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Last Updated : Sep 05, 2017 07:19 PM IST | Source:

How a social, chat-bot driven e-commerce will impact our lives

The marriage of chatbots with e-commerce, IT hardware and social messaging will change our online lives forever. The next wave of unicorns in e-commerce would be social aggregation of aggregators

Harsimran Julka

From guiding you in the busy traffic to scheduling your meetings to having them as coworkers, bots are expected to rule our daily lives in the years to come.

Already bots play with your mind while you are browsing news or shopping for clothes online. They decipher your interests based upon your location, past history, serve you customised products, and sometimes even higher prices than others would see. Uber has already started showing varied pricing to high paying customers in a pilot phase.

Most apps know where you are reading this article from, your location, who all are located around, and what’s your previous transaction history. If not, what’s the transaction history of your immediate social circle.


One thing, however, that is likely to emerge very soon in India is the amalgamation of chatbots with instant messaging. The data analytics from messaging will redefine e-commerce.

I am talking to Haptik co-founder Aakrit Vaish in a Mumbai cafe, and he gives a crucial reason why most people in India have not been able to succeed fully in chatbot, e-commerce despite trying for almost 3-4 years.

“Most have not been able to find an anchor hook why a customer would open your app to ask a bot to perform a certain action,” he says.

Some such as Akosha pivoted into HelpChat, then moved away from a virtual assistant model to a platform called TapZo where people can do all transactions on a single platform - a model where Paytm has already positioned itself.

Others such as Hike, have shelved plans (for now) of moving into e-commerce transactions to books a cab or buy movie tickets via chatbots.

Haptik is still gung-ho about virtual assistants guiding us through our day.

It’s bots use common Indian names such as Priyanka, Rishi, Pooja, Rahul etc. They guide people to wake up in time, stay motivated via motivational messages and check-in for you in a flight.

“Fairly mundane tasks will get automated in future,” Vaish adds. That might also mean a bot just reading out the gist of this long opinion piece, to you in five seconds.

The marriage of artificial intelligence with chatbots will change the game for rob-advisors in financial advisory, for finding key patterns in a data and even for sending notices by tax departments to users whose disclosures show an anomaly.

Chatbots could also be used in future by embassies and consulates to send emails or notifications to users asking for an explanation on a particular thing.

Whatsapp's tie-up with e-commerce players

Last week, the game changed for the chatbots when the big daddy of messaging - Whatsapp announced its tie-up with select e-commerce players in various markets.

Currently, in India, the tie-up is limited to just sending transaction notifications such as for a BookMyShow or Ola.

In future, the notifications could be used by some e-commerce players reminding users of a gate change to their flight, sending alerts about a new movie being played or simply sending a notification message about a transaction.

Will Whatsapp get into B2C transactions, the WeChat way - is a question on every e-commerce entrepreneur’s mind today.

Whatsapp has the potential to percolate down to e-transactions where a simple click would allow you to compare and book cabs on a whatsapp or buy that mobile phone.

Whatsapp or its parent Facebook could earn commissions as it passes on the leads to the commerce sites thus putting in danger business models of various online affiliate, cash back and comparison sites.

It could also potentially put in threat business of almost all online commerce vertical players. Why do you need to go to an online food delivery player - when a Whatsapp registered food service could do the same for you.

Or why go to an OTA when your most visited platform is already an OTA?

It could also mean that majority of your e-commerce business could be directed from that one platform, increasing its dominance.

Paytm is trying to follow this in a similar fashion what WeChat replicated in China.

The Noida-based company has already decided to add a messenger platform to its payments platform.

However, would that mean that a Bookmyshow or a Zomato or a redBus will go out of business if Paytm does the same what they do? Absolutely not.

For Paytm, the anchor hook has been mobile recharges which it has successfully capitalised to add on more services.

Of course, a Paytm or Tapzo can allure travellers once or twice through an online offer for cheaper tickets. However to keep the traveller hooked onto it for booking rail and air tickets is to offer an experience which should be a notch or two up from a MakeMyTrip or a GoIbibo.

They will also have to overcome reluctance from large aggregators for hotels, sellers, flights to register on their platforms - which could be an aggregator of aggregators.

Going independently would mean they will have to choose and develop niche verticals.

Marrying a social media into e-commerce will change the game for Indian online platforms forever.

The challenge for Indian players will be moved to the mass from a Facebook or Whatsapp to the indigenous platforms. If not, they will continue to remain as an aggregator of aggregators.

Of course, chatbots will make the UX more social and humane for e-commerce.

Time is what we have limited on this planet. Time started for this universe when the big bang took place.

For chat bots, their time has begun with the big bang in messaging and e-commerce. In future, our favourite bots will plan our day, even as we speak to our social universe via a messaging platform.

Embedding chatbots inside hardware will also change the game for sectors such as automobiles, healthcare, and banking.

(This is an opinion piece.)

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First Published on Sep 4, 2017 05:21 pm
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