We need to talk about the rise of mCommerce – and what it means for shops and shoppers alike.
In our tech-driven world, it’s no surprise that in the United States alone, mCommerce sales are expected to surpass $740 billion by 2023. Online shopping is the new frontier – with people finding their favorite products in new and convenient ways via computers, tablets, and cell phones.
More and more recently, companies are beginning to take advantage of the untapped sales channels the internet provides with Conversational Commerce. Brands are finding the places people are talking about their products and meeting them there. Social media shopping is booming, with ads peppered in via Instagram stories, influencer posts, and shared products in your DMs – and it doesn’t stop there. If you’re like 62% of consumers, you’ve likely subscribed to receive texts from at least one business in the last year, and probably get a few text messages a month from brands you like, alerting you to sales, new items, or flash deals.
We know that people are spending huge chunks of their time on their phones. On average, people spend 2 hours and 27 minutes a day on social media, and another 48 minutes a day texting. But is simply advertising via social media and text messaging enough? Is that all it takes?
The short answer is no. Conversational Commerce is a great way to build brand awareness and promote products, but many brands use this tactic as a one-way street when it should be a back-and-forth conversation. Brands are asking their consumers to swipe up, to comment, and check their texts, but when customers actually engage, they’re met with: crickets. This leads to unfollows and unsubscribes, and it makes sense! If the customer can’t actually engage with the brand, what’s the point?
Kelly Nyland, previously of Snap, saw this disconnect and decided to do something about it. Partnering with other brilliant minds, Rhenee Barlett and Ryan Hornberger, they set out to redefine how brands engage with their consumers and change the way people shop online. And they figured it out.
Read on to discover how Nyland and team have cracked the code on scaling brand to consumer conversations with Whym — a brand new universal cart built for today’s shopper.
Let’s think about this. Brands ask for your phone number. They text you deals. You respond. They don’t. It’s taking ghosting to a whole new level.
Why is this? Ultimately, brands feel apprehensive about scaling conversations. The bigger the brand, the more monumental the task seems. They try to "automate" as much as possible, but conversations typically take human interaction to do well. This is an age-old problem of phone-supported customer service – at the end of the day, we just push 0, 0, 0 or tell the automated Siri to connect us with an operator. Humans crave a personal touch. No one wants to talk to a robot.
Chat has evolved the same way, unfortunately. Scaling conversations is tedious, but there is hope and customers have figured out where to find it - in DM channels.
For some reason, social media DMs garner different rules than website chatbots and text message responses. Usually, a social media manager is tasked with "community building" and responding 1:1 to social media post comments and thus, DMs. Why? Because for the first time, responsiveness is under a public microscope. These comments and threads live forever, and can even impact your Facebook sentiment score - meaning Facebook will flag or block your account if followers get upset enough about brands not responding. Because of this new pressure, brands are staffing up on social media managers, customer support, and concierge experiences. And the people are loving it.
As a result of these interactions, brands have realized that these opportunities, while cumbersome, are some of the most powerful opportunities to answer questions, offer product recommendations, relieve frustrations and ultimately hope that the customer decides to make a purchase following the discussion. And that's how it should be!
Once brands realized the power of these interactions, they looked to take their conversations to the next level: texting.
Today, people seem to be constantly checking their phones – on average, once every 4 minutes. We are in constant communication, mostly via text messaging. It would make sense that brands are trying to break into the texting game – it’s fast, convenient, and personal. But when it comes to utilizing text messages for customer support and marketing, it’s a lot more complicated than just hitting send.
At first, SMS marketing solutions like Attentive Mobile, Postscript, and hundreds of others, were only built for one-way "push" text messaging at scale. They eventually built in a 1:1 customer support interface with automated responses that could help customers reach out to support emails for two-way dialog. While this is a step in the right direction, it’s still not very friendly. The customer gets the hint, “this channel is for marketing, not for me to get answers or help shopping”.
The main reason that 1:1 conversations were deprioritized inside these types of solutions is that originally, their massive revenue businesses were built off the idea of "sharing shortcodes". Shortcodes were a special type of 5 or 6 digit phone number that cell phone carriers like Verizon, AT&T, and T-Mobile agreed could be used by business(s) - only to text customers at a mass scale. There was a lengthy approval process and a hefty price tag - $25,000+ / year to own your own shortcode, and that's before you even start paying to send text messages.
SMS providers lowered the barrier-to-entry for brands by buying up hundreds/thousands of shortcodes from sources like Twilio and Bandwith to assume the upfront costs. They then turned around and "leased out" each number to 100 brands at the same time. Think of this like a “party-line” where 100 brands can talk to millions of the same customers on the same shortcode.
This resulted in a surge of brands and business(s) adopting text messages as a marketing channel - as it became a low-risk, low-barrier, high open-rate opportunity to reach customers with promotions at scale.
However, this created a massive compliance issue for carriers and phone number providers. The crux of the issue was related to unsubscribes, spam, and enforcing “STOP” messages from customers who didn’t want to hear from a particular brand anymore. If you’re Brand X sharing a shortcode with Brand Y and a mutual customer phone number says STOP to your latest marketing message, thus unsubscribing, that customer has unknowingly unsubscribed from both Brand A and Brand B for all future messages - along with dozens of other brands using that same shortcode.
So, as of January 2021, the cell phone carriers & suppliers, an initiative called 10DLC, and phone number providers rolled out a new, mandatory migration of brands and business(s) off shared shortcodes. These same carriers also made a big change - to allow business(s) to text their customers using 10-digit phone numbers that are approved under “verified sender” programs. You can think of this like “verified” social media accounts on Instagram, Twitter, and other platforms. Basically, it legitimizes and regulates each business to maintain best practices in engaging with customers. And, it lets you use a “blue checkmark” at the top of your iMessage conversation - to be rolled out to SMS as well.
All of this is just to say – communicating with customers is new, and brands are still learning how to do it. Because of this, using text messaging and DMs as a sales channel is a new frontier. Now is the perfect time for a new, innovative way to shop and sell to enter the chat.
Whym isn’t afraid of scalable, conversational sales.. In fact, we help enable them.
Whym is a new, universal cart technology that powers modern shopping and makes it seamless to buy from the brands you love. With Whym’s universal cart technology, you set up your account once – and that’s it. Your phone number is your unique user ID, and your verification code is your password. You won’t have to create, remember or update your login credentials (ever) and your cart stays the same across all brands that use Whym. You can buy from multiple sellers with one click – it’s the convenience of your Amazon cart, but without the 25-30% profit margin that the brand will lose when you shop on Amazon. but for everything else on the internet.
Not ready to buy yet? Whym also knows that when you’re shopping, you might be in “browse” mode vs. “buy” mode. Whym powers purchase reminderswith our “Text Me This Item” button that you can find on the pages of any product that sells with us. Whym will send you a link to the item and follow up with you on a 1:1 basis, reminding you of the product and encouraging you to buy when you’re ready – so you can say goodbye to the graveyard of screenshots of forgotten items and hello to new, amazing products. That’s a win/win for the shop and the shopper.
At Whym, we know that your time is valuable. That’s why we strive to make the checkout process as painless as possible, without pointless conversation, lengthy checkout processes or lost passwords. By meeting you where you are, brands are able to offer you products that you actually want and need, and you’re more likely to complete the purchase if it can be done easily. And because you’re allowed to change your mind, Whym also allows you to opt-in and out or change the frequency of texts. If you’re reviewing your order, you can change the items in your cart without going back to the brand’s website or logging into your account again. This means fewer website distractions – leading to more time saved for you, and more sales for shops.
If you’re ready to learn more about how Whym is changing the way we shop, or explore shops that are already selling with Whym, sign up for our newsletter. We’re here to pave the way for easier shopping, for the shop and the shopper.
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