Forget stumbling through a customer-support page — the future of commerce won’t be found by surfing the World Wide Web.
Soon many of the tasks we now do via websites and brand-specific apps will be handled through messaging and voice platforms like iMessage, WhatsApp, and Amazon’s Alexa, according to Alex Spinelli, the chief technology officer at LivePerson.
Today, companies like Home Depot, T-Mobile, and Discover manage customer-service chat with LivePerson. Though chat is seeing a resurgence thanks to the proliferation of smartphones, LivePerson was actually founded in 1995 as a web-chat alternative to 1-800 numbers and call centers.
The company went public in April 2000, just in time for the dot-com bubble to burst. By September 2001, shares were trading at $0.11, though they have since rebounded to about $19, giving LivePerson a market cap of nearly $1 billion.
LivePerson’s modern vision means no more awkward drop-down menus, no more shopping carts, and definitely no more URLs.
“Our thesis is that conversation is a more natural way of interacting with brand services,” Spinelli said. “It will become the dominant way that people interact in their digital lives.”
It may seem like a big leap from the present day, but Spinelli envisions a world five years from now in which there are no websites and very few apps.
“The whole app catastrophe that lives on your phone is overwhelming,” Spinelli said. “On my iPhone, I have 127 apps that need updating. You can’t keep up.”
Meanwhile, people will continue to interact with screens. In Spinelli’s vision, the e-commerce shopping experience of the future starts when a carousel of items pops up at the bottom of the screen. The shopper browses the carousel, clicks the item they want, and instantly pays through a system like Apple Pay. All of that happens within a chat window.
And that vision isn’t too far off from what’s already on the market today.
Apple and Google are prepared for this future
On Thursday, LivePerson announced a new offering called LiveEngage for Voice Assistants, which lets customers start interacting with a brand through a voice assistant like Alexa while hanging out at home and then move that conversation over to chat on a mobile device when they leave the house.
The big idea behind LiveEngage is that customers can have one continuous conversation across multiple modes of communication — something that dovetails with the bigger vision of LivePerson.
Spinelli joined LivePerson in March after five years at Amazon — first as director of Amazon Search, and later as global head of Alexa OS, the operating system behind Amazon’s famed voice assistant.
When he learned that both Apple and Google added conversational commerce products directly into their smartphone operating systems, he decided to make the move to LivePerson, where he could embrace the trend head-on.
Apple Business Chat launched in beta mode with select brands last year. It’s designed to let customers find brands on iMessage and interact with them using dynamic features that manage everything from scheduling an appointment to making a purchase.
Google’s Android has a similar option with its business-focused Rich Communication Services, currently in beta.
LivePerson handles the back end of business conversations on ABC and RCS.
Importantly, it lets companies use one interface to communicate across a variety of chat apps — basically, whichever is most convenient for the customer.
LivePerson also uses artificial intelligence to answer some questions and passes the conversation to a live agent if things get too tricky.