MasterCard Makes Commerce More Conversational With Launch of Chatbots for Banks and Merchants
Piloting on Facebook Messenger, aiming for 2017 launch
For banks, partnering with Kasisto
For merchants, being developed by MasterCard Labs
Tribe raises $3 million to bring conversational commerce to video chat
Tribe’s current app has had more than 500,000 users since its August 2015 launch
Sources: MasterCard; VentureBeat
Point of View
Conversational commerce is the interception of messaging apps and retail transactions. The term is attributed to Uber’s Chris Messina in 2015, where he refers to it as utilising “chat, messaging, or other natural language interfaces (i.e. voice) to interact with people, brands, or services and bots...”. Specialist software reads or listens to conversations in text, voice and video messaging, and presents commerce options from supported merchants, such as invitations to shop, call a cab, book an event.
MasterCard have announced they are entering this space with propositions for banks and merchants. Their press release believes that a substantial opportunity is being created; it references a report by Gartner that predicts “nearly $2 billion in online sales will be performed exclusively through mobile digital assistants by the end of 2016”.
MasterCard will allow merchants to engage through the MasterPass wallet, providing an api for merchants and developers to hook into. It will be interesting to monitor the strength of this offer in comparison with other conversational commerce options that will become available to merchants and consumers. And, as the technology is mobile, it is not only for developed markets, emerging markets are already starting to experiment, such as with Buychat in Nigeria.
Natural language interpretation used for conversation commerce has applications in other areas, notably customer services. With their ‘Bot for Banks’ initiative MasterCard are supplementing their own technology with that from specialist provider Kasisto. Customer assistance software has been used by a number of financial services provider (such as the NAB Online Assistant which ran from Jun 2008 until Jun 2014), but the latest developments promise to offer a more realistic and contextual experience. Perhaps, with latest technology ‘chatbot 2.0’ has arrived.
While it is still relatively early days for natural language conversational commerce, the growth and success of messaging, and the involvement of the internet giants suggest that it is likely to become a significant segment of e-commerce over the next few years. The approach would benefit from industry collaboration to ensure that no single bad implementation is able to adversely impact the reputation of all deployments.
From a service provider’s point of view, the technologies that support conversational commerce promise to extend into an enhanced customer relationship. As the technologies mature, and the processing capabilities of handset continue to develop, a new generation of solutions may succeed where the initial wave of digital assistants failed to offer significant service benefits.