How Amazon Anytime could transform conversational commerce - and vice versa

Amazon

Not every company can launch a messaging platform out of thin air. But then again, Amazon isn’t every company.

If its evolution from online book retailer to web hosting service to artificial intelligence pioneer — as well as its recent string of acquisitions — is anything to go by, nothing is too much of a stretch for Amazon as its quest for world domination marches forward. So recent reports indicating the ecommerce giant is now at work on a standalone messaging application dubbed Amazon Anytime shouldn’t be all that surprising.

Three years after Facebook acquired WhatsApp for $19 billion, messaging apps continue to grow in popularity and scope, with more than 1.8 billion people across the globe predicted to use Facebook Messenger, WeChat and rival apps over the course of this year.

Amazon Anytime (which is expected to follow WhatsApp’s example by offering compatibility over both mobile and desktop) joins a growing list of messaging apps backed by US tech goliaths: In addition to Facebook, Apple and Google control their own solutions as well. All are responding to consumers’ increasing preference to interact with brands via messaging channels, a trend dubbed “conversational commerce” by Uber product and UX designer Chris Messina.

Amazon’s messaging play is a clear indication that the company recognises that this evolution in purchasing habits has the potential to drastically impact the next decade of customer engagement. Here’s what Amazon stands to gain from the launch of Anytime:

Interactive purchases strengthening customer relationships

Customers love brands that recognise their identity and treat them as individuals with unique preferences, instead of simply anonymous, interchangeable users. Recommending items based on shoppers’ buying habits and preferences over time is a cornerstone of Amazon’s business — arguably no other brand knows as much about its customers’ tastes, consumption habits and buying tendencies, information it leverages throughout each step of the customer journey.

By launching a messaging app, Amazon will have the ability to build its purchasing recommendations and shopper insights into its users’ conversations. Whether it chooses to do this by embracing chatbots or by monitoring conversations for certain keywords, one thing’s for sure — Amazon’s new messaging app will help it get to know its customers on an even more intimate level.

No matter what Amazon chooses to do with this data, the customer experience is likely to improve on an exponential level. 

Brands with more personality

Everyone has a favourite brand — those go-to companies that we rely on again and again to find what we want and buy the things we need. We can’t even imagine living without them. Although a large segment of consumers would say Amazon is their favourite brand, its platform still acts as an intermediary for a network of sellers. For these independent marketplace sellers, creating true brand infatuation under the umbrella of the Amazon brand is a huge challenge.

Adding a new channel like Anytime to the retail landscape has the potential to unlock a wealth of new opportunities for brands to entirely overhaul their personas. Consumers are already interacting with popular brands across a range of channels and devices, and they expect omnichannel experiences that are seamless rather than disjointed or irrelevant: in fact, two-thirds of consumers say they are loyal to brands that provide consistent shopping and booking experiences.

Brands and marketplace sellers that capitalise on the full relationship-building possibilities that an app like Anytime offers can stand out from the pack, building the kinds of truly meaningful connections that guarantee repeat business and transform shoppers into fiercely loyal advocates.

Truly responsive retail experiences

Whilst we don’t know much about Amazon Anytime right now, early reports state that the app will boast an all-in-one service enabling users to send messages, videos, make phone calls, play games with individuals and groups, and engage with other Amazon services.

If these reports are true, Amazon’s decision to create an online touchpoint for all its services that sits right alongside a free chat service demonstrates its faith in customer data. The company recognises that every touchpoint and each consumer interaction is an opportunity to develop and deepen loyalty.

The shift in purchasing habits supported by the rise of conversational commerce reinforces the notion that today’s brand experiences aren’t defined by device, channel or campaign, but by who the customer is — their preferences and past behaviour. To truly capitalise on the potential opportunities that Amazon Anytime presents, marketers need to prioritise customer identity and get to know their most valuable customers on a profound level, and personalise experiences catering expressly to their wants, needs and expectations. And they need to do it fast. Because if they don’t, Amazon undoubtedly will. 

Kathy Menis is vice president of marketing at Signal.

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