The Sweet Spot for Conversational Commerce

Great thoughts on ‘conversational commerce’ by Kellan Elliott-McCrea, former CTO of Etsy:

Pushing a button is always going to be easier than using a conversational interface. Therefore conversational interfaces are going hit their sweet spot when the range of possible actions is large. If I’m doing something simple, transactional and repetitive (like summoning a car), a button is the right UI. (I’ll acknowledge this point is debatable in the context of both home and driving where voice UIs come into their own. These venues while important are arguably growing less so)

Following on the idea of a button being a more straightforward UI, if a given task (or purchase) is something I do frequently enough to be an expert, even if the tasks is complicated, purpose built tools are going to be more powerful, e.g. ordering weekly grocery delivery. (..)

So what’s the sweet spot in the near future?

We’re looking for casual transactions, at a moderate price point, that aren’t repetitive, and where we aren’t an expert. And we need to be offering this service in a channel which independent of our offering is used frequently enough to be habit forming.

(Highlights by Early Moves.)

And he has a very tangible advice:

If I was trying to launch something in this area I’d ask myself, “What are the transactions I make, sub-$30, where I still immediately ask someone working at the store for help?”

We talked about the general idea of a text/speech based conversational UI paradigm for online retail and its promises.

This UI paradigm does not only allow new use cases or can enrichen existing ones (one existing example is Berlin based fashion curation retailer Outfittery), it also will lead to new discovery channels. On that front the points of view range from optimism (Chris Messina) to caution (Kellan Elliott-McCrea) to downright pessimism (Dieter Bohn at The Verge).

One comment

  1. […] talked about how conversational interfaces can enrichen e-commerce and where the sweet spot for conversational commerce may lie. But again, the main aspect to learn form Quartz is not the conversational approach but the […]


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