Conversational Commerce: Are You Ready?

Guest post by Jason Miller.

Texting Dominos a pizza emoji and a deliveryman showing up at you door “30 minutes” later with a pizza exemplifies the integration of Business to Consumer (B2C) transactions. Well, the same transactional principles may forever change the B2C relationship. Imagine if instead of sending a text and receiving a pizza, you could text your local grocery store your shopping list or text Amazon about a product you want—and have it delivered the same day.

These possibilities represent the next evolution of the B2C relationship called, “conversational commerce,” which has already taken Asia by storm. It allows users to order on-demand services and products through text messages or other messaging services, established a new commercial platform that may change the game yet again. TechCrunch reported that: China’s WeChat generates over $1B in revenue from its 440 million users, which allows them to use text messages to their pay bills and order products, while Japan’s LinePay takes a similar approach.

The principle is most mobile-phone users spend most of their time texting; why should they have to switch a different app, search for the product, enter their payment information, and then place their order. But soon consumers will be able too simply send a text to the company they wish to make a purchase from. Expanding texting’s potential to making payments, buying products, etc. may alleviate these cumbersome tasks altogether.

While at first-glance commercial communication may seem a bit novel, the United States has certainly taking notice of its impact in Asia. American tech-giants, like Facebook and Google, are jumping on the bandwagon. TechCrunch noted that Facebook, for example, is in the process of implementing these capabilities into their “Messenger App,” allowing users to order food and even speak with businesses directly. Meanwhile, many start-ups have also developed to take their share of this expanding market. Such as Magic, a concierge-type delivery service that lets uses order almost any product for delivery through text, which oddly enough I started using the day I read about it.

Though the market is young in the States, its validity as a commercial platform is clear and a possibly lucrative one at that. If there’s money to be made, then I think its safe to presume that large companies will attempt to adapt their current systems to implement this developing commercial space within their business model (i.e., Facebook, etc.). Hopefully allowing me text a masseuse to and recreate my favorite scene from Boy Meets World; Griff was my hero.

Note from the Digital Counselor:

Entrepreneurs and small business owners should be on the look out for ways to integrate this into their business model. Early adoption could be a standout feature and create a niche that may enable rapid growth. However, rapid growth necessitates the ability to scale quickly, which can be hard for a small business with little capital. Although a great tool, businesses looking to implement must look at potential impacts to their business model and ultimately their bottom line.

About the Author:

Jason Miller is law student at American University Washington College of Law. Jason is originally from Rockville, MD, and studied communications at University of Maryland. While in undgrad, Jason & his friends founded a globally followed music blog, with about 100k unique visitors per month. After graduating, Jason worked at the U.S. Senate for two years before going to law school.


Disclaimer: The views expressed here are solely those of the author in his private capacity and do not in any way represent the views of, any other poster/blogger of this blog or any entity affiliated with blog posters. Any comments by do not reflect the views or ideas of any organization or individual that may or may not be affiliated or associated. 

Shhhhh… Pillow Talk and Work Do Not Mix

Pillow talk, nighttime tales, sheet secrets (whatever your preferred phrasing) and the sharing it promotes has long been an issue in situations requiring discretion. Especially when you move that conversation from the privacy of your home to electronic means. Luckily, when the relationship elevates to the level of marriage, communications between spouses are considered confidential and cannot be used in court as evidence, right?!?!  Maybe not. Although often a saving grace for chatty or trusting spouses there are a few exceptions and a few risks not worth taking.  Specifically, emails sent by a husband from his work email account to his wife were held not protected by marital privilege.   Be careful what you send via work email!

It is important to keep private matters separate from business operation.  We all have occasion to communicate on matters not related to work while at work. Be strategic about the communications, the information disclosed, and the medium you use to communicate this information.  Make sure you know your company’s policies on computer use, phone use, and their rights and ownership over everything you produce, use, receive, etc.  Being uninformed can land you in a lot of trouble both with your employer and otherwise.

In U.S. v. Hamilton, the government obtained a conviction against a former Virginia Delegate for federal program bribery and extortion, relying in part on emails between Mr. Hamilton and his wife.  You have no rights to privacy in work provided spaces. This means that not even privileges that usually surmount the circumstances in which the information comes are protection.

On appeal the Fourth Circuit explained: “[T]o be covered by the [marital communication] privilege, a communication between spouses must be confidential; ‘voluntary disclosure’ of a communication waives the privilege.” Basically, Hamilton waived the privilege because the emails were sent from and received in his Newport News school system work email account. Importantly, the Court relied on a computer usage policy adopted by the school system after the events in question, but prior to the government’s investigation in 2009, which provided that users would have no expectation of privacy even as to “stored” (i.e., old, archived) emails. Hamilton expressly agreed to this policy and, thereafter, took no additional steps to secure the privacy of the emails with his wife (e.g., by forwarding the e-mails to a personal account and deleting them from the work account). As a result, Hamilton waived the marital communication privilege.

The company reinforced the fact that company computers and networks are to be used for business purposes only through their policy on work email account not being private and the property of the company.  This is why its important to read and know your companies policies on all things but especially electronic information and social media because it is such a new and pervasive area of everyday life.   Moral of the story, know company policies and keep the electronic sheet secrets/pillow talk on your own, personal e-mail accounts and devices!  Or even better return to traditional means and have that conversation in the confines of your own home.