Discover more from Future Commerce
Episode 3
June 29, 2016

Danger Ahead: Challenges Preventing Adoption

The guys talk about the explosion of conversational commerce and some of the issues that will prevent adoption in the industry.

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  • Bit of implosion of the industry
  • Health gamification

Alexa News

  • Makeover for Alexa Skills Store
  • Enabling Skills with your voice

Messenger bots: Where we're at now v. the future

Opportunities ahead

Phillip: [00:00:16] Welcome to Future Commerce, the podcast about cutting edge and next generation commerce. I'm your host, Phillip.

Brian: [00:00:27] And I'm your co-host, Brian.

Phillip: [00:00:29] And co, being we do this together. This is our podcast.

Brian: [00:00:34] This is the one that we host together.

Phillip: [00:00:36] And this is a podcast about people who are passionate about digital commerce and passionate about the future of commerce and by people in the industry and for people in the industry. And so today we're going to talk about conversational commerce, kind of a continuation from the last episode of the podcast. But we're going to talk a little bit today about the things that are challenging and why the future is not quite here yet.

Brian: [00:01:03] Yeah, we've got a ways to go.

Phillip: [00:01:05] Got a little ways to go.

Brian: [00:01:06] We'll talk about it.

Phillip: [00:01:07] And we'll get into it a little bit in the show. We've got some great news at the top of the show as well. So stay tuned. We want you to give us feedback about the show because we want you to be involved. So I need you to scroll down. If you're on the site right now, I need you to scroll down to the bottom, go to the Disqus box. We want to hear back from you about what you'd like to hear on the show and what you are doing right now in the realm of future commerce. And tell us what you want us to talk about, because we want this to be as much about you as it is about us, and what we're doing currently in digital commerce. And also, if you use iTunes or if you have an Android device, you can subscribe. So go on iTunes right now or on Google Play, or you can listen straight from your Amazon Echo device with TuneIn Radio with the phrase, "Alexa, play Future Commerce." And I have to silence Alexa over here because she's going to say. I know. I know.

Brian: [00:02:03] She who shall not be named.

Phillip: [00:02:05] I know she just can't. And it really shouldn't have this thing in the same room, actually. So how's it going, Brian?

Brian: [00:02:13] Oh, it's going pretty good, Phillip. You know, just enjoying the nice weather here in the Pacific Northwest. Got a little hiking with the family.

Phillip: [00:02:22] Oh, my gosh.

Brian: [00:02:23] Yeah, pretty decent hike for my little guys. That about three point five miles and about a thousand feet in elevation.

Phillip: [00:02:31] Ooh, how do you track that?

Brian: [00:02:33] My wife tracked it. So I don't know. That's what she told me that we did. {laughter}

Phillip: [00:02:39] Do you have a wearable of any kind that you use?

Brian: [00:02:40] No, actually I didn't use the wearable in this case. I probably could have and should have. But no, she just went back and mapped it afterwards.

Phillip: [00:02:49] Do you have... So first of all, the wearables market like collapsed recently. First of all, I don't even know how we start. This is just you and me. We just talk about the sorts of stuff. We didn't plan this at all.

Brian: [00:02:50] No we didn't. No we didn't. But this is worth talking about. This is good.

Phillip: [00:03:06] Exactly, because they're big players in the space, like Jawbone just announced that they're getting out of wearables.

Brian: [00:03:12] The thing is like, OK, there's been a lot of chatter about like how the lack of accuracy...

Phillip: [00:03:20] Right. Right.

Brian: [00:03:20] And also, there's a bunch of knockoffs that are out there and you can go get a wearable for under twenty dollars now.

Phillip: [00:03:27] That's true.

Brian: [00:03:28] And it does almost the same stuff.

Phillip: [00:03:29] And your phone does the stuff now.

Brian: [00:03:32] Your phone does and stuff. Yeah.

Phillip: [00:03:33] Why would you ever need to buy... I don't know. I'm a big fan of Fitbit. You know, my wife and I both have a Fitbit. You wouldn't know it looking at me, but we both have Fitbits.

Brian: [00:03:46] Well that's better than me. I do not have a Fitbit. So there you go. I really should.

Phillip: [00:03:50] But I actually don't like my Fitbit very much. As much as I like rubber banded watches because of the hold, you know, I feel like back in the day the Audemars Piguet, like those like expensive watches. I always feel like when I have a rubber band on my watch that I have like a twenty thousand dollar watch on. I obviously do not. It's just not comfortable and it gets sweaty. It's just terrible. But, you know, the wearable thing is interesting. Your phone does all of that now. Do you use any like the Android...

Brian: [00:04:24] I did. I did when I was on Microsoft and when I got off of that, I just didn't do anything after that.

Phillip: [00:04:34] We have the whole thing. We have the scale. We have the whole deal. You know what would be incredible? And this is, I think, a really interesting play that they've not done yet and I think would be a great market for Amazon because they seem to get into every market anyway.

Brian: [00:04:53] Yes.

Phillip: [00:04:54] It would be amazing to have an Internet of things sort of like, you know, Prime now button sort of a deal. But on my phone, my wearable for things like, you know, meal services like Blue Apron or something to that effect where, you know, I can use contextually, like when I'm working out, I can use, you know, a button or a series of buttons...

Brian: [00:05:17] You earn your meals? Is that where you're going with this?

Phillip: [00:05:19] Yeah. Something to the effect of...

Brian: [00:05:20] {laughter}

Phillip: [00:05:20] I don't know, like I want to be able to track a lot of things like my mood or, you know what I'm saying?

Brian: [00:05:28] Yeah. Totally.

Phillip: [00:05:28] There's a lot of really interesting things that I think could be, you know, especially with the Echo...

Brian: [00:05:36] You're touching on something that I want to have a whole episode on.

Phillip: [00:05:39] Ok.

Brian: [00:05:39] Which is like an Internet of things, sort of gamification of fitness, and actually that plays into commerce.

Phillip: [00:05:49] Yes.

Brian: [00:05:51] And there's a whole episode on that. I think we should plan that one and do that one soon, because there's a lot there.

Phillip: [00:05:56] But this is the thing that's missing is that I don't really care about how much elevation I had today. I want to be able to make purchase decisions based on that stuff.

Brian: [00:06:08] Did you just gain yourself another cheeseburger?

Phillip: [00:06:12] Yeah, exactly. Something to that effect. But no, no, no something like, you know, if I could tell my Echo what I'm hungry for through the week or something like that, and then it could build up, you know, my Blue Apron order.

Brian: [00:06:26] Yeah.

Phillip: [00:06:27] Something to that effect.

Brian: [00:06:28] Wouldn't that be so much easier instead of like having enter things that you're eating into your app? Wouldn't it be so awesome if you could just be like, "Hey, this is what I ate today." Voice chat, a voice fitness tracker. I wonder if there's already a skill out there for that. We should look into that.

Phillip: [00:06:44] Yeah, well, speaking of skills.

Brian: [00:06:46] Yes, good. We are getting into the show.

Phillip: [00:06:48] Yeah, this is it. So news, huge news right off the top.

Brian: [00:06:54] Huge news is...

Phillip: [00:06:57] You break it. Break it to us.

Brian: [00:06:57] Yes, there it is. Breaking news. The skills store just got a facelift and updates. And with that, they are now allowing voice activated skill enablement.

Phillip: [00:07:11] So there's two massive announcements. Number one, we were just... They must have done it because they've been listening to the podcast, obviously.

Brian: [00:07:20] I would say so.

Phillip: [00:07:22] We were just complaining about how awful the Alexa skill store is. And we were just complaining about how it's basically impossible to find anything that's not made by the Mormon Church. And now things are a lot easier. Things are categorized now. They have a lot of featured and Editor picks.

Brian: [00:07:41] I want to play with it a little bit more before I give it my full judgment. But it looks better. It definitely looks better.

Phillip: [00:07:47] Yes. And, you know, and we'll make our official skill of the day selection at the end of the show. So stick around.

Brian: [00:07:52] Yes. Yes.

Phillip: [00:07:53] But we only found that because of this announcement today. But by far the coolest thing, which I think is just so obvious, you can enable skills now straight from the Echo itself or, you know, related Alexa style devices.

Brian: [00:08:11] Which is really useful because then your friends can tell you about a skill and you could just be like, "Alexa, enable this skill," instead of having to go on your app and go look for it. And maybe you may or may not be able to find it. You know, I think this just makes sense given the medium.

Phillip: [00:08:28] It's just obvious. It was obvious and should have been done a long, long time ago, considering that's been out for just about a year now.

Brian: [00:08:35] Yeah.

Phillip: [00:08:37] It's very, very cool. So I'm excited about that. I've yet to try it. It's a brand new announcement that just happened today.

Brian: [00:08:43] I am still looking forward to the day when they will allow people to charge for their skills. I think that that is going to be huge.

Phillip: [00:08:49] Oh, I mean, that's going to happen.

Brian: [00:08:51] It's going to happen. It's a necessary step. But I think this is a great step towards that. And I understand why they didn't start that way. I mean...

Phillip: [00:08:59] Oh, sure.

Brian: [00:09:00] It made sense to make it more of a project thing, make it more of a you know, let's get people interested and on board with this. And then all of a sudden we can start growing some legitimate, like built apps that people will pay for and get even more use out of. So we'll see.

Phillip: [00:09:15] I mean, do you remember... Can you remember back to 2007?

Brian: [00:09:19] Barely.

Phillip: [00:09:20] Can you remember?

Brian: [00:09:21] Yeah. I was pretty young.

Phillip: [00:09:22] Oh, come on, don't give me that garbage.

Brian: [00:09:25] {laughter}

Phillip: [00:09:26] But if you can remember back to that time and the iPhone was brand new and everybody was opining that, "How amazing would it be if Apple just opened up the the SDK for developers? They could create their own apps." And Apple was, "No, no, no, no HTML5. No flash. You got to make web apps that are app like." And we heard the term responsive for the first time. And these are all interesting conversations that it took almost two years from the date of the release or the announcement of the iPhone to the day that we actually saw some semblance of commerce happening there, that I think has changed the world. Really, I think that's the killer app here, is that micro purchases, digital goods purchases, things what's being called clickless commerce. Those things should be enabled for app developers in the Alexa App Store. But it's a long way out still.

Brian: [00:10:34] I mean, who knows? Maybe it's not.

Phillip: [00:10:38] They've got a little bit of work to do. I think the fact that some of these obviously require connection to other accounts that you may have...

Brian: [00:10:46] Right.

Phillip: [00:10:47] It would be really nice if everything in this world just worked the way that, you know... Oh, this is so cool because it plays right into one of those things I'm going to complain about because I'm old. I really geeked out over at ShopTalk. They had the announcement of like the Facebook messenger sort roll out as it's like own standalone little, you know, app thing.

Brian: [00:11:07] Right.

Phillip: [00:11:14] And one of the things with is like, oh, if I wanted to connect with you and I don't necessarily know you, you're not my Facebook friend, I can sort of just hold up my contact card on the phone, and it's this really beautiful...

Brian: [00:11:26] Scan the QR code.

Phillip: [00:11:26] Yeah, it's like a QR code, but it's a really beautiful like layout. So yesterday I'm going through the Taco Bell drive thru, and Taco Bell is still continuing to innovate in commerce. They have their own app...

Brian: [00:11:41] Which is impressive. They're doing some very cool things.

Phillip: [00:11:45] It's ridiculous.

Brian: [00:11:46] And I know there are other things in the works that will be released not long from now.

Phillip: [00:11:52] Ok, so I'm not privy to those things, I guess, but I don't have the... Let me just let me admit I don't have the Taco Bell app.

Brian: [00:11:59] Me neither. I don't really go to Taco Bell.

Phillip: [00:12:01] I don't use the Taco Bell Taco Bot, the slack taco bot for group Taco Bell orders, which is who even does that? Those are all interesting things and very forward thinking. The thing that blew my mind was I got my receipt at Taco Bell and there's an advertisement for their Snapchat at the bottom of the receipt and I looked at it. And this is how I know I'm old, is that when I looked at it, I realized, oh, my gosh, that is a QR code. It is every Snapchat avatar that I've seen on the Internet is a unique QR code to be able to connect with people on Snapchat. I've never known this. I never knew this.

Brian: [00:12:43] I didn't notice that either.

Phillip: [00:12:43] But that whole ghost thing has a lot of dots around it. And that is Snapchat. That's a thing. So me kind of crediting Facebook, yeah, they've definitely made a much more beautiful implementation of that. But this is what people are doing. Anyway...

Brian: [00:12:58] And that's actually true. I think, you know, it's interesting that I'm going to kind of take it's a little different direction.

Phillip: [00:13:03] Sure. Sure. Sure, sure.

Brian: [00:13:05] You know, I think there's some newer chat services that are doing some really cool things that I think you're going to see some of them more. The larger platforms out there sort of implement and maybe do it better than these newer more emerging chat apps

Phillip: [00:13:28] Well WhatsApp has a login-less web app. It's a QR code. You know, if you want to log in on WhatsApp, you hold your phone up to a QR code on the web app.

Brian: [00:13:40] Right.

Phillip: [00:13:41] Slack you can log in with just a link, like a magic link.

Brian: [00:13:45] Yeah, it's not just limited to QR codes. I mean, I think you look at what's going on with WeChat and stickers.

Phillip: [00:13:55] Yeah.

Brian: [00:13:56] And how iMessages is ready to just embrace that with open arms.

Phillip: [00:14:00] Sure.

Brian: [00:14:01] I mean I sat around WWDC for the iMessages breakout, and they were all about stickers and rightfully so. I mean I think that initially when I first heard about stickers, I was like, oh it's emojis.

Phillip: [00:14:17] Yeah. How dumb is that?

Brian: [00:14:18] Oh wait. It's a little bit more than that.

Phillip: [00:14:20] Yeah it is. A lot more.

Brian: [00:14:21] It's a real communication. I mean not that emojis weren't, but this is just taking it to a new level. And I think it's going to open up doors for types of communication that weren't really available before.

Phillip: [00:14:34] Yeah. Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Brian: [00:14:35] Anyway, all of that to say that, you know, some of these more mature platforms, at least US centric platforms, are starting to adopt these emerging trends and perhaps do them better, do them in a way that at least we in the US can actually leverage them and take advantage of them.

Phillip: [00:14:55] Well, if they could find a way somehow to make the ability for us to hook up new skills on our Echo devices, which is my she who shall not be named phrase now.

Brian: [00:15:12] {laughter} Yes.

Phillip: [00:15:12] If we could find a way for us to hook up those new skills without having to, you know, provide a single sign on login information between... If I could do that totally without the need to have an app or something that's more ubiquitous, like if I could connect either my Gmail or my Facebook or Twitter or something, that's already a shared log on that I use for a lot of different services as a skill itself, then this becomes a lot more interesting. Anyway...

Brian: [00:15:46] Yeah.

Phillip: [00:15:46] Very, very cool updates. I'm really hoping to see a lot more of this kind of stuff. They continue to innovate week on week. I've got too many of these devices already, and it's controlling so much of my life as it is. You know, it's very, very cool.

Brian: [00:16:04] It is very cool. I'm excited to see where it continues to go. Speaking of where it's at versus where it's going.

Phillip: [00:16:13] Yeah.

Brian: [00:16:15] Let's talk about that for a second, because, here we are, we spent the whole episode last episode talking about conversational commerce. And let's spend a few seconds kind of discussing maybe where it's at right now.

Phillip: [00:16:34] Yeah, one could have walked away from our last episode and said, wow, this is you know, everything's rosy. It's exciting. So much opportunity.

Brian: [00:16:42] Yeah. It's exciting. All the big companies are getting in on it. It's recognized as the next you know, it's the conversational economy. Right? It's happening. But so Chris Masina released his Masina Bot today, and I had a little fun with the Masina Bot. I didn't even spend all that much time on it, honestly, you know, maybe 15 minutes. And I felt like it was pretty rudimentary. I mean, I get it. You know, there's not much out there like it. That's kind of the point. It's rudimentary.

Phillip: [00:17:17] It's a proof of concept.

Brian: [00:17:19] Yeah, it's first gen stuff. Initially, when I first used it on my phone, it was buggy. Like, I got triple responses several times in a row, and I switched to my desktop and it worked fine.

Phillip: [00:17:33] So for those who aren't initiated, could you give me a little bit of background on what a Masina Bot is?

Brian: [00:17:42] Right. Masina Bot is essentially, it's Chris Masina's extension of himself as a bot. In short, it's like his resume and things that he likes. It's kind of like his Messenger resumé and Pinterest board in one.

Phillip: [00:18:03] If we could bottle up all of his hubris and put that into digital form...

Brian: [00:18:11] Speaking of which, Chris, we want you on the show, if you're listening.

Phillip: [00:18:13] Oh my goodness, yes. And I think actually he was inspired by other people who had done similar things.

Brian: [00:18:19] That's right. That's absolutely correct.

Phillip: [00:18:20] Yeah. So like Esther Crawford, I think is one of those people.

Brian: [00:18:24] Didn't she actually build his bot or work with him on the bot?

Phillip: [00:18:29] Yeah basically. Esther Bot is, you know, something that specifically I think uses LinkedIn or whatever to like make your resumé into a bot. You know, I've joked for a long time as somebody who I'm a platform developer and I work with Magento. And I've joked for a long time that my personal resume should really just be a Magento store that's like you can add if you want to contact me, you have to add, you know, all of my awards to the shopping cart. And then it's like, you know what I mean?

Brian: [00:18:59] No, somebody actually did that. They ran the resumé as a product page, and it was clever. It's clever.

Phillip: [00:19:06] I think it works exactly one time.

Brian: [00:19:08] Yes. Exactly. {laughter} Totally.

Phillip: [00:19:11] The second person that comes along, you hate that person.

Brian: [00:19:13] Well, so instead of saying like, so their idea is that this is sort of replacing the personal website because it's easier to find. And you can pack more info into it, I would argue that that is actually not true right now. I don't think... I would rather look at someone's...

Phillip: [00:19:32] So tell me what your experience with Masina Bot was like.

Brian: [00:19:34] Yeah. So I mean, like I was saying earlier, like it was buggy up front until I moved the desktop. I moved to desktop, and I got presented with a couple of options. I clicked on one of them. You can actually click on different things in the chat that take you to the next phase of interaction. You can go back to home using different hotkeys. I'll say, the home menu when I first got to it, I wasn't paying all that much attention. I was trying to go through the flow pretty quickly. But I thought there were three options. I was completely wrong that you could actually scroll through this like a slider on the home menu. And when I slid through, like, you could slide through it and find more options, but I hadn't noticed that until I actually came back later. I put it down for a minute and came back to it. And so I'm not saying that's a big deal, but it's just there's things about it. I asked it a couple of questions, probably a little bit unfairly, not crazy questions, but it just felt like I was experiencing MSN Messenger when it first came out.

Phillip: [00:20:45] Ugh. Yeah.

Brian: [00:20:46] You know, it's cool. It's the next step. It's necessary. And it can definitely be improved upon. And I think Chris would probably say that as well. He would totally agree with that.

Phillip: [00:21:02] Oh yeah, I mean, there's nobody that is taking this very seriously. I think it's on brand. You know, first of all, Chris Masina, who is kind of prolific, is a technology lead at Uber, so I think it's sort of on brand with some of the other things when you look at what Uber has done with Amazon Echo and some of the other sort of forward thinking integrations like Facebook Messenger. So, yeah, I think it definitely works out. One thing that you touched on, which is one of the challenges that really, I think, is going to play out is that because this isn't a visual medium for the most part, because it's not a visual medium, we're trying to cram visual medium, you know, the things that we're used to working with in a visual medium, we're trying to cram those things into these experiences that maybe they don't work well for. It's the weird trough that I talk about. You know, every technology has a valley in its graph from X to Y, I'm sorry, it's X Y graph. So from left to right, along the X axis, you have people who have been doing something for 20, 30 years who have a lot of work because that technology is so old that nobody uses it anymore. And those people somehow survived that valley, that trough in the middle of that, where everybody was unemployed because people had moved away. I'm talking about things like Cobol and Fortran.

Brian: [00:22:39] Yeah.

Phillip: [00:22:40] There are technologies that and skill sets which only become more valuable after they're decades old. But nobody wants to work with a technology that's 10, 12 years old. Then you go way to the right on the graph, and there are brand new technologies that also are in high demand. It's the stuff in the middle that nobody really wants to do. And it's really interesting because if you look back 20 years, what were people doing 20 years ago? People were creating multiuser domain like mud and BBS servers and and chat bots and BBS servers. And there was a whole skill set in a non visual medium that was entirely based on context of conversation. And those skill sets have all but died off. And the people that are extremely skilled in creating decision trees and creating scripts that can be understood contextually by human without having to have these really clunky interfaces that use sliders or maybe... For you to understand where in the conversation or where in a decision tree you takes a level of artistry. Right? It's beyond just programming.

Brian: [00:23:50] This is not just a technical skill. Yeah. It's not just a technical skill. This is really a human interaction skill.

Phillip: [00:23:58] I would argue that it's not a technical skill at all.

Brian: [00:24:00] Yeah, it's an art. I mean, there's definitely a science to it, no doubt about it.

Phillip: [00:24:06] Yes. Yeah. Fine.

Brian: [00:24:07] The idea is that this is actually not the same thing. This medium is not going to be transformed by developers. They're going to play a part in it. But it's, you know, user experience designers who have a better understanding of human interaction, that they are going to be the ones that actually drive this forward to the next level.

Phillip: [00:24:35] I think there's a whole element of, you know, of behavioral and personality sciences. I think, you know, like behavioral and personality analysis, things like that that will come into play here that nobody's considering right now.

Brian: [00:24:49] Yes.

Phillip: [00:24:50] You know, you mentioned a while ago and I'm trying to lead you to talk about it, but I'll just ask you straight up, you said something to the effect, like the people that are going to be really successful here are like humorists and you know, comedians and people that are very good at provoking positive reactions from people.

Brian: [00:25:09] Exactly. We need to stop thinking like we're on a flat page. We need to start thinking like this is people talking back and forth.

Phillip: [00:25:17] Yes.

Brian: [00:25:17] And how would you actually interact? And obviously there's an objective, which is true for most conversations. I mean, this is not the web. This is just people trying to accomplish something with a conversation. And so, yes, we're going to see the marketing people might be the ones that actually, like, make this happen.

Phillip: [00:25:42] Yeah, they innovate. They'll be innovating here. Right.

Brian: [00:25:45] Yeah. So I think that's... I'm glad you brought that back up. I forgot that I even said that. And it's a really good point. {laughter}

Phillip: [00:25:53] Good job past Brian. You did a great job there. And that's really stuck with me because I think that's the, it's people who are able to create non clunky, you know, I don't really have the right phrase for it, but people who can really create slick interfaces...

Brian: [00:26:14] Well, not even slick interfaces. It's the people that like maybe they're the ones at the office that you might consider a little bit of the chatterbox. You might avoid them for a second when they first come in because they're ready to converse with you. They're ready to share ideas and make the workplace about communication and not just the business ideas, but also of their lives.

Phillip: [00:26:33] Right. Well, anyway, yeah, I think so. There's a lot of challenge right now. I think specifically because we're not there yet, and so the things that people are doing are very rudimentary and proof of concept.

Brian: [00:26:58] Yes, actually, that brings up sort of the next thing, which I think is a perfect example of this, which is the Spring Facebook bot interaction.

Phillip: [00:27:14] So Spring is a shopping site, right?

Brian: [00:27:16] Yes. Correct. There's a BuzzFeed article by Katie Notopoulos posted on April 13th, and she documents her experience trying to purchase via the Facebook Messenger chat platform from the Spring bot. And I want to just read you a quick little excerpt of this, because I think it really sets the stage for this. She starts to go in, and she's going to buy some sneakers. It asks her a couple of initial questions, and then she says, "Little did I know it would entail almost two and a half hours, endless frustration, and near constant shaming by the bot over my budget."

Phillip: [00:28:08] So what did she go into any more detail there? Because I'd love to hear what that means exactly. Like, constantly basically redirecting you back to things that are more expensive?

Brian: [00:28:19] Exactly. You know, constantly trying to... She had a hundred dollar budget, and it was constantly trying to sell her five hundred dollar shoes.

Phillip: [00:28:26] {laughter}

Brian: [00:28:26] So it was like it couldn't remember her price range. And it was like "See more like this." Oh five hundred dollar sneakers that you can't afford because you're poor.

Phillip: [00:28:41] Away with you, plebeian.

Brian: [00:28:42] Exactly. I am only here to talk to rich people.

Phillip: [00:28:48] Exactly. Yes. Which is such a shame. What a terrible waste.

Brian: [00:28:53] And so it just kept trying to up sell her and up sell her and the selection was limited via the bot. Like it didn't even include, I don't think it included their full, their full site inventory. And it was at least at minimum, the lack of the ability to see their offering and sorted by price was a big problem. And then, you know, it's really, really, really painful to shop for things one item at a time. That's where the...

Phillip: [00:29:29] Yeah, that's the worst.

Brian: [00:29:30] Yeah. Not only could she not sort and try to narrow the field, but she was looking at each item one by one by one, and that is just not efficient.

Phillip: [00:29:43] Wow. I get frustrated myself. So I've done things with she who shall not be named. And, you know, I'll say something to the effect of... Oh, this is a great example, because I think it's like one of those canonical examples. First of all, I've ordered something. I've ordered this item from Amazon before, so it's not like it doesn't have context. But I said, you know, "Please order a Whirlpool number 4 refrigerator filter, water filter." And it's, "Oh, we see that you bought this before." Like, it responded back and it gave me some hope that, oh, it knows exactly what I want, and then it proceeded to read off the 15 brand names and marketplace like names of where all available for. And it was literally like a three minute long dissertation. And it's like item number one was found for seventy six ninety nine from... And I'm just like, gosh, stop, just stop already like this. It was extremely frustrating.

Brian: [00:30:55] I can't remember if we talked about this. I can't remember if we talked about this on a previous show or if it was just talking about it, because sometimes our conversations and what we talk about on the show, it's just so natural...

Phillip: [00:31:05] It all blends together.

Brian: [00:31:05] It just kind of blends together. So I know we've talked about this before, but I can't wait for Amazon to give you more power over sort of your view of their marketplace.

Phillip: [00:31:19] Yes.

Brian: [00:31:20] Like customized views. It's kind of like I mean, if you ever worked with like know CRMs often allow you to do that with data. They'll allow you to sort of save a preference of a snapshot, right?

Phillip: [00:31:34] Yep.

Brian: [00:31:36] And so ultimately, I think Amazon is getting to that point where it's such a large marketplace that would be so much better, and especially for buying through Alexa, where you could work within a framework that you have created for yourself.

Phillip: [00:31:51] Yeah, well, I think that'll get there. I think, you know, you were kind of getting to a point where it's her write up was very, very frustrating of having one product at a time and then something to the effect of what was it you said? It was there was a great pull quote, and I can't remember it at the moment. It sucks because. Oh, I apologize. That's a completely different article.

Brian: [00:32:24] {laughter} We'll get to that next.

Phillip: [00:32:25] That was on a completely different article.

Brian: [00:32:27] That quote. We will talk about that quote. But yeah, just to kind of finish out the article, and I think that these are two huge points as well.

Phillip: [00:32:35] Yeah.

Brian: [00:32:35] There are no customer reviews of the bot at all. And so you're taking the word of a recommendation from the company, which why they highly recommended the most expensive possible pair of sneakers that they could.

Phillip: [00:32:49] Yeah, probably.

Brian: [00:32:50] And then finally, it's like this is her final complaint. It doesn't have all of your Facebook info saved for checkout. So she still has to go through the full process of checking out. Now, I can bet you that Facebook is looking to make this a lot better of an experience. I believe it's David Marcus who leads up the Facebook M team.

Phillip: [00:33:12] Right.

Brian: [00:33:13] And he came from PayPal. And so I cannot see this staying this way. It's like I expect that the payments piece of anything to do with Messenger is going to get really slick very soon.

Phillip: [00:33:29] Well, I think, you know, one thing she had said was, "I had to check out from scratch at the Spring site."

Brian: [00:33:36] Yes.

Phillip: [00:33:36] So like links you over to the site and then you have to reenter all this information. The whole point of Facebook Messenger is that there's payments built into the platform. So I should be able to use Messenger to send the payment in lieu of me going to your site and registering and checking out.

Brian: [00:33:54] Yes.

Phillip: [00:33:55] So I think her like final summation was there's literally no advantage to using the bot service through Messenger.

Brian: [00:34:03] Zero.

Phillip: [00:34:03] Yeah. In fact, it makes everything harder.

Brian: [00:34:08] And that's consistent with my experience of the Masina Bot as well. Like it frankly it's just not as efficient to... I would rather look at Chris Masina's Pinterest board if he even has one and/or look at his personal website to find that information out than try to walk through the very like, arduous task of working with this bot.

Phillip: [00:34:32] Yeah, I think it just it needs to mature. I think you look at one of the very first explosions on the Apple App Store was everybody was making a calculator to the point that they actually just said we're not going to allow calculator apps on the App Store anymore. Like, it's a silly thing to have an app for. It's kind of an obvious thing. Nobody could have ever predicted, you know, Airbnb and Uber in 2007. That's not even something that would have ever even been... You know, you would never have envisioned that kind of a thing. And then further to say that you would have things like Hotel Tonight or Uber that like canonically just exist in an app. They don't exist through the web. Why would you ever limit yourself to market penetration and devices? Like why would you ever do that?

Brian: [00:35:34] Yeah.

Phillip: [00:35:35] I think we're going to have the same sort of experience in conversational commerce where people are trying to shoehorn these old ideas and paradigms. I think shopping on Spring is first of all, the first thing you see when you go on is a dude with this silly shirt on. And it's just not my thing. I guess I'm too old for this, but it's also just not a great way to shop in that regard.

Brian: [00:36:06] Yeah, totally. And I think so this is not just limited to the experience of Katie via this article as well.

Phillip: [00:36:15] No, no, no, no. In fact, like bigger names are complaining.

Brian: [00:36:18] Bigger names. Back to Greylock, Sara Guo's second article on the conversational economy hits on this pretty hard. In fact, ok, now back to that quote you wanted me to hit on, which was she says, "The current bot bubble of developer interest is in many cases not leading to great experiences. In Poncho's case," Poncho is a conversational app, "an experience described as frustrating and useless and the slowest way to use the Internet. This harshness is undeserved, but it shows how hard it is to do this, not just well, but better than all other options." In short, there's just certain software and experiences that should not be run through conversational experience, or if there is a conversational experience for it, it should really be complementary and not the primary way of interacting with that.

Phillip: [00:37:20] Precisely.

Brian: [00:37:22] Exactly.

Phillip: [00:37:23] That's phenomenal.

Brian: [00:37:23] Think about how cool it would be if instead of Spring's experience being like this sort of stand alone experience, it was actually really well integrated with their store. And you can actually switch back and forth between Facebook Messenger and their store and any chat that you had going on with their team there and you had a shared cart. I mean, there's all kinds of really cool things you could do that aren't strictly conversational. And I think that's something that's a very important point for anyone that's looking to get into this. You don't just do it because it's hot. You do it because it makes sense to do it because that's where your customers or your users are going to be.

Phillip: [00:38:11] Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Brian: [00:38:12] You're going to be able to better communicate with them and provide them with a better experience of your company, not a worse one.

Phillip: [00:38:18] Yeah, exactly. And I think that's, first of all, you need to you know, we'll have this in the show notes. You absolutely have to read this article, because not only is it sort of taking shots at the existing state of conversational commerce and bot commerce and chat bots in general. Also because I love the fact that it says frustrating and useless and slowest way to use the Internet. And they are fundamentally like it links you to the Gizmodo article where it's like that's the pull quote from it. But every single, first of all, this is like a four thousand word article, but it makes full on recommendations for things that are actually cutting edge or at least good starts in the right direction. So it talks a lot like if you kind of get down a little bit into the article, it talks a little bit about messaging platforms still being in their infancy and it talks a little bit about user context. And I think that this is for me, this is the biggest piece of the puzzle, is that some things are correct in one context and not in another. Obviously, I think you kind of outside of conversational commerce, forget that for a second. But there are so many obvious wins for things like an Amazon dash button or Internet of things like, you know, physical interactivity. But they don't make sense in every context. So a really good example of this is something that I'm playing with right now. You know, I am a developer and I have an Amazon IOT button. And I bought it, you know, just to kind of like play with it, but I'm finding that there are ways to use the button where a button press means something different, depending on what I'm doing in the application at the moment. So I've hooked this button up that if I'm looking at a product detail page in my online store, the button means something there. If I'm looking at an admin page like shipping information, the button means something completely different there. And I think that let's apply that to conversational commerce for a moment. And she sort of opines a bit about, you know, if we had contextual information like sensor data, profile data, geolocation, these services could be so much so much smarter. And I think that they can actually start to become used against you. In fact, there was a really great article today, I believe, on Gizmodo that talked about Apple filing for a patent of understanding safe spaces or camera free zones, so such as like bathrooms or possibly even, you know, security areas in airports or something to that effect. And actually, Apple filed a patent to be able to disable the camera when you enter a geo boundary that's considered to be a camera free zone. So I think context, whileI may hate that idea and I think that's a terrible idea, I think context is coming into play in a bigger way for us to understand that, you know, there's a lot more from a conversational commerce point of view. There's a lot more opportunity to make use of the context of the situation or where a person happens to be or what they are doing.

Brian: [00:41:52] And that's exactly what we talked about last episode.

Phillip: [00:41:56] It is. Yeah.

Brian: [00:41:57] I think, you know, there's so many uses for that where, you know, people are on the go, they're on the move, they're doing something. And Google recognizes that what's going on. And then all of a sudden provides them with an opportunity through chat to do something. That I mean, it's going to revolutionize how we do business and how we sell to people.

Phillip: [00:42:29] Absolutely, absolutely, yep.

Brian: [00:42:31] We don't need to go into that further, since we already talked about it like ad noseum.

Phillip: [00:42:35] Go back and listen to the last episode, because we went very, very deep on that. I think that the back half of this whole article really talks about some of the challenges about us not learning how to adapt our language and speech to what a computer can understand and more about taking deeper steps and how Facebook AI Research Center is taking deeper steps to apply deep learning to natural language understanding. And this is something that Alexa gets very, very right is natural language search or natural language understanding. Maybe we can kind of cover this a little bit from conversational commerce. I mean, conversation is everything. You know, it's all about our colloquialisms. It's all about how we speak. And that happened. That's very different in every language.

Brian: [00:43:29] Right. Exactly. And actually that's one of the advantage that Siri has right now where it actually has some of those abilities already built in. And I think everyone else is behind on that right now. So, no, I think there are good points there. And the article gets a little bit further in as well. There's just a lot of stuff that's still not quite figured out yet. And I think that again, that gets back to the point that we have been talking about this whole time, which is because there's still pieces of technology that are kind of maybe not missing but just aren't completely available yet. I think one of the keys to getting involved in this space and actually utilizing it for your business is making sure that you don't get too far ahead of yourself. There's a major danger, again, because of the hype here into trying to build this more elaborate experience to sort of make up for certain things.

Phillip: [00:44:45] Yeah, absolutely.

Brian: [00:44:45] And I think that that could cause actually more problems sort of starts simple. And then as the technology allows you, then build on top of that and get deeper because otherwise you're going to build an experience that is sort of overbuilt and not ready. Like the users won't be ready for what you have, and they won't be able to leverage everything that you need to deliver.

Phillip: [00:45:10] And one of the things that I think is amazing is that we shouldn't have to teach it, like we shouldn't have to teach someone how to interact with the device. At this point, there's enough data available that we should be learning what works and what doesn't and applying what we've learned over time to making smarter interfaces

Brian: [00:45:31] Again, gets back to Silicon Valley. Like dumps this whole budget into teaching people how to use the software because he's too far ahead of himself.

Phillip: [00:45:41] Yeah, absolutely.

Brian: [00:45:43] It's a problem.

Speaker3: [00:45:44] So one of the things that I think is also really great about talking about some of the challenges in conversational commerce is some of the challenges that we see today on the app side of things. So do you remember the term mash up a few years ago?

Brian: [00:46:03] Yeah.

Phillip: [00:46:03] You remember this term mash up? So it sort of reminds me of that, like a lot of the opportunity that we see that exists right now in this conversational commerce space is what I think we would have called a mash up 10 years ago, which is, you know, providing things like Uber inside of Facebook Messenger or, you know, the skills in the Alexa skills kits sort of store. The problem is ,like the shop Spring site, getting into the context of shopping on Spring happened to be a very jarring experience because it took you out of the context that you were in. And so one of the things that is happening today is revolutions in deep linking into very specific portions of apps that you may already have on your phone, so, for instance, Facebook Messenger, when you're using Facebook Messenger app on your phone, when you call an Uber, you can do pretty much everything in Facebook Messenger. The only thing that requires the Uber app is the actual launching into the accepting of the fare. And for it to deep link to the accept of the fare is a very big technological hurdle to overcome. And I think this is something that we're going to have, to a lot of people are going to be cutting their own paths, so to speak, we're blazing trails here for people, because we're going to have to deal with that from a conversational commerce point of view. And right now, almost all of digital commerce are business to consumer catalog sites.

Brian: [00:47:51] Right. {laughter}

Phillip: [00:47:52] And so much like the shop Spring experience, to make that effortless right now, you have to buy into Facebook's entire platform from payments to identity. There will probably come a revolution in that space and actually, I'm sick to even say this, but, you know, Microsoft is actually very well poised to do this now with with Skype and LinkedIn. But and like a canonical identity, a canonical identity that will...

Brian: [00:48:30] Google is the closest to this, right? I mean kind of.

Phillip: [00:48:33] Well Google certainly knows most about us, but Google is famously bad at creating chat applications.

Brian: [00:48:40] I'm not saying within the chat space, but in terms of like, you know, accomplishing what you're talking about at a higher level, I think that they're very close to this. And I think the reason why I say maybe they are actually close on the chat side is because that's where they're investing now. Like, I feel like chat was always sort of this side project and now it's not. And that's actually why this last IO is such a big deal because they are invested in that.

Phillip: [00:49:09] I mean, it was basically the centerpiece of the entire IO conference.

Brian: [00:49:12] Right. Exactly. And people say, well, I shouldn't say people trust Google. People use Google.

Phillip: [00:49:19] Yeah. Absolutely.

Brian: [00:49:23] I've got all of my credentials and identity tied up in Google because of Fi.

Phillip: [00:49:29] Oh, sure. Yeah. Oh, fine. I mean, yeah. I mean, there's huge lock in.

Brian: [00:49:33] Yeah.

Phillip: [00:49:33] Yeah, there's huge lock in. I think I'm just sort of thinking to myself, I would like to be able to manage my real identity in a lot of different facets from my business and my personal and have all of that. It doesn't all have to happen in the context of payments, I guess is what I'm trying to say. Like an identity, me controlling my identity doesn't necessarily have to just do with the billing and shipping address and the name that is on my credit card.

Brian: [00:50:03] Yes. Dude, that is another episode ahead. Absolutely.

Phillip: [00:50:08] {laughter} Absolutely.

Brian: [00:50:12] I can't wait to get to sort of where I see things going with body data and AI and sort of other indicators of identity and that aren't necessarily tied to our purchasing accounts. But we'll be able to access any type of purchasing account with that data.

Phillip: [00:50:35] Yeah, I just don't think that, you know, PayPal, while they may know a lot about me, PayPal still thinks that my phone number is the phone number that I had, you know, 15, 18 years ago when I signed up for PayPal to begin with. And I've somehow, I've tried for 15 years to change that phone number and it just will never change. It's somewhere deep inside their mainframe.

Brian: [00:50:58] Does that say something about PayPal?

Phillip: [00:50:59] Oh, my gosh. The thing that I'm trying to get to, which I felt like was such a good segue, and I've really...

Brian: [00:51:06] You were going for it and I saw you going for it. I know that I interrupted you because I...

Phillip: [00:51:11] No, it's good. It's good. It's good. Because these challenges are very difficult, things like deep linking an app to app communication, because they're so difficult we're starting to see small little businesses and services that are starting to crop up that do only that. And they do it well. And so because these are like little micro platforms that just enable communication from app to app, and because we're starting to see things like instant apps which are, you know, or progressive web apps.

Brian: [00:51:42] Yes.

Phillip: [00:51:43] These are things that are happening right now. You know, instead of writing integrations directly, one to one with every one of these little platforms, we need to have federated platforms that allow communication between a lot of different types of platform, almost like a fabric, if you will,

Brian: [00:52:06] Ooh careful with that word.

Phillip: [00:52:07] There's the PayPal tie in. But if we had a federated platform for us to be able to tap into for us to not have to do one to one integrations, I think that takes us to the next level. The problem is that in at least in the app to app space, there's really only two players right now. There's a company called Button. And there's a company called Branch, and they're both sort of taking this almost like analytics, quasi analytics, marketing platform, advertising platform approach, so you can get not just deep linking, but like branded links and attribution. And I guess that's how you monetize something that's sort of a novel idea. But I think it's sort of just proves out that really those are the only two to speak of. It sort of just proves out there's nobody doing this stuff right now.

Brian: [00:53:04] Yeah, that segues into something else that I think is a huge deal. And, you know, the article sort of closes out with this, which is that there's actually a lot of opportunity here, a lot of opportunity. And there's actually a lot, this is based off another article that we talked about recently, there's actually a lot of capital out there. And in short entrepreneurs need to start moving, moving on this stuff because there's so many things that can be done right now. Basically needs in the market that are not being addressed. And there's a bunch of money out there waiting for people to actually go fill those needs.

Phillip: [00:53:59] Now, I'm sure that there's... So the article that you're talking about is on Startup Grind. And the title of it, I think basically says the whole, it's the whole message. "Marc Andreessen and Clayton Christensen are quoted as saying Venture Capital is abundant, but opportunity is scarce."

Brian: [00:54:17] And I don't think that they mean that there's not needs in the marketplace. I think that they mean that there's not a lot of people that are actually filling those needs that are worth investing in.

Phillip: [00:54:29] Well, so here's the, so again, another great quote, "Big companies that are well run are very focused on their current customers becoming sustaining and innovators and making them blind to innovative disruptors." So the gap that opens up is essentially people that come in and sort of that are specialized in this particular area instead of companies that are focused on other parts and aspects of their business. You know, what we usually see is in new areas of tech. How many stories have you heard of overnight millionaire app developers in the past, well in the first few years of the mobile computing revolution? I mean, every single everywhere, every single app developer in 2009, 10 and 11, every one of them, if they were actually real legitimate services firms, those guys were cranking in millions of dollars. Because there was nobody it was like a land rush. There was nobody doing it. And this is the I think this is the message I'm taking away. This is a whole brand new market, and there's nobody that's servicing this market and the big players are going to need, the big players in retail are going to need people that have experience in innovating in the space to be able to take them into this era.

Brian: [00:56:03] Well, and that's what she says. Sarah says that in that article. She's with Greylock, right? She says, "I'm actively looking to invest in the conversational economy."

Phillip: [00:56:14] It's right there.

Brian: [00:56:17] It's right there. The VC community is saying, "Please give us something, because it's so obvious to us, but no one's doing something with it." So get out there and do something with it. I think not only do we need people innovating the technology side, but we're also going to need a system of integrators out there as well. I think that's going to be another big piece to this is we're going to need people to actually consult and help businesses determine how to actually leverage all these technologies, so that it's not just a scattershot approach. I think that's going to be really important. Good guidance and smart thinking about how to leverage these technologies that are coming. Otherwise, you're going to get lost in a sea of new technology without a good guidepost to show you what to do.

Phillip: [00:57:19] Gosh, if that's not a pull quote for our show notes, I don't know what it is. Yeah, we're coming up close. So we thought we would barely go 20 minutes on this. I think we're going close on an hour now. My gut tells me... Yeah, I think we started out this conversation. There's a long way to go. I think we're wrapping it up in a more positive note that there's tremendous amounts of opportunity. I think there's going to be some bumps along the way. The thing that I think every single retailer, every everyone in this marketplace is is going to be focused on is that you essentially listen, at the end of the day we are trying to reach more people with our goods and services. And the fact is there are, wow, goodness gracious, there are a billion people using WhatsApp right now. A billion. A billion people using WhatsApp. There are 800 million people every month using Facebook Messenger. That is your market, ok? And if you are a first player to the space, you will undoubtedly have an advantage in the marketplace. The thing is, is that putting your fashion shopping site on Facebook Messenger is very obviously, and now we've seen from BuzzFeed perspective, it's obviously the wrong approach. So we need to really take stock of the types of things that belong in a conversational context.

Brian: [00:58:58] Yes, actually, let's just end it on that note. Yeah, that was good. I like that. I like it.

Phillip: [00:59:04] I like it. So I am definitely bullish. I think that this is where things are headed. This is the reason why we created the whole podcast in the first place.

Brian: [00:59:15] Same here. Obviously, we're obviously we're bullish.

Phillip: [00:59:19] We want to know if you're bullish. I want to know what you think.

Brian: [00:59:23] Give us some comments. Let us know what you think. Talk to us about what you want to hear us talk about and research for you and guests that you want to see on the show. I know we haven't brought one in yet, but we're going to.

Phillip: [00:59:36] It's happening. It's happening. And so anyway, yeah, it's been another great conversation. Thank you for listening to Future Commerce. We want you, like Brian said, we want you to give us feedback, so scroll to the bottom here. If you're listening on, if you're on the site right now, go to the Disqus comment box below. Leave some feedback here on this message. We want to know what you like, what you didn't like. We want you to subscribe as well, so you can listen to us on the go. So go to iTunes right now. Subscribe and leave us a five star review. That helps us to get this show out to more people and broaden our audience. And also remember, you can subscribe both on iTunes and Google Play or you can listen right now on your Amazon Echo with the phrase, "Alexa, play Future Commerce."

Brian: [01:00:18] Oh you said "Alexa."

Phillip: [01:00:19] But I bunched it up really tight, so she didn't really hear it.

Brian: [01:00:24] Good work.

Phillip: [01:00:24] So until next time. Thank you. And look toward the future. Adios.

Brian: [01:00:29] Adios.

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