Will 2022 be the year of text-to-shop?

Discussion
Source: TextRetailer
Jan 07, 2022

Solutions that let customers shop via text message could soon be a hot trend in the U.S., and there are some big names in retail trying to make it happen.

TextRetailer, Text2Shop and Walmart Luminate (a product being developed by that retail giant) are a few of the names of text-based conversational commerce solutions poised to catch on in the U.S., according to Fast Company.

Even Marc Lore, former CEO of Walmart U.S. eCommerce, is getting involved in the space with a new startup called Wizard Commerce slated to launch in 2022. Wizard Commerce will enable customers to text questions or product images directly to major brands utilizing the service, text back and forth with either an AI or a human to get necessary product information and complete a transaction.

Conversational commerce bots are already in use in the U.S. in the QSR space. A number of restaurant chains such as Subway and Cheesecake Factory launched chatbots on Facebook Messenger in 2017. The chatbots allow Facebook Messenger app users to place orders via text interaction with an AI and pay at the end of the conversation.

U.S. consumers have developed some level of comfort using text-based communication for retail interactions outside of restaurant ordering, as well. Delivery services like Shipt and Instacart, for instance, require customers to text back and forth with in-store shoppers to pick out products and arrange delivery.

Conversational commerce has, however, experienced its share of misses.

Walmart’s human/AI hybrid text-based personal shopping service, Jetblack, was discontinued in early 2020. The service launched in 2018 as the first piece of technology to come out of Walmart’s Store No. 8 tech incubator.

While conversational commerce only started to catch on in the U.S. a few years ago, it has been very popular in parts of Asia for some time. In 2019, Chinese conversational commerce platform WeChat, which launched in 2011, boasted 1 billion users according to Forbes.

Conversational commerce is not the only method of shopping popular in Asia that is beginning to find its footing in the U.S. Livestream shopping has experienced a spike in adoption in the U.S. throughout the pandemic.

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Do you see text-to-shop conversational commerce catching on in the U.S. for general retail? What are the potential advantages and disadvantages of the model?

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Braintrust
"So many shopping missions have become transactional versus experiential, and this is the way to leverage that knowledge and keep it frictionless."

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23 Comments on "Will 2022 be the year of text-to-shop?"


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Dave Bruno
BrainTrust

As a Boomer I have my doubts as to whether I will ever welcome invasive marketing text messages, and I am even more skeptical of my future self’s willingness to not only welcome those texts, but to encourage more of them by making purchases in response to them. However like our discussion of inside-the-home deliveries earlier this week, I may be misjudging how younger generations feel about marketing and buying by text. Time will tell but, for now, I remain skeptical that this will really take off — even with young people.

Gary Sankary
BrainTrust

I didn’t pick up that this was a push model. I’m 100 percent with you, I would be very skeptical of unsolicited texts coming at me on any channel. And like you, no way I’d reward them with a purchase.

Katie Thomas
BrainTrust

From a fully personal point of view (an n of 1!), I don’t find them invasive at all! You do have to sign up/opt into the texts, it’s easy to opt out (just say stop), and it lets me know about sales or reminds me to check in on certain brands. In terms of a tactic, this is certainly one that will vary by consumer!

Gary Sankary
BrainTrust

There was a time, when I’d walk into CVS a welcome message would pop on my phone. That really bothers me from a privacy standpoint. But it’s all about the value prop. If it works for me, and I don’t feel creeped out I’m probably going to stay with it. I do want to be asked, or as you’ve said, opted in.

Jennifer Bartashus
BrainTrust

Text-to-shop faces similar limitations as voice-driven commerce. It works for some uses, like reordering high-frequency items, but is less useful for discovery or bigger orders. Consumers still like to see images of what they are buying, which could hold back broad adoption. The first experience a shopper has with text-based commerce has to be really good – otherwise people will quickly lose patience. Nobody wants to go back and forth for too long via text to place an order.

Dion Kenney
BrainTrust
10 months 29 days ago

There are multiple ways for customers to shop, and technology is enabling creative retailers to find new models for customer/retailer interaction. A text-to-shop model might work for most commodity goods purchasing, like a pound of sugar or replacement ink cartridges. But for any products which are personal, require evaluation, or even just seeing, I don’t see how this could provide a compelling sales process.

Sam Schrup
Guest
10 months 28 days ago

I agree 100%. The technology is definitely suited better for certain types of products. Shopping by text works great for consumables and impulse purchases. Coffee, wine, cosmetics, consumer packaged goods are great examples. Products that require customer research or lots of explanation probably aren’t a good fit.

Gary Sankary
BrainTrust

I’m always skeptical of new commerce models that add friction to the purchase process and, the way this is described, this might do just that. I do think it’s interesting enough that retailers should be testing it. I think it might have a place in e-commerce, I don’t think it will be a significant piece of the pie however.

Sam Schrup
Guest
10 months 28 days ago

When done right “reply to buy” through text can be virtually frictionless. Here’s a quick video that shows how convenient it can be for customers.

Jeff Weidauer
BrainTrust

If signing up for text-to-shop is like getting on an email list, then this will never work. Too many messages, too often, with not enough value. If it’s on-demand only and they can get the AI right, then it has a chance for success.

Melissa Minkow
BrainTrust

Yes!! It is time for text-to-shop to take off. Consumers know exactly what they want to buy in most situations and, given the supply shortages, determining quickly if a retailer can get them that item is very appealing. So many shopping missions have become transactional versus experiential, and this is the way to leverage that knowledge and keep it frictionless.

Shelley E. Kohan
BrainTrust

Investing in text-to-shop would make sense for many retailers and brands. With Gen Z and Gen Alpha who live by text, it will be an easy transition for them to make and, in fact, younger generations may expect text-to-shop evolution from their favorite brands. Potential disadvantages are managing the execution at scale, inventory visibility across yet another platform, and data security of consumer information. Chatbots used for customer service issues via text have really worked well for some companies like Bed, Bath & Beyond so the consumer is ready for this next dive into text-to-shop.

Katie Thomas
BrainTrust

Is it text-to-shop? Or texting as customer service and marketing? There’s been success in driving awareness of sales or promotions via text as well as customer service. Though I would say for text-as-customer service, I’d avoid the AI bot and encourage the use of real humans doing value-added tasks.

Richard Hernandez
BrainTrust
Richard Hernandez
Merchant Director
10 months 29 days ago

I started to see this in earnest last year during the pandemic. I get a lot of text messages a day from retailers, news, etc. I don’t think this option is going to make me buy on this platform – it will eventually become bothersome and invasive but who knows?

Gene Detroyer
BrainTrust

This would not be my choice. I prefer shopping the old-fashioned way, with my computer and chat if necessary. However as today’s discussion notes, this has been available for over a decade. Today, it is the norm.

I can see my grandchildren using this if available. Their first place to go to is their mobile, just like in China.

Georganne Bender
BrainTrust

I currently receive random texts from some of my favorite retailers, usually in the form of a coupon or the announcement of an overall sale, but I have not received one yet touting an individual product or product category.

I have noticed an increase in retailers requiring customers who sign up to receive emails to also allow text messages in order to get the discount offered. Text-to-shop may be in its infancy now but it will eventually catch on.

Steve Montgomery
BrainTrust

Text-to-shop will appeal to many people especially those that grew up texting to friends, family, etc. These individuals have never known a non-smartphone existence.

While I do text when I have to, I try to avoid using my mobile phone for anything except for making calls. I cannot envision entering into a series of texts to buy something when I can order it on my PC using a keyboard. This way I can see larger images of the product, read reviews and complete the transaction much easier than on the small screens cellphones provide.

David Spear
BrainTrust

Text-to-shop has been around for a long time. Many years ago (2007-2011), I was leading sales, marketing and strategy for a mobile startup, and I had inked several deals with retailers on text-to-shop programs. These worked extremely well, posting significant sales increases for their products and services. In fact, two of the retailers still have these programs running today! As long as these offers are opt-in and provide utility, value and a unique experience for the shopper, they will flourish and be successful. Text is ubiquitous, simple, fast and powerful. I think you’ll see a strong resurgence of these programs.

Harley Feldman
BrainTrust

Text-to-shop will catch on in the US as people get more and more comfortable with texting. Texting allows consumers to connect with retailers easily and asynchronously at the their time of convenience. Just note how texting has grown in the US with the convenience of cell phones and the ease to connect with people and services. The disadvantage is the fact that text messages are short and sometimes cryptic and may not communicate the information the consumer needs to complete a purchase decision.

Brian Numainville
BrainTrust

As AI gets better and messages become more “real,” things like chatbots and text to shop will become more accepted (not talking about responding to unsolicited messages here), especially in situations where a quick transaction is desired. It is still too clunky in many cases right now, but I wouldn’t count it out just yet.

Sam Schrup
Guest
10 months 28 days ago

It’s true that texting with a business isn’t for everyone. Just like with email campaigns, retailers need to provide consistent value to their subscriber list. Otherwise the channel will not be successful. A mix of product offers and educational, engaging content goes a long way.

Customers that decide to join a texting list are VIPs. They are highly engaged with the brand and want to receive text messages from them. Our merchants are seeing an average conversation rates of 7% on their shop by text campaigns. (I’ve even see some campaigns top 30% conversions!)

Rachelle King
BrainTrust

Consumer response to emerging commerce platforms has been positive. The question is not really whether US consumers will engage in conversational commerce, but will retailers and brands invest in and adapt new technologies and operations to advance these new platforms. And, if we’re honest, if those investments will pay off. Meaning, we need both the early adopters and mainstream consumers to make these investment profitable.

New commerce is not a question of if, it is a question of when. Brands and retailers should be planning now for the future of commerce and bringing both early adopters and mainstream along with them in the process.

hollyworst
Guest

I see text to shop finding its way into the returns and customer service process. With texting and chatbots becoming a great way to return items and ask questions, it would be amazing to see the ability to buy things that way as well.

wpDiscuz
Braintrust
"So many shopping missions have become transactional versus experiential, and this is the way to leverage that knowledge and keep it frictionless."

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