We are entering the age of conversational interfaces that are powered by our voice or gestures

Patrick Burggraaf

Language as communication

For over thousand years we use our language to communicate, negotiate, buy products and socialise. Although it seems that our screens are the way how we communicate nowadays. We see constant innovation which is connected to language.

The first innovation we saw, let’s say the first wave of conversations, was chatbots. Chatbots speak to our need for simple and direct communication while they also help us as brands to sell products or service our customers. This first wave is basically just adding another channel or touchpoint which we completely own. Conversational interfaces is going beyond. With conversational interfaces we are going back to being able to create an emotional connection through more meaningful conversations. With conversational interfaces, we are able to differentiate ourselves from the competition by adding emotional intelligence through these conversations. However this raises a huge challenge…

Conversational interfaces will increasingly serve as gate keepers to our customers. And this is something which we have to realise, because it will change the way how we interact and how we can interact with our customers.

Let me give an example. If you listen to the way people talk about shopping, you probably notice that they talk about needs and categories more frequently than they talk about brands. On the average shopping list we see something like beer, chips and ice cream and not often brands like Heineken, Lays, and Ben and Jerry’s. But what happens if this behaviour translates into the way people use conversational interfaces? If a shopper asks Alexa for instance to add beer to their chart, who decides which brands actually get added?

That opens the question, how to design, manage and deliver content when the interface is conversational?

Our message, the content, that the conversational interface will use to engage with our customer, needs to feel human. To make it feel human, the interface should talk in stories and not just callout a product title or description. It should tell a story about the product, how it looks like, how it feels, how it helps you etc. Storytelling is the new black - again. In the design phase of our product or service, we have to think about how to promote our product to a machine, and how the machine will talk about our product to the customer.

And secondly, we need a way to deliver our stories to the machine, the gate keepers, and this is a game which is just getting started. Currently each gate keeper, Siri, Alexa, Google is still running its own ecosystem and we have to implement each interface individually at the moment. This means our stories, our content, should be made available in many formats like we are used when delivering images in different renditions.


Pine, B. J., & Gilmore, J. H. (2011).The experience economy. Harvard Business Press.