Google, Oracle and Amazon bet big on conversational commerce

23 Sep 2016

Image: Georgejmclittle/Shutterstock

Major tech companies are heavily investing in the future of how we purchase goods and services, with Google, Facebook and Amazon each banking on conversational commerce.

Opening up your messaging app, you begin chatting with a friend you’re about to visit. Wondering what you want to have for dinner, you settle on pizza.

Rather than leaving the chat to make your order, you instead interact with chatbots within said messaging client, let them sort out the order and payment and, in moments, you’re back to chatting with your friend.

Future Human


Never need to leave

You never leave the messaging tool, and you never need a tailored app for pizza, or for buying clothes or ordering a taxi. It’s all there in front of you, waiting to interact, and storing your purchasing history.

That is conversational commerce, and it’s on the way. Last week, Erik Meijer, heading up Deutsche Telekoms’ group innovation business, told how the future is actually already here, if you look hard enough.

Citing WeChat as an example in China, he said: “There are 10 to 12 services included on that. You can get tiny loans of $20,000 within your messenger. You can talk to a local store. You can pay for something on”

It’s spreading, too. At the start of the week, Google snapped up API.AI, a natural language and speech recognition company.

“Our vision has been to make technology understand and speak human language and help developers build truly intelligent conversational interfaces for their products and services,” said the latter, after Google snapped it up.


Essentially arming itself with a deeper pool of chatbot expertise, it’s an area that others are seeking to fill, too.

Amazon, for example, has just hired the founder and chief executive of conversational commerce start-up

Rather than buying out the company, as had earlier been reported in places, instead Amazon scalped it for its leader, with Nick Hadzaad now ‘head of new bot products’ at the company.

Not one to be left behind, Oracle recently announced its own plans for a chatbot-building platform. At Oracle OpenWorld this week, Oracle CTO Larry Ellison showed how his company’s tools could help the likes of Facebook Messenger with its conversational commerce model in future.

Facebook ahead

This is all hot on the heels of Facebook Messenger’s earlier move to ramp up its own conversational commerce offering.

The release of Messenger Platform v1.2 allows developers to build capabilities that allow businesses to “drive engagement, build retention and facilitate meaningful relationships with people”.

“Moving forward, we are also simplifying the payment and checkout experience in order to reduce the overall friction between wanting something and getting it,” said the company.

“People can use their payment information already stored on Messenger and Facebook to check out faster in Messenger threads.”

The need for multiple apps will gradually fade as the chatbots takeover your various instant messaging tools. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

Gordon Hunt was a journalist with Silicon Republic