Over the past few months, the buzz has been chiefly about Generative AI and how it can transform productivity, outcomes, and entire human lives. While the ‘human lives’ part is debatable, AI is definitely poised to change the way marketing works in the real world.
However, that’s not the only new disruption happening in the email ecosystem. Email is transforming from just a communication tool to the enabler of two-way conversations and interactions between sellers and buyers. This new shift has a name now, and it’s ‘Inbox Commerce.’
Inbox Commerce via emails/WhatsApp removes the friction that held buyers back from clicking through to websites and apps. Most users would drop off during the transition from email to the seller’s website: the highest click-to-open rate of marketing emails worldwide in 2022 was 16.5% (Statista Report). In other words, sellers missed out on 83.5% of potential customers. The situation wasn’t too different for the other channels of messaging.
The shift has now begun from ‘far’ commerce to ‘near’ commerce – you can search, browse, and buy everything you want right from your inbox. No redirects to websites, no drop-offs.
In this first article of a two-part series, we trace the emergence of Inbox Commerce and demonstrate how it can help brands spend less on new customer acquisition and achieve higher profitability.
What is Inbox Commerce?
Inbox Commerce is the practice of implementing transactions, advertising products/services, and engaging with customers through messaging sites/apps and emails. This approach focuses on redefining the customer experience so that it becomes quick and easy for users to talk to brands and buy products without redirects to sites and apps.
What is driving the rise of Inbox Commerce?
– AMP in email can be used to create mini websites and apps within an email — without the need for users to click through to the brand’s site or app.
– SMS is poised to facilitate two-way customer conversations. It will combine outbound notifications with inbound messages to create chat-like interactions.
– WhatsApp now facilitates brand conversations through WhatsApp Pay, which allows customers to buy products from within the app.
– RCS, a feature-rich successor to SMS, supports multimedia content, group chats, and read receipts. It holds serious potential for bringing eCommerce closer to consumers.
– AI-created product catalogs can make product choices, descriptions, and images more relevant and push spot-on recommendations to customers.
– Chatbots can help with making customer ‘search’ and ‘browse’ functions infinitely simpler. They can offer instant support and issue resolutions as well.
– Despite not working as an inbox, ChatGPT has revealed how a search bar can literally answer any question and become a window to the world.
What can Inbox Commerce address in the real world?
Brands can use chatbots or live agents to interact with customers, answer their questions, and help them make purchases faster – all through messaging apps and email. They can also provide personalized product recommendations, customer support, and easy payment processing.
Brands can push promotional messages and offers through these platforms to encourage immediate purchase or exploration of products or services. Their ease and convenience make customer interactions faster and smoother.
Brands can send transaction-related messages like order confirmations, delivery updates, recipes, summaries, and more through these apps and email, which bring more convenience to the customer.
Interactive email content
AMP allows brands to offer website and app-like features within emails. Customers can fill out forms, play games like spin-the-wheel for rewards, use calculators to do the math on finances, check product details, purchase products in abandoned carts, search for new products, and make payments.
Why is Inbox Commerce a game-changer for marketers and brands?
Inbox Commerce lets customers interact directly with brands, buy products and look up more information without leaving their messaging app or email inbox. Such ease leads to better user experiences and increases satisfaction levels.
Messaging tools and emails let businesses push personalized content that match user preferences, buying/browsing patterns, and history. This inevitably leads to more engagement and higher sales.
Better customer support
Brands can offer real-time customer support through Inbox Commerce. Whether through chatbots or real people, resolving issues becomes easier and faster, leaving customers happy with the quick responses.
Better engagement rates
Every study in the book has shown that messaging apps and emails carry higher open and engagement rates than other marketing channels. Therefore, marketing through these channels is more likely to be seen and responded to.
Improved customer retention
When brands provide a more seamless and convenient shopping experience through Inbox Commerce, they retain customers better, encourage them to buy again, and increase the overall customer lifetime value.
Integration with other avenues
Integrating Inbox Commerce with other marketing channels like social media, apps, and sites is easy. The collaboration helps create a cohesive picture of the customer and their journey.
Interactions with emails and messaging apps can source valuable customer preferences and behavior data. Such zero-party and first-party data are immensely useful for planning future marketing strategies and implementing optimizations.
Inbox Commerce is the marketer’s new best friend
Inbox innovations are set to change the ‘where’ of eCommerce. Brands no longer have to spend huge budgets to get people to their websites and apps for completing transactions. This point of friction – a thorn in the side of unidirectional push messages – is not completely removable.
The interactivity of push channels like email and WhatsApp allows for conducting commerce within an inbox. Netcore’s early customers for AMP in email have seen an increase of 5 – 15 times (500 -1500%) in actions being performed inside the email when users get such an option.
Think of what WeChat has been doing in China. The rest of us are now catching up – bringing seamless marketing and transaction to our inboxes. The act of doing so has already triggered one of the biggest industry leaps in eCommerce in years, if not decades.
(To be continued in Part 2)
This 2-part article is based on the blog ‘The Coming of Inbox Commerce’ by Rajesh Jain. He is the founder and Group MD of Netcore Cloud, a bootstrapped SaaS company that helps brands create outstanding AI-powered customer experiences at every touchpoint.