Dubai: Call up a customer service number and chances are that you will end up talking to an automated voice. The same is starting to happen more regularly with chatbots showing up in any first interaction between a consumer and the company offering a service.
Now, social media platforms are turning out to be the next space that automated voices and chatbots are getting into as ‘conversational commerce’ makes a pitch. This is exactly where the co-founder and CEO of Gupshup, Beerud Sheth, wants to be.
Gupshup, with its headquarters in San Francisco and extensive operations in India, has marked out the UAE and the Gulf as ripe markets for chatting up potential customers and serve them better. Each month, Gupshup delivers up to 6 billion messages on behalf of its clients, including some of the biggest names in Indian’s banking and financial services space.
Sheth talks to Gulf News on why he feels that conversational commerce isn’t about intruding into the consumer space. And that it can do the selling and taking care of consumer needs as well as humans do.
Do you think consumers prefer company-owned platforms (like a bank’s own platform) for conversational commerce over third-party platforms like WhatsApp, Instagram, etc?
No, we’ve seen both consumers and enterprises prefer popular messaging apps to communicate and engage with each other. That’s because few customers download company-owned apps, especially because there are so many. Even if they do, they use it infrequently.
Meanwhile, every consumer has a messaging app, and they use it dozens, maybe hundreds of times a day. Therefore, messages sent through popular third-party platforms are more likely to be opened, read and acted upon.
The messaging app serves as a single super-app to interact with every business, replacing dozens of other apps. For example, this point is illustrated by the enormous popularity of wechat in China in enabling all kinds of business-to-consumer interactions.
How is data privacy in the context of conversational commerce being addressed by third-party messaging platforms?
Nearly all messaging apps come with the most advanced security and end-to-end encryption standards. Almost all businesses and customers are comfortable with the data privacy issues and starting to use it extensively.
Consumers in the UAE and Gulf are slowly getting used to chatbots. But we are nowhere near seeing a perfectly satisfying experience for most users. Your thoughts?
Any new technology adoption needs that initial bit of time for users to get familiar and adapt their routine. AI-enabled chatbots need to be trained and retrained constantly. For any AI/ML algorithm to be successful, large data-sets are key.
We’re already seeing brands like Talabat and Bayut focused on delivering superior conversational experiences to consumers, and more brands are bound to follow suit.
Is it technology or human diffidence that is slowing the reach of conversational commerce?
In the UAE, 4 out of 5 customers we are in touch with want to expand their conversational commerce rollout. Because that’s where their consumers are - on popular conversational messaging apps. So, there is tremendous potential.
It’s just a matter of time before more brands jump onto the conversational commerce wave to fast-track growth and establish stronger, long-lasting relationships with their customers.
How would your solution typically work in a consumer facing experience?
With Gupshup’s conversational messaging platform, it’s as easy for a consumer to chat with a business as it is with a friend - anytime, anywhere, across any mobile device.
How many funding rounds have you had so far? Any Middle East based investors among them? Any plans to rope in investors from here?
We’ve had six funding rounds amounting to $390 million in aggregate. Investors see Gupshup as the leading conversational engagement platform in the emerging markets - with our ambitious vision, advanced product and technology, large customer base, a great brand and an experienced team.
We are in discussions with several Middle Eastern investors for our upcoming pre-IPO round leading up to an IPO listing in the US within a year, markets permitting.
We are continuing product innovation across cPaaS, cCaaS, CX and Conversational AI. On the market expansion front, we are expanding our focus on the UAE region. Already Talabat, Bayut.com, Emaar, Dubicars and many more customers in this region work with Gupshup to deliver a superior customer experience. We want to help many more businesses here drive deeper, personalized conversations with their consumers.