Enabling Merchants to Sell in Messaging Without Building a Bot
Shopify has been focusing on conversational commerce for nearly a year. On October 5th, they introduced a new feature that allows hundreds of thousands of Shopify merchants to sell their products through Facebook Messenger chat threads. Although Shopify did receive positive feedback for this initiative, many believed that a bot was built for this purpose, which was not the case. This article discusses how Shopify enabled the product catalogues of its merchants to exist inside Messenger without using a bot.
The Shopify team’s exploration of conversational commerce began with the premise that commerce is a deeply human behaviour that we have been doing for centuries. The rise of the internet caused us to replace the intimacy with a business with convenience. Shopify recognized that messaging presents an opportunity to rekindle the conversations we used to have with businesses and recapture that lost intimacy.
During a hack days project, Shopify used Facebook Messenger to explore ways to facilitate commerce conversations. The hack discussions and research taught Shopify that they should enable the conversation rather than prescribing it. Shopify also realized that they needed to facilitate the entire customer journey inside of messaging.
Customer Journey Roadmap
Shopify’s customer journey roadmap consists of four stages: Discover, Converse, Buy, and Support. To achieve their goal, the team had to partner with the Messenger team to get access to private SDKs and other technologies. Shopify then launched a set of products designed to enable the conversational commerce journey.
ShopKey is an iOS keyboard that gives Shopify businesses access to their product catalogues in any messaging app or email. This feature was 50% progress on the “Converse” part of the journey, but it only gave the business access to their products. There was no way for the customer to browse them on their end.
The Messenger Channel enabled businesses to start conversations with customers by sending them order receipts and delivery notifications in Messenger. The impact of this feature is twofold: it gave Shopify a check mark on the “Support” section of the journey and added 50% to the “Discover” section.
Message Us Button
The Message Us button enabled businesses to embed a button onto their online stores that customers can use to initiate a conversation with the business. This feature completed the “Discover” section by finally enabling new potential customers to have their first transaction with a business through messaging.
Shopping in Messenger
This feature enables customers to browse and purchase Shopify businesses’ products in Messenger and share them with friends. The impact of this feature is that it completed the second half of the “Converse” part of the journey and made progress on the payments front.
Shopify’s initiative to enable merchants to sell in messaging without building a bot is a game-changer for conversational commerce. It facilitates great human conversations between businesses and customers, rather than relying on bots to drive it forward. Shopify will continue to explore ways to rekindle the natural interactions of commerce and conversation. Only time will tell how customers and businesses will adopt this new way of shopping.