E-commerce came into its own in the era of lockdowns and social-distancing, speeding the uptake of online retail in both the US and SA by two years. However, those who have suddenly woken up to its significance, and think web-based purchases are the next big thing, are already behind the curve.

It is time to prepare for conversational commerce. A term first coined five years ago by Chris Messina, best-known as inventor of the hashtag on Twitter, it refers to the intersection between business and messaging — or chat apps...

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