Chat spreads to the masses

Shopify and Ficanex have both made new investments to meet demand for instant, platform-agnostic conversations with brands.

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Ecommerce platform Shopify and financial company Ficanex have both made announcement this week to give chat capabilities to small and medium sized companies as consumer demand for conversational experiences continues.

This week, Toronto-based chatbot company Ada announced a partnership with Ficanex – which consists of a group of 175 “mid-tier” financial institutions across Canada – to provide its AI-powered chatbot platform “tunl.chat” to help serve its combined eight million customers. Nine financial institutions, including FirstOntario Credit Union and Kawartha Credit Union in Ontario, plus BlueShore Financial and First West Credit Union in B.C., have signed on to try the evolving technology this fall.

ficanex_final“I think when you think about the next generation of consumers they’ve been very, very radically influenced by the Airbnbs and Amazons of the world that allow customers to make their buying decisions swiftly, digitally, on demand,” says Ruth Zive, head of marketing at Ada. “I think that expectation is starting to translate into buying habits, including how we interact with our banks. We want to be able to interact with our phone and want to be able to have our support questions answered about how they’re going to do that.”

But chat doesn’t have to be AI-powered to meet customer demand.

Ottawa’s Shopify has just launched its first native chat function, aptly named Shopify Chat, which allows its small-to-medium-sized-business clients to have live conversations with its customers through a platform on their website. The service is connected to Shopify Ping, an app launched last year to centralize and manage conversations with consumers, offering automated marketing workflows and tools to easily provide links to product pages, discounts and offers to customers. Shopify customers can also connect conversations in Facebook Messenger and Apple Business Chat to Ping.

As with banks, small business owners have found that online chat is the new phone call when it comes to customer service and Michael Perry, Shopify’s director of product, says brands of all sizes and shapes need to invest in building online-chat capabilities. Comm100′s Live Chat Benchmark Report 2019 found that customer’s satisfaction with communicating with a brand via live chat rose to 83.1%, up nearly 2.5% from 2017.

“Everyone kind of likes to have that Cheers experience where everyone knows your name – you know that cool thing where you know that guy who sells that product,” said Perry. “There’so much going on in the world that the important thing is to have that relationship with the customer and to be top of mind and chat is a very important tool to do that… It’s a very common tool that we use to manage our conversations, our relationships and the top people that matter in your life.”

And, in many other countries chat as a way for businesses to communicate  with customers is often already the new gold standard.

“I think if you look at other countries, like India where they use WhatsApp… or Asia or China with WeChat [it's already very popular globally],” notes Perry of the popularity of chat outside of Canada. “I think it’s a trend that North America is finally catching on to is that any brand or any major business they have some sort of chat function.”