Texting has become the most ubiquitous form
of communication in the world. Western businesses, however, have largely failed to capitalise
on the trend.
In China, the use of texting to shop, hail cabs or buy groceries is the norm. WeChat’s
one billion users engage with brands to get personalised answers.
On any given day 170 million WeChat consumers
use 600,000 miniprograms within the app to shop or engage with brands.
Alex Spinelli, the co-creator of Amazon’s
voice assistant Alexa, says “WeChat is, in many ways, the internet in China.”
He’s not wrong. WeChat accounts for more
than one third of mobile traffic in China and its massive success is inspiring a host
of western brands to learn from it.
Mr Spinelli is now chief technology officer of LivePerson, a $2.5bn tech company helping
brands communicate with consumers over SMS.
A staff of responders would be too inefficient, so LivePerson uses artificial intelligence
to field customer questions using chatbots.
The trend is called conversational commerce and it is booming.
Brian Long, CEO of Attentive, a Sequoia-backed
start-up building SMS platforms for more than 400 brands, believes that in the next five
to 10 years, companies will all embrace the trend.
He could be right. Tech giants Apple, Google and Shopify are
all getting into the field, convinced it is the next big thing for ecommerce.