Concierge Commerce is Harder Than Ever
October 21, 2022

Concierge Commerce is Harder Than Ever

Acquisition costs are rapidly increasing and brands can no longer expect to be profitable on the first purchase.  Brand loyalty is at an all time low thanks to over-saturation of media and the explosion of consumer options.

Ecommerce is innately a self-serve, DIY shopping experience.  And that can be great, it can be easy, it can be liberating…but it also can be really hard for your customers, especially the large subset of customers who don’t know what to buy and need help. Sure, your website has all of the content and information to help abet this self-serve, but consumers crave efficiency and ease…not effort. 

Your new customers are not interested in becoming PhDs on your brand, they want guidance, they want the help of a trusted resource.

Your ecommerce business is no longer a brand enhancer or competitive advantage.  It’s a utility.  You’ve gotta have it, but it's a catalog at best.  So if customer experience is important to you, your ecommerce website isn’t doing you any favors anymore.

But there is hope.   In a recent report by PWC, 82% of users shared that they want to interact with real humans more as technology evolves and 75% agree that automated experiences are too impersonal. According to Forbes, 86% of consumers prefer to interact with a human vs a bot.

And it appears that retailers are waking up.  The pandemic and increased isolation inspired a wave of new customer experience innovations and the result: consumers love it!

I’m talking about Conversational Commerce, the latest digital CX innovation and first new way to shop since….well, since the introduction of ecommerce.  It’s transformative to the DIY ecommerce experience because it gives your shoppers their very own human, digital personal shopper to help them find and buy the right products.  The newer, more modern conversational commerce experiences are easy to use, lightweight for brands to install, and scale much greater than the reactive sales experiences brands have offered through their customer service departments.  The best forms of Conversational Commerce, the ones converting the highest and that scale the greatest, are done through SMS.  Consumers love the ease of text messaging, and because it’s a continuous asynchronous conversation, it matches the customer’s elongated consideration and buying pattern.

That’s why we started Humankind, a leading bespoke Conversational Commerce platform.  Humankind originated in 2018 as a DTC beauty brand featuring a human-led, concierge 2-way SMS shopping experience to differentiate our CX.  After many iterations and millions of interactions over 3 years, we nailed the perfect consumer experience, alongside great and easy-to-use tools for the human sales expert.  The epiphany came next: why isolate this goodness to a single skincare brand? Let’s turn this into a B2B platform and share it with the world! Humankind was born.

We launched in late 2021, and the results are already pouring in. Humankind clients are seeing 20-40% conversion rates (70%+ with a paywall), 150%+ AOV lift, and an unprecedented 4.94/5 star customer rating across our entire client base.  Consumers love it because it’s empowering. Not only do they feel more confident that they are buying the right products for their needs, but their personal shopper (aka expert) does all the work for them, saving them time and energy. Let’s take a look at the different flavors of Conversational Commerce so you can evaluate your needs and how you might choose to lean in.

Examples of Conversational Commerce

  1. Olaplex
  2. Tatcha
  3. Untuckit
  4. Musician's Friend

Concierge, 2-Way SMS Sales: Olaplex

Olaplex is one of the hottest and most storied hair care brands on the market. As one of the largest independent hair care brands in the world, with 100+ worldwide patents, they’ve consciously prioritized working with and for real people by using patented technology to improve hair health, look, and feel.

In early 2022, Olaplex found religion in concierge commerce. Leveraging Humankind’s platform, they've grown and scaled the program to about a dozen hair stylist professionals designing bespoke hair care regimens.  The CX for users is easy to use and straightforward.  It begins with a short online survey to get the customer’s hair details and desires, and then transitions to a 2-way SMS based expert consultation.  The 1:1 interaction with the Olaplex hair stylist is casual, comforting, and trustworthy.  Best of all, they are real people, with years of experience working with hair.  After the short consultation, which includes the sharing of hair selfies, the expert designs a custom regimen of their recommendations in a landing page and sends that out via text and email.  The recommendations come with personalized notes on each product, demonstrating that the expert has taken the time to get to know their customer and really match them to the right products.  From there, the consumer can easily add the products right to cart for a seamless checkout.  Easy peasy.


  • Consumer prefer text
  • Easy light touch experience
  • Scalable so you can offer it widely and makes it easy to be profitable
  • Experience can extend post purchase to create higher LTVs, easy to get live
  • Doesn’t require that many salespeople to do material sales volume


  • Be ready for a lot of demand!

Video Chat: Tatcha

Tatcha skincare, a collection of luxury beauty products from Japan, is one of the many brands that launched 1:1 video chat consultations during the pandemic. It’s a lo-fi way of getting into conversational commerce for a small subset of your users.  The sign up is pretty easy, usually a calendar scheduler, but because an expert can only do 1 consult at a time, there sometimes isn’t availability for days/weeks. The video chat is exactly that, a human-to-human video call.  

Like text based consultations, the experience is highly personal and you get to know your expert almost as well as she gets to know you. The salesperson will leverage screen sharing tools and chat functions by sending you PDP links to finish out the experience. While the perception is that video will create more trust, the poor image quality doesn’t add as much value and it’s a lot to ask from a consumer to be a private, quiet space for 20-30mins. 


  • Easy/low cost way to get started
  • Calendaring allows you to staff accordingly
  • Create a face to face relationship 


  • 50%+ of your appointments ghost you
  • Profitability is challenging
  • Since you can only do 1 at a time, it doesn’t scale well
  • Scheduling appointments adds a lot of friction and limits impulse
  • We’re all videoed out

Store Associates for Online Sales: Untuckit

Untuckit is a fast growing omnichannel apparel business, selling highly curated fits for men’s shirts. During the pandemic, when stores were mostly closed, they leveraged brick & mortar salespeople to do online personal styling chats. The experience was similar to a customer service in-browser chat, except it was a fashion salesperson doing the consultations.  The results saw higher conversion rates vs customer service sales, but availability has become a bigger challenge now that malls are open and thriving.  The CX is not that much elevated over a service chat and the resulting recommendations can mean a dozen browser windows of different PDPs open, not the easiest way to browse especially on a mobile screen.


  • Cost efficiencies with using in store salesperson during downtime
  • More credible than doing this through customer service


  • Operationally a headache for in store employees 
  • Not much of a differentiated CS
  • Since salespeople can only sporadically do one chat at a time, it doesn’t scale, making it hard to turn a profit
  • Need to have a large store footprint and train a large amount of salespeople
  • In-store sales associate turnover is high. Average tenure is only 19 months. (Source: Xactly Corp)
  • Potential bad experience if the salesperson is on a chat and a new customer walks into the store (one of these customers loses)

Omnichannel Communications: Musician’s Friend 

Along with Backcountry, Musician’s Friend is one of the OGs of conversational commerce.  They realized early on the power of human trust in retail and it’s the reason they have built a $400M+ business around conversational commerce.  For more than 25 years, they have been providing 1:1 guided shopping with real experts, much to consumers' delight.  Since its origins were before modern communication stacks, it has relied on older methods such as phone and email.  While these can still be effective, they are becoming less preferred by consumers and they have their disadvantages when it comes to impulse and scale.  Nonetheless, we take our hats off to these OGs because they have really proven out that consumers love concierge digital shopping experiences and have been a big influence on Humankind


  • They’ve been doing it the old fashioned way for a long time and are pretty good at it
  • Shoppers have come to expect this in their shopping experience


  • Like all retail, they’re really built for “one-call closes” and shoppers go on a more elongated journey
  • Email is a challenging platform to have consultative conversations and seamlessly move back and forth. It’s much harder to conduct a fluid outside of conversational text
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