Conversations as Commerce

Commerce has evolved from conversations to industrial standardization and now back to conversations.


November 22, 2023


Steve Berry

Conversations as Commerce

Over two decades ago, the Cluetrain Manifesto foresaw a seismic shift in commerce driven by the rise of the internet. It's time to revisit this visionary manifesto, particularly through the lens of AI's role in commerce.

Commerce in History: A Conversational Model

In the tapestry of commerce's rich history, transactions were more than just exchanges of goods; they were conversations. Picture a bustling marketplace where a buyer walks to a market and haggles over a grapefruit's price, each party actively negotiating. This was commerce's most organic form - personal, relational, and deeply human.

The Industrial Interruption

The Industrial Revolution marked a drastic shift. The magic of machinery ushered in an age of mass production and one-sided marketing. Personal interaction in commerce dwindled, replaced by standardized products and fixed prices.

The Promise of the Return of Conversation

The advent of the internet promised a revival of conversational commerce. Online forums and social media platforms seemed perfect to rekindle the customer-business dialogue. However, this landscape quickly became oversaturated. Corporate voices drowned out individual conversations, turning these spaces into echo chambers of advertisements and influencer marketing.

Capitalism's relentless pursuit of efficiency just met AI chatbots. It represents a pivotal moment. For businesses, it's an opportunity to sell and engage, connect, and build relationships like never before. Imagine AI chatbots that don't just respond to queries but anticipate needs, offer tailored advice, and create a buying experience that feels as personal as a chat with a trusted friend at a market stall. This is the future of commerce.

I'm not scared...are you? I didn't say I was scared...

Steve Berry
Principal, Thought Merchants

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