media update’s Adam Wakefield spoke to Adam Pattison, BBM vice president: Americas and EMEA, about how mobile is no longer “mobile”, and why the future of e-commerce lies within chat.

What is meant exactly by ‘chat’?

Chat would be any medium where you are entering into a digital conversation on a one to one or one to group basis. This is typically on chat apps such as BBM or WhatsApp etc., but can also refer to other mediums such as SMS, blogs – with an inbuilt chat functionality – or more traditional desktop-style widgets like Skype and Messenger.

Why is chat so important to the future of e-commerce?

Chatters are sharers, and sharers are a brand’s best-converted customer. A sharer linked to a converter – someone who has bought a product – is 31 times more likely to click back on a product and to enter the purchase consideration stage. This significantly outperforms traditional digital remarketing campaigns, and brands cannot ignore these conversion rates.

Additionally, the chat environment is where users are. Sixty-percent of time spent on a mobile device is spent sending and receiving messages. Yet, brands spend millions on developing other shiny apps, and millions more marketing them, only for a user to download them, use them once, and never return. Users return to their chat apps day in and day out. So, as a brand, why not bring your content and services to that environment and engage with the users there instead?

Has mobile moved into the same space that used to be reserved for desktops when speaking of e-commerce?

Absolutely correct. The boom around mobile e-commerce was all about mini payments connected to Play Store or iTunes accounts and was almost exclusively driven by access to content – games, video, etc. The mobile device was a trusted environment for this as an app made it easy to purchase – one tap of your finger – and the content was exclusive to that screen.

However, when it came to larger ticket items, you knew that the expensive pair of trainers you saw on your mobile device was also available from the same or different vendor via your desktop. You would do your research on your mobile but complete the purchase on desktop, a medium you trusted and had used before, and had an easily navigable digital storefront. Now mobile web pages and apps are increasingly user-friendly and user responsive, and users are trusting their device to complete the loop to purchase via this screen.

In essence, mobile is no longer known as “second screening” but is now, increasingly, the primary screen.

Will mobile commerce eventually become the dominant category within the e-commerce space?

The gap has already closed significantly. Mobile is becoming the primary screen, and we are moving towards an economy where the transaction will occur on whatever screen a user is in front of at the time. I have no doubt that TV will enter this mix at some point in the near future. Therefore, marketers will need to ensure every screen is “the main screen” and the transaction can occur seamlessly wherever the user is.

How can brands penetrate the chat bubble going forward, considering that a chat can be a private space? Are there dangers for brands looking to enter this space?

Yes, but this is the challenge of the app developer. The chat providers are implementing safe spaces and bots into their content ecosystem, within which brands can enter. The best chat apps build mechanisms where users invite the brand into their lives and discussions.

At BBM, we have an entire area of the app dedicated to partnerships with content and services providers. In South Africa, you can order your Uber, listen to music via Stage360, or participate in voucher schemes all via our Discover menu. Soon, we will be integrating bots to further enhance the experience and give brands a direct pipeline to their consumers.

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Mobile is a prime source of data for brands who want to tailor their campaigns to the right audience, at the right tone. Read more in our article, Understanding the consumer starts with data and analytics.