich experiences for customers to talk with your brand as if it were your friend. We’re seeing the start of ‘The 4th Industrial Revolution’, using AI, ML and automation to connect in a real way with people, blending virtual experiences with the real.
To give you context, Spinelli broke down a typical customer journey, a woman buying her wedding dress.
Mya, the woman, made an enquiry through iMessage, then from the same platform as if texting a friend, she customised options, saw fitting sizes, and made a booking.
I should mention this entire process was automated. But unlike machines, humans are fickle, and Mya didn’t like the dress when she tried it on.
However, conversational commerce has a seamless feedback loop, so this problem was turned into an extension for the bridal shop. They were able to offer discount codes and alternative options to suit Mya’s needs, resulting in a fully automated commerce interaction that resulted in a purchase.
This was a hypothetical example Spinelli gave, but Conversational Commerce is happening right now. You can order beverages at NBA games, Four Season Hotels offer room service and you can shop Burberry all through iMessage.
Spinelli’s three key SXSW takeaways:
- Stop working on your app and website, they don’t work
- Learn about Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning
- Conversational Design is the new web design
For me, I’m still deciding if 2019 really is a funeral for websites, apps and digital platforms as we know it?
I’m not sure. But I certainly know we need to be doing more to get ready for this 4th revolution now and the best place to start is conversational design.
Simplicity is what users want, and the solution, being able to text or chat with a brand from my couch, is both obvious and gives me a strange sense of companionship and I’m not the only one.