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Customer Service In The Age Of Conversational Commerce

Updated: Feb 10, 2018

And Its Impact On Photo Output Providers

The rapid emergence of messaging platforms as popular commerce and customer service channels presents a number of opportunities and challenges for photo output companies. Savvy players can gain a competitive edge by serving their customers on these platforms, but they must approach this new channel with care and dedicate sufficient specialized resources to avoid consumer backlash.

Hey, Where’s My Order?

Where do you turn for help when you have a question about a product you’re considering or need help with your delayed order?

With over 80% of US consumers using instant messaging apps, more and more people are expecting quick access to customer service without the complexity that often goes with accessing help by telephone or the web.

...And according to Facebook, 1 in 2 people say that they’re more likely to shop with a business that they can message.

The major messaging platforms are responding.

Facebook Messenger has lead charge in the U.S. by opening its platform to businesses and developers in late 2016.

Apple is preparing to roll out a new feature in iMessage that will allow consumers to chat directly with businesses through Apple’s messaging platform -- a major effort by Apple to shift B2C communications, payments, and customer service to its messaging platform.

WhatsApp, with over a billion active users, has just launched its own WhatsApp Business app, which allows businesses to streamline customer communications.

What Does This Mean For Photo Output Companies?

Many businesses are ill-prepared, as only 48% of them are equipped to connect with customers through a message, according to Twilio’s report.

The travel, hospitality and financial service industries have been at the forefront, with American Express, KLM being among the first to launch Messenger chatbots for customer service, according to Accenture.

However, the photo output industry has been slow to respond, despite the fact that chat is the easiest and most natural medium for people to use, especially when shopping for photo products.

With over 80% of US adults exchanging over 50 million photos each day on Messenger and SMS, this represents a significant and growing lost opportunity.

But, this is changing…

The first company to launch a chatbot for SMS and Messenger is Zebra Instant, a Los Angeles-based company that develops and licenses photo merchandise chatbots.

These bots enable consumers to shop for photo merchandise by simply sending photos via Facebook Messenger or SMS, just as they would message a friend. Companies can quickly launch their own branded bots by licensing Zebra Instant’s technology.

Kodak has developed a Messenger chatbot that focuses on providing prints of old photos.

Photo&Go saw such success with their email-based chatbot, that they’ve renamed the company to MyPhoto and are now promoting email as the primary shopping on-ramp.

This new medium presents both a number of opportunities and challenges for the print industry:


Companies can:

- See increased photo merchandise sales by accepting photo merchandise orders on popular messaging platforms

- Appear relevant, current, accessible and friendly, especially among Millennials, who choose messaging as the preferred method of engaging with a business.

- Build trust and create a positive first impression by quickly providing pre-sales support

- Reduce potential negative word of mouth and social media impact that might result if post-sale product issues aren’t addressed quickly or if customer service cannot be easily reached

- Put a human face to an online business by incorporating video chat as part of pre-and post-sale support experience -- by demonstrating products, for example

- Streamline communications by providing order status notifications with instant messaging

- Personalize experience with shoppers’ personal details such as name, age and location

- Offload work from support agents by incorporating AI/NLP and FAQs to automate basic, first-level support


- Developing chatbots in-house requires very specific software engineering skill set and companies without a strong in-house software development resources should consider licensing solutions

- Companies must approach this new channel methodically by developing new training programs and educating their support personnel on challenges, expectations, and demands unique to delivering support over instant messaging platforms

- Companies need to carefully evaluate the merits of providing video-based support as it may have negative impact on brand equity, if not delivered professionally

- Planning for peak customer service demand could pose a challenge for many smaller organization



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