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Michael Kors launches smartwatch-focused chatbot

Michael Kors introduces chatbot to smartwatches, tech, fashion tech, smart technology, chatbots
Michael Kors introduces chatbot to support smartwatches

Michel Kors has launched a chatbot on Facebook Messenger and Google Assistant, designed to support its Access Sofie smartwatch for women.

The bot aims to teach users about the smartwatch’s features and functionalities, guiding new owners on the set-up process of their device when they first purchase, enabling them to get the most out of it thereafter.

It also provides style inspiration curated from user-generated content and shopping information about items to buy within the experience, including interchangeable bands for the watches. That is done within the Facebook Messenger feed, or via a voice-activated option available through the Google Assistant.

Should the user need help, the bot is also equipped with FAQ support and the ability to hand users off to a human customer service representative when the moment arises.

The chatbot is also available for non-watch owners, enabling them to explore the different Sofie smartwatch styles, then inviting them to either make a purchase on the spot or head to their nearest Michael Kors location.

This sort of move for chatbots as a key part of customer service is becoming increasingly commonplace among brands and retailers. Part of the reason, beyond the marketing drive it has facilitated initially, is the scale it enables. As the technology itself improves, this is only going to get smarter.

Across verticals, there are now more than 100,000 bots on the Facebook Messenger platform, all of which have the potential to reach the platform’s 1.3 billion users.

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e-commerce mobile social media

Yoox Net-a-Porter Group tests notifications as one of Whatsapp’s first business partners

Yoox Net-a-Porter Group is testing Whatsapp's new business features
Yoox Net-a-Porter Group is testing Whatsapp’s new business features

Yoox Net-a-Porter Group is living up to its promise of Whatsapp as a key channel for customer service, teaming up with the messaging app as one of its first business partners.

The luxury e-commerce company has previously highlighted that its mobile shoppers place more than double the orders of desktop users, making it particularly clear why it would look to further engage them. It will work with Facebook-owned Whatsapp, which has over one billion daily users, to test various features, including enhanced notifications.

In a blogpost about the “conversational commerce” launch, Gabriele Tazzari, director of research and development at the group, said the personal shopping team has already been using Whatsapp to service the company’s highest value customers – its EIPs, or extremely important people. They have been experimenting with using existing functions like status updates to share pictures of new items and ultimately push towards transactions.

“To date we have made countless sales across Whatsapp, even selling a single item for over £80,000,” he explains, noting how shoppers have highlighted a preference for messaging rather than emails.

As part of the new test programme, the group has now integrated its Order Management System (OMS) with Whatsapp by using its new Enterprise solution. This allows the company to additionally use the messaging service as a notification system for order and shipping confirmations. It is doing so as a test with Yoox in Belgium initially, where it’s so far seen less than 3% of users ask to unsubscribe from the service.

“In the future, we hope to engage customers with our business via the app, giving every single user an immediate and personal service, whether it is an automated notification or real-time customer care or personal shopping services,” Tazzari adds.

Further features that Whatsapp is rolling out include verification badges, messages that can’t be deleted and different colour messages.

The news follows Facebook Messenger’s move into conversational commerce with the growth of its chatbot services. The likes of Everlane, Sephora, Burberry and more recently Levi’s, have been using it as both a content-sharing and customer service tool. Payments are also possible, hinting at what could be rolled out to Whatsapp down the line.

This story first appeared on Forbes

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e-commerce Editor's pick mobile social media

The new Levi’s chatbot aims to help shoppers find the perfect pair of jeans

The Levi's chatbot website widget by Mode.ai
The Levi’s chatbot website widget by Mode.ai

Levi’s has teamed up with tech company Mode.ai to launch a chatbot on Facebook Messenger focused on helping customers find the perfect pair of jeans.

The Levi’s Virtual Stylist, as it’s called, assists shoppers with fit, rise and stretch for its denim line, all the while aiming to reduce returns by also providing sizing recommendations.

Users can search through the entire catalogue of the brand, get inspiration by seeing the items worn by others in a section called ‘See it Styled’, then opt to either view more items like the ones they’re looking at or indeed click through to the product page. All of the results are synced with real-time inventory data, so they don’t see out of stock items.

As a plus point, the bot understands real language – meaning it parses text input to deduce exactly what the user is looking for. When I typed “Looking for white jeans for women”, for instance, it then did indeed surface white jeans for women.

What’s perhaps most interesting is that Levi’s has also worked with Mode.ai to create a separate version of the chatbot as a widget on its website. Head over to Forbes to read the full story, as well as insight from Mode.ai founder and CEO Eitan Sharon.

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What you missed: Robotics in retail, biotech’s luxury nod, Amazon launches Spark

The rise of robotics in retail
The rise of robotics in retail

A round-up of everything you might have missed in relevant fashion business, digital comms and tech industry news over the past week.


TOP STORIES
  • ‘We’re at the onset of an industrial revolution’: The rise of robotics in retail [Glossy]
  • Biotech gets the luxury nod with Bolt Threads x Stella McCartney tie-up [Forbes]
  • Amazon launches Spark, a shoppable feed of stories and photos aimed at Prime members [TechCrunch]

BUSINESS
  • Will the death of US retail be the next big short? [FT]
  • 10 major retailers that could go bankrupt in 2017 [RetailDive]
  • Miroslava Duma on the biggest sustainability problems facing the fashion industry [Marie Claire]

SOCIAL MEDIA
  • Instagram encroaches on Snapchat’s turf of social media influencers, winning their hearts, minds and posts [CNBC]
  • Snapchat’s e-commerce boss says World Lenses could transform how brands convert online shoppers [The Drum]
  • Nordstrom hones Snapchat strategy for annual anniversary sale [MarketingDive]

MARKETING
  • Adidas debuts lifestyle app All Day [Fashion United]
  • Pharrell Williams powers Old Navy’s 2017 back to school musical [BrandChannel]
  • Valentino integrates shoppable video for exclusive AW17 pre-launch on Mytheresa [Fashion United]

RETAIL & E-COMMERCE
  • Legacy retailers define strategy in competitive terms. Retail upstarts define it in terms of their customer [LeanLuxe]
  • Everlane to open first flagship store [RetailDive]
  • LLBean rebrands to be more digital, less direct-mail [AdAge]
  • CEO Matt Kaness on the future of ModCloth, post-Walmart [Glossy]

TECHNOLOGY
  • The permanent future of conversational commerce: eBay’s RJ Pittman on AI and chatbots [Forbes]
  • Researchers develop green method for artificial spider silk [Fashion United]

START-UPS
  • Modern Meadow to unveil its creative materials platform at fall exhibition [Modern Meadow]
  • NewStore raises $50 million for mobile commerce [TechCrunch]
  • Meet Shopshops, an interactive, online retail experience for fashion-savvy Chinese consumers [Fashionista]
  • Syte.ai, a visual search startup just for fashion, closes $8M Series A [TechCrunch]
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e-commerce Editor's pick social media technology

The permanent future of conversational commerce: eBay’s RJ Pittman on AI and chatbots

eBay ShopBot on Facebook Messenger
eBay ShopBot on Facebook Messenger

Fashion and electronics are the two top categories users are browsing on eBay’s Shopbot, according to the e-commerce company’s latest insights.

The Facebook Messenger-based chatbot, which launched in October 2016, aims to satisfy consumer demands for richer and more contextually relevant search enquiries. At the time, RJ Pittman, chief product officer at eBay, said: “Combining AI with eBay’s breadth of inventory and unique selection will enable us to create a radically better and more personal shopping experience for virtually anyone that owns a mobile phone.”

Now, more than nine months on, the team is finding those who use the chatbot are nearly three times more likely to do so to ask questions on specific products versus browsing eBay’s inventory for inspiration and discovery – suggesting both engagement and retention are high.

I caught up with Pittman to hear more about the progress Shopbot has made, as well as to understand his views on the future of AI and conversational commerce. Head over to Forbes to read the full interview.

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mobile social media

Six tips for nailing your chatbot content strategy as a competitive advantage for the future

Burberry's Facebook Messenger chatbot
Burberry’s Facebook Messenger chatbot

Chatbots have received somewhat of a mixed response since they hit the market at scale – both praised for the ease with which they can offer customer service for instance, yet critiqued for their lack of true intelligence.

This is something we’re working towards, according to Ben Parr, co-founder of chatbot building platform Octane AI, who spoke at Lions Innovation, a division of the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity, last week. “The technology for bots that are truly intelligent and personalised based on AI is just not there yet to be totally reliable 100% of the time, but in the future, as the tech evolves and improves, they will be,” he explained.

In the meantime, what’s important is to create an experience that is repeatable and reliable, he urged. Building an audience through such platforms now enables brands to be at the forefront of this space once we are there, he added, making it a competitive advantage for the future.

Head over to Forbes to read the six tips he gave for how to nail your chatbot content strategy on that basis.

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e-commerce mobile social media

eBay’s new ShopBot on Facebook Messenger aids contextual search

eBay's new ShopBot on Facebook Messenger
eBay’s new ShopBot on Facebook Messenger

The move for AI-enabled personal shopping assistants is heating up, with eBay the latest to join the chatbot movement.

Debuting on Facebook Messenger in beta at this stage, the ShopBot, as it’s called, is a new commerce experience that combines AI (or artificial intelligence), cloud computing and human judgment.

Says eBay’s chief product officer, RJ Pittman, about the announcement: “With more selection available to online shoppers than ever before, finding items that are perfect for you and your budget can be time consuming. At eBay, our focus is to help shoppers find their version of perfect and simplify the shopping experience.”

The conversational nature of the bot is designed to make it feel like you’re talking to a friend; one that can quickly sift through the enormous amount of inventory on the site, and one that can do so contextually in ways that search can’t.

Head over to Forbes to read more about this contextual capability, as well as how it can surface results from images, and more.

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Editor's pick social media technology

Burberry is also experimenting with chatbots for London Fashion Week

Burberry
Burberry’s latest campaign ahead of its London Fashion Week show

Facebook Messenger’s foray into the chatbot game is getting some serious fashion kudos of late. Hot on the heels of Tommy Hilfiger’s launch during New York Fashion Week, comes Burberry’s new initiative on the platform for London.

The British brand is using the service to share content around the new collection as well as live customer service.

As per the typical format of such chatbots, it operates as a series of multiple-choice questions inviting the user to say what they want to see. You can opt to reveal the fact Virginia Woolf novel, Orlando, influenced the line for instance, as well as see animated sketches of certain looks in womenswear, menswear and accessories.

Throughout the conversation is a nudge to “skip to the maze” whereby a somewhat gamified experience is revealed. A GIF of a traditional looking garden maze is revealed telling the user to “step inside to reveal pieces from the new collection”. That inspiration comes from Nancy Lancaster’s interior and garden designs.

Burberry chatbot
The Burberry maze on Facebook Messenger

Clicking on emojis of hands pointing left and right, you can surface new sections of the maze featuring models walking through the vertical hedges. One of the discoveries includes the Floral Field Jacket, found hooked on the shoulder of a sculpture.

“Conversational commerce” as a theme has been gaining steam over the course of 2016 – meaning chatbots that serve to direct the user to retail throughout various content means.

Burberry is of course making its show shoppable immediately for the first time this season. All 83 men’s and women’s looks, comprising over 250 pieces from the September collection, will be available to purchase through Burberry’s physical and digital retail network, shipping to over 100 countries.

“The changes we are making will allow us to build a closer connection between the experience that we create with our runway shows and the moment when people can physically explore the collections for themselves. Our shows have been evolving to close this gap for some time. From live-streaming, to ordering straight from the runway, to live social media campaigns, this is the latest step in a creative process that will continue to evolve,” said Burberry chief creative and chief executive officer, Christopher Bailey.

Burberry chatbot
Burberry reveals part of its new collection on Facebook Messenger

The show will be live-streamed via Burberry.com as usual as well as on Facebook Live for the first time. It will also see specific Snapchat geo-filters for those close to the show space and other key live event spaces in London and the US. On WeChat users will be able to exclusively buy two editions of the Bridle bag from the collection.

The catwalk itself will be hosted at Makers House in London where a partnership with The New Craftsmen will also see an exhibition and open series of activities for a week celebrating the craft and inspiration behind the collection.

This story first appeared on Forbes.

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e-commerce Editor's pick social media Startups technology

Augmented reality bot brings virtual lipstick try-on to Facebook Messenger

Modiface_ augmented reality bot
The new Modiface AR chatbot on Facebook Messenger

Chatbots in the fashion and beauty space are increasingly commonplace thanks to the launch of simple bot tools on the likes of Facebook Messenger and Kik. But how about one that not only has a conversation with you about what to purchase, but can show you what said item looks like on you in real-time too?

Modiface, an augmented reality (AR) company serving the beauty industry with custom try-on apps, has integrated its simulation technology into a conversational beauty advisor on Facebook Messenger.

The AR bot enables users to discover lipsticks specifically at this stage, providing them with the ability to virtually try different options on by uploading a selfie of themselves directly into the chat. Using advanced facial tracking and simulation technology, the bot then shows them what they look like in that exact product.

Find out more via the full story on Forbes.

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business data e-commerce Editor's pick mobile social media

10 things fashion retailers need to know from Mary Meeker’s 2016 Internet Trends report

Internet Trends Mary Meeker
Mary Meeker delivering her 2016 Internet Trends report

If there’s one place to get a good overview of shifting digital consumption habits, it’s from Mary Meeker, partner at Kleiner Perkins Caufield and Byers’, annual Internet Trends report. To save you having to trawl through the 200+ slides from the 2016 release, here are a handful of need-to-know insights for those in the fashion and retail space:

1. Visual platforms continue to win, particularly for those in the Millennial generation (aged circa 18-34 years old today). Leading platforms in terms of both engagement and reach include Facebook, Snapchat and Instagram.

1.MaryMeeker_socialnetworks

2. This is even more the case with Generation Z, who communicate via visuals far more so than text. They also operate more screens than their Millennial counterparts at once (five versus two), and tend to be creators and collaborators over curators and sharers.

2.MaryMeeker_GenZ

3. This visual playground is Snapchat’s world, and everyone else is just living in it. Snapchat has nailed how to host visual content in an advertising sense that works because it’s authentic, entertaining, in context and often brief, said Meeker. As a result, it now sees users playing with things like its sponsored lenses for an average of 20 seconds at a time.

3.MaryMeeker_snapchatlenses

4. Let’s not forget, when we’re talking about visual content, video plays a massive role. Its usage, sophistication and relevancy continues to grow rapidly, explained Meeker. Facebook now sees 8bn video views per day, while Snapchat is getting 10bn.

4.MaryMeeker_videoviews

5. Live video is also becoming more important. Over the past century we’ve moved from live linear viewing on the TV to on-demand streaming, to semi-live content like that of Snapchat Stories in and around 2013, to today’s “real-live” feeds via the likes of Periscope and Facebook Live. Meeker referred to the recent Chewbacca Facebook Live video, which referenced retailer Kohl’s, as “user generated content at whole new orders of viewing magnitude”. Kohl’s not only sold out of the Star Wars mask at the centre of the video, but became the leading app in the iOS app store in the US.

5.MaryMeeker_livevideo

6. Getting video right – being authentic, creative and valued through your content – is key by the way because ad blocking is also majorly on the rise. Today, 93% of internet users have or will consider using ad blocking software, according to Unruly. This software is especially a big deal in China, India and Indonesia, and around the world 420m users are now using it, which is a rise of 94% year-on-year. “If there has ever been a call to arms to create better ads, this is it,” said Meeker.

6.MaryMeeker_adblocking

7. The role of messaging apps is also growing and especially relevant for retail businesses. The secret sauce is the magic of the thread – it’s conversational, it remembers identity, time, specifics, preferences and context. Using such platforms is a boon to customer satisfaction, Meeker added, explaining that it’s also leading, of course, to commerce.

7.MaryMeeker_conversationalcommerce

8. Brands emerging in the retail space (and playing with all the aforementioned tools) are being heavily impacted and influenced by the Millennial generation, Meeker explained, with the below chart showing the sorts of companies founded by decade over the past 100+ years. Today, internet-enabled retailers, products and brands are significantly on the rise, bolstered by always-on connectivity, hyper-targeted marketing, the role of images and personalisation. StitchFix is a great example of this, said Meeker, for the fact it brings Spotify and Netflix-like discovery to fashion, with each customer getting a differentiated experience thanks to its advanced algorithm.

8.MaryMeeker_retailchanges

9. All of this also means there are numerous internet brands that have managed to reach $100m in annual sales within five years (including the likes of Birchbox, Everlane, Rent the Runway, Bonobos, Nasty Gal and more), compared to Nike, which took 14 years, Lululemon, which took nine years and Under Armour, which took eight years. “It’s fast and it’s impressive,” said Meeker.

9.MaryMeeker_internetbrands

10. Lastly, when it comes to customer service, no surprises here: social media and instant chat is preferred by Millennials than the telephone is.

10.MaryMeeker_businesscontact