It pays to talk with conversational commerce

The Vonage platform helps brands turn conversations into sales. The story began in 2021, when Vonage acquired, an AI-powered conversational commerce platform founded by brothers Chirag and Yash Kotak. Rebranded as Vonage Conversational Commerce, powered by, the business now works with brands around the world to engage and nurture consumers throughout their buying journeys using the conversational channels they love.

We spoke with Yash and Chirag Kotak – co-founders of and senior director of product Management at Vonage and senior director of business development at Vonage, respectively – about the future of e-commerce marketplaces and how Vonage looks to provide a full suite of enabling technologies through its partnership with Stripe.

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You founded, now part of Vonage, in 2017. What inspired you to start the business?

Yash: Up until 2016, we were running a development agency that was building websites for a range of brands. This is when we started thinking about the online customer journey and how brands were measuring success for their social media activity. The targets and performance indicators for brands would be likes, shares, comments, and click-throughs to websites. But attributing any of these to sales uplift is difficult, so it’s hard to say what the ROI really is.

Brands would drive users from social media to the website to make purchases, but this left a lot of room for drop-offs. We felt like this journey could be accelerated and simplified. So we wanted to figure out how we could convert these potential leads and sales there and then, in the moment. If you see something you like, you should be able to buy it now. This was the ethos behind And that’s where the name came from, too; we wanted to ”jump” sales for brands.

Chirag: We saw a change in the way consumers were interacting with businesses as social platforms matured. We could see people replying to brands’ social media activity with ”PM me please” – showing the desire to have two-way communication with brands in this space. So we wanted to see how we could bring the conversations between people and brands that would previously happen in the offline world – be it a retail space or through field sales – into the online world where people spend so much of their time. Then, with these conversations happening, we could turn these into a new gateway for brands to capitalise on being there in the moment with the potential buyers.

Tell us more about the businesses you work with.

Chirag: We predominantly serve larger businesses who either sell directly to consumers or sell to consumers through partners. There have been some industries that have led the way for conversational commerce; these include beauty and personal care, fast-moving goods brands and utility offerings such as Singapore’s EZ-Link transport payment card.

But the real beauty of conversational commerce is that it can apply across almost any industry. Any business that has customers, whether it’s B2B or B2C, can benefit from the way in which it is changing customer journeys. It can be directly driving sales in the moment or later through things like arranging appointments to turn into sales at a later point – for example, in beauty salons or more service-focused businesses.

Businesses in Singapore can now accept payments from their customers directly in WhatsApp. How does this affect the way businesses communicate and connect with customers?

Yash: WhatsApp has huge potential for us as a business and the brands that we work with. In many countries around Southeast Asia but also around the rest of the world, people’s lives and businesses are running on WhatsApp. This is particularly true in Singapore, where people have become very accustomed to interacting with businesses on the platform.

WhatsApp opens opportunities for businesses to truly connect with consumers. In this part of the world, people are open to businesses reaching out to them in what could be considered a personal space, as long as it’s relevant and offers value to them.

For consumers, it offers them the ability to get fast answers to the questions they have while they are considering a brand or product. If a customer service agent or sales employee responded to these potential buyers through WhatsApp, they can service multiple customers simultaneously, unlocking a lot of efficiency for the brands involved. Instead of dealing with customers one-to-one on the phone, they can help as many as eight customers at the same time.

Chirag: A global household appliances and electronics brand has been an early adopter of the WhatsApp sales service in Singapore. It was looking at a better way to interact and connect with customers and leverage its first-party data to keep consumers informed about new products and exclusive offers. When consumers were given the ability to purchase within the WhatsApp conversation – after they received the product details and were given the chance to ask questions – the business saw an immediate uplift in sales. This really showcases the potential of conversational commerce to deliver results – and not only in the Singapore market but across the world.

How important is an effective payment solution to your offering?

Yash: Stripe has been pivotal in delivering the ability to buy within WhatsApp. Both from a technical point of view but also the fact that people trust the Stripe name, which gives them the confidence to make these transactions. And overall, our solutions depend on seamless and secure payment systems to work and to keep customers coming back.

For businesses operating in conversational commerce, how do you believe they can strike the right balance between human authenticity and automation?

Yash: We believe a human touch is absolutely necessary when shopping for higher-ticket items. For low-cost items such as groceries, it may not be so important. But when the price is higher, people want to speak to people and get consultation to be sure about their purchase.

Right now, AI can’t really offer that personal touch. It may be possible in time, but we aren’t there yet. So humans are still playing a key role to give these conversations authenticity and deliver more value to consumers. Customer service agents can now become customer sales representatives, helping customers with queries and creating sales opportunities in one seamless journey.

Chirag: Automation has raised the expectations of businesses today. But it’s important to apply these amazing technologies in the right use cases. We believe that humans will continue to play an important part in anything conversational for the foreseeable future.

What is your outlook on the future of conversational commerce and its significance in shaping the overall customer journey?

Yash: Conversations between businesses and consumers have increased significantly; what was missing, though, was the ability to make payments and complete transactions. With the help of Stripe, we now have a trustworthy and seamless way to deliver this vision for conversational commerce in WhatsApp and other platforms. We see this growing significantly in the B2C space but also in the B2B marketplace. B2B companies rely heavily on the interactions between customers and sales agents or customer reps, so why shouldn’t they be able to build transactions into these conversations in the platforms people are using most frequently?

Chirag: What we see is that users don’t want to have a myriad of apps on their phone to complete different transactions. Why would people want to keep jumping across different businesses’ apps when they can contact and transact with multiple businesses in one place? Because of this, we can see some exciting possibilities for businesses of all sizes and industries going forward. If they can interact with potential customers and convert them in the space they are already using, the potential is huge.

How do you envision Stripe playing a role in Vonage’s future plans?

Yash: Back in 2017, we needed a payment partner that was easy to work with, trustworthy and globally accepted. Stripe came out clearly on top then and is still the best choice for us today. The flexibility offered and the way Stripe innovates have been amazing.
The ability for Stripe products to integrate with and work for businesses of all shapes and sizes, all over the world, has made it a fantastic partner for us. We see this partnership continuing to grow in strength and deliver brilliant results in the future.

How you can turn your conversations into sales with Vonage and Stripe

Learn more about Vonage Conversational Commerce features and book a free consultation with the team:

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