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Editor's pick Retail technology

ASOS launches voice-enabled shopping guide via Google Assistant 

ASOS

ASOS has introduced a Google Assistant experience that gives shoppers the ability to discover new styles using voice technology.

The initiative is an extension of the “Fashionbot” the e-commerce company launched on Facebook Messenger earlier this year, but this time taps into the burgeoning voice interface, which is expected to be worth $40 billion by 2022 in terms of shopping, according to OC&C Strategy Consultants.

Enki, as the ASOS shopping guide is called, gives users access to designs across six of the website’s top womenswear and menswear categories, making them then viewable on smartphones for full exploration and purchase.

All the user has to do to initiate the conversation is say “HeyGoogle, Talk To ASOS” to their Google Home smart speaker or Google Assistant app on Android or iOS. The aim is to help consumers in the US and UK edit down the vast array of products ASOS has available.

Jason Gregory, senior product manager at the company, said: “With 85,000 products on site at any one time, and on average 5,000 new items added each week, it’s more important than ever to make it easy for our customers to stay on top of what’s new on ASOS. With the launch of Enki on Facebook Messenger and now Google Assistant, we’re exploring ways that conversational commerce can help us make the ASOS shopping experience as easy and intuitive as possible.”

On Facebook Messenger, Enki also includes features such as Your Edit, a weekly drop of curated items; Style Match, which enables customers to search using images from the web or captured on their smartphone; and You Might Also Like, which recommends other styles. All are built on machine learning.

This is the first time ASOS has stepped into the voice tech space. Others brands from fashion and beauty, including Perry Ellis and Estée Lauder, have experimented with it ahead of them.

ASOS says it will be using customer feedback from the initial launch to explore ways to refine and enhance the experience over the coming months.

How are you thinking about innovation? We’re all about helping you build innovative integrations and experiences. TheCurrent is a consultancy transforming how fashion, beauty and consumer retail brands intersect with technology, powered by a network of top startups. Get in touch to learn more.

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e-commerce technology

Uniqlo launches digital concierge powered by Google Assistant

Uniqlo IQ
Uniqlo IQ

Uniqlo has launched Uniqlo IQ, a digital concierge service that is powered by Google Assistant and machine learning technology.

The assistant, which is currently only available in Japan, helps customers find style inspiration and recommendations by searching by occasion, items featured in magazines, and even by colour based on the user’s daily horoscope. Products are ranked hourly, meaning results vary at every interaction. Once the consumer is ready to purchase, it can do so online or receive directions to the closest Uniqlo store where their product of choice is in stock.

The Google Assistant integration allows the user to say “Uniqlo IQ” or “Uniqlo FAQ” into the Google app to begin the interaction. According to the Japanese company, this is the first time a brand is using Google Assistant to create a brand-specific solution.

“As retail moves deeper into the digital realm, shopping needs to be not just portable and perpetual but personal as well,” says Rei Inamoto, founding partner of Inamoto & Co, the agency responsible for the project’s brand and service design. “There has been a lot of talk about AI in the last few years but most use cases have been toys, not tools. Available through chat, search and even voice activation, this iteration of Uniqlo IQ is the foundation of how Uniqlo will provide customer service on a personal level not just reactively but also proactively.”

The service was initially tested in the US via Facebook Messenger, before a soft launch in October 2017, when it was available to 2,000 select users in Japan. It is now available through the Uniqlo app, Asian social media platform LINE, and Google Assistant.

How are you thinking about innovation? We’re all about finding you the perfect partners to do so. TheCurrent is a consultancy transforming how fashion, beauty and consumer retail brands intersect with technology. We deliver innovative integrations and experiences, powered by a network of top technologies and startups. Get in touch to learn more.

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ICYMI: LVMH’s digital strategy, feathers in fashion, the McQueen documentary

Proenza Schouler
Proenza Schouler

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

TOP STORIES
  • Decoding LVMH’s digital strategy [BoF]
  • Is the use of feathers in fashion any more ethical than fur? [Fashionista]
  • The McQueen documentary tells the story of the people who carry his legacy [Vogue]
TECHNOLOGY
  • Why Nordstrom is betting on high-touch tech [Fortune]
  • Avery Dennison and SoftWear Automation to create digital supply chain for manufacturers [SupplyChainDigital]
SUSTAINABILITY
RETAIL & E-COMMERCE
  • How Sephora built a beauty empire to survive the retail apocalypse [CBInsights]
  • This is how a brick-and-mortar store can thrive in the age of Amazon [NYMag]
  • Urban Outfitters launches third-party marketplace, tests self-checkout [RetailDive]
MARKETING & SOCIAL MEDIA
  • Nike sells out of Facebook Messenger sneaker drop in less than an hour [RetailDive]
  • Givenchy and Stella McCartney score on Instagram at Royal Wedding [WWD]
  • Victoria’s Secret is still advertising to women like it’s 1999 [Bloomberg]
  • Esprit’s Instagram posts are now shoppable [FashionUnited]
  • This Ikea print ad is designed to put you to sleep [CreativityOnline]
  • Do influencers need regulating? [BoF]
BUSINESS
  • Balenciaga is now the fastest-growing label at Kering? [Harper’s Bazaar]
  • LVMH invests $60 million into fashion platform Lyst [HypeBeast]
  • Richemont clinches takeover of Yoox Net-A-Porter [Reuters]
  • Can the Model Alliance Respect program make a difference? [Vogue]
Categories
Editor's pick mobile social media technology

Facebook Messenger intros AR capability with Nike as key launch partner

Nike AR on Facebook Messenger
Nike AR on Facebook Messenger

Facebook has introduced an augmented reality feature that will enable brands including Nike to offer fans more immersive experiences when speaking on Messenger.

The launch, which was announced at Facebook’s annual F8 developers conference this week, also includes other brand partners such as Sephora, ASUS and Kia.

Nike will allow superfans to buy limited-edition sneakers in AR. At the F8 keynote, the brand introduced a new pair of limited edition Kyrie Irving shoes called “Red Carpet”, which sold out within minutes of the announcement.

To access the experience, users had to speak to the SNKRS chatbot via the Messenger app by sending basketball-related emojis, which unlocked a pair of the shoes. After that, a virtual render of the Red Carpet shoe appeared on the user’s phone, which meant they could move it around to experience it in 3D, before committing to purchase.

The launch is in line with the sportswear brand’s evolving strategy towards an increasingly mobile experience. Last year, it launched an AR feature within its SNKRS app that allowed users to buy a pair of SB Dunks; to promote its Momofuku collaboration in the restaurant’s hometown of NYC, it encouraged fans to partake in a scavenger hunt across the city where shoes could be purchased by triggering AR experiences via physical posters.

Facebook Messenger AR
Facebook Messenger AR

Beyond Nike, other launches include Taiwanese electronic company ASUS, which demo’ed a feature where you can play with the ZenFone 5 to learn more about its features; Sephora, which is introducing a selection of make-up looks to virtually try-on and share; and Kia, which is giving potential customers the opportunity to customize the Kia Stinger.

For Facebook, new features allow the social media giant to further enhance its mission to deepen connections between peers and brands alike. David Marcus, head of Messenger, said at the conference: “This feature, launching in closed beta, helps people get valuable, instant feedback about purchases, and more. Developers will be able to build experiences that let people virtually customize or try-on merchandise, walk through new products, or simply express themselves in a fun way.”

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data Editor's pick product social media technology

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.

Categories
Editor's pick mobile social media technology

Louis Vuitton becomes latest luxury brand to launch a chatbot

Louis Vuitton AW17 campaign
Louis Vuitton AW17 campaign

In a bid to think “client first”, Louis Vuitton has launched an AI chatbot on Facebook Messenger that advises shoppers on products, aiming to provide meaningful feedback during the busy holiday period.

The bot is powered by mode.ai, which has also partnered with the likes of Levi’s with its artificial intelligence, visual search and machine learning technology.

It aims to give clients a more “sophisticated, personalised, visual and conversational online shopping experience” via Facebook, where Louis Vuitton currently has more than 20 million followers.

The main focus is on search – users can converse with the bot to discover the brand’s full line of products, as well as use it to get suggestions on specific items. It uses natural language processing to facilitate a more advanced search experience.

They can also share items with friends directly through it, and get votes in return on what to buy. Additional services include info on stores worldwide, access to product care instructions and a conversational view on the brand itself, from its fashion shows to its history and the craftsmanship behind its products.

Louis Vuitton's new chatbot with mode.ai
Louis Vuitton’s new chatbot with mode.ai

Louis Vuitton CEO, Michael Burke, said: “At Louis Vuitton, we always think client first. Today, our clients like to be connected to the Louis Vuitton universe wherever they are. They shop in our stores worldwide and are often in contact with their personal shoppers. They also follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc. and find our products on louisvuitton.com. It became evident that we should create the Louis Vuitton Virtual Advisor powered by mode.ai, a 24h/7 service to be able to fully meet their needs.”

“We are still in the very early stage of AI technology adoption in the retail industry. The dominance of e-commerce isn’t just a trend, but an ever-growing arena, giving luxury brands like Louis Vuitton the opportunity to reach and sell to their customers in new and exciting ways. As shoppers continue to move online, the most forward-thinking companies will turn to AI chatbot technology to meet these shifting client demands,” said mode.ai CEO Eitan Sharon.

Burke added: “The [bot] is designed to increase the quality of the relationship we have with our clients by enhancing and personalising the shopping experience. We see messaging platforms as future key drivers of conversations with our clients, and potential for the integration of artificial intelligence and chatbot technologies to further enhance service to clients across these new channels.”

The experience is currently only available on Facebook Messenger in the US, but there are plans to roll it out to Europe and Japan next, as well as across additional platforms including WeChat and Line.

This post first appeared on Forbes.

Categories
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.

Categories
business data digital snippets e-commerce film social media Startups sustainability technology

What you missed: Amazon’s big data ambitions and on-demand textiles, Facebook’s VR, a sustainability deep dive

Amazon's Echo Look
Amazon’s Echo Look

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


TOP STORIES
  • Amazon’s big data fuelled fashion ambitions [TechCrunch]
  • Amazon wins patent for on-demand textile manufacturing [Retail Dive]
  • Facebook launches VR project Facebook Spaces [The Drum]
  • Tech tackles the fitting room [Racked]

BUSINESS
  • LVMH takes control of Christian Dior in $13 billion deal [BoF]
  • Hermès joins trend of accelerating luxury sales growth [Business Insider]
  • Kit and Ace shutters all stores worldwide, except in native Canada [Retail Dive]
  • Retail workers fight to get a cut in the era of e-commerce [Racked]
  • Debenhams unveils its turnaround strategy [The Industry]

SUSTAINABILITY
  • How to cut carbon emissions as e-commerce soars [Bain & Co]
  • Are fashion’s recycling schemes as effective as they seem? [The Fashion Law]
  • Is deadstock the future of sustainable fashion? [Fashionista]
  • The myth of closed-loop manufacturing [Glossy]
  • How much has actually changed 4 years on from the Rana Plaza collapse? [Refinery29]
  • Why is fashion still sleeping on all-natural dyes? [Fashionista]

SOCIAL MEDIA
  • How brands are finally cashing in on social with shoppable Instagram Stories and Snapchat ads [AdWeek]
  • Why does the term ‘influencer’ feel so gross? [Man Repeller]
  • Rue21, mode-ai launch virtual stylist with Facebook Messenger group feature [Retail Dive]

MARKETING
  • The state of data strategy in fashion and retail [Glossy]
  • Do podcasts make you wanna shop? [Racked]
  • John Lewis unveils experiential National Treasures summer campaign [The Industry]
  • Mytheresa.com teams with Miu Miu on capsule, fashion film [WWD]

RETAIL & E-COMMERCE
  • Macy’s and the survival of retailing [Bloomberg]
  • Why retailers are trying on showrooms [Retail Dive]

TECHNOLOGY
  • Amazon builds team for autonomous vehicle technology [AutoNews]
  • Burt’s Nature showcases the Burt of Burt’s Bees in VR [The Drum]
  • Estée Lauder’s augmented reality efforts focus on Europe [L2]

START-UPS
  • Walmart’s tech incubator hires co-founder of Rent the Runway [Bloomberg]
Categories
business digital snippets e-commerce Editor's pick social media technology

What you missed: Chanel vs Amazon space travel, Massenet’s VC firm, robots at retail

Chanel's spacecraft at Paris Fashion Week (Image: Vogue Paris) - space technology
Chanel’s spacecraft at Paris Fashion Week (Image: Vogue Paris)

Chanel grabbed everyone’s attention once again at Paris Fashion Week – this time for another future-focused theme with its spacecraft set design. Kudos to the work that went into that but can you imagine the budget? Even Karl Lagerfeld’s visions have got to come back down to earth (excuse the pun) at some point – where is the true value, is the question? Jeff Bezos of Amazon meanwhile, is genuinely exploring how to ship products to the moon.

Elsewhere this week, we’re also talking about Natalie Massenet’s other role running her own VC firm alongside her new co-chair position at Farfetch; the incoming of robots at retail; news of Everlane ditching Facebook Messenger notifications (an interesting move that may spell some serious indication around chatbot ROI); and under our tech header, a must-read from Wired on Ford’s future city including hoverboards that carry shopping and drone deliveries to skyscrapers.

If you’re headed to SXSW this weekend, we look forward to seeing you there – don’t forget to check out our handy content guide en route.


TOP STORIES
  • Chanel focuses on space travel for Paris Fashion Week show with branded spacecraft [Vogue]
  • An exclusive look at Jeff Bezos’s plan to set up Amazon-like delivery for ‘future human settlement’ of the moon [Washington Post]
  • Natalie Massenet, Nick Brown to form venture firm Imaginary Ventures [WWD]
  • Robots will be in retail stores sooner than you think [Forbes]

BUSINESS
  • Sports Direct clarifies purchase of Agent Provocateur [FT]
  • BCBG Max Azria gets bankruptcy loan as chain plots asset sale [Bloomberg]

SOCIAL MEDIA
  • Everlane, one of Facebook Messenger’s first retail partners has ditched it as a notification tool [Recode]
  • Snap pops 40% to start trading at a crackling $33 billion valuation [Quartz]
  • How 5 brands are using Snapchat Spectacles [Digiday]
  • Fashion series are popping up on Instagram Stories [Glossy]

MARKETING
  • Benetton launches new women’s equality campaign [The Industry]
  • L’Oreal’s UK CMO: ‘We are very clear on where our media money is going’ [The Drum]
  • France’s ARPP takes issue with “degrading” Saint Laurent ads [Luxury Daily]

RETAIL & E-COMMERCE
  • Target unveils $7B plan to overhaul stores, digital operations [Retail Dive]
  • Mall retailers are competing on speed to stay relevant [Glossy]
  • ‘Notoriously difficult’: Inside the unraveling of the Thrillist-JackThreads marriage of content and commerce [Digiday]

TECHNOLOGY
  • Ford’s future city: hoverboards that carry shopping and drone deliveries to skyscrapers [Wired]
  • Virtual reality: growth engine for fashion? [BoF]
  • Apple reportedly could have over 1,000 engineers working on AR in Israel [Road to VR]
  • IBM Watson, Salesforce Einstein form AI dream team to aid retail, other industries [Retail Dive]
  • The emerging technologies getting us excited from MWC 2017 [The Drum]
Categories
mobile social media

British Vogue launches chatbot on Facebook Messenger at London Fashion Week

British Vogue, March 2017 issue
British Vogue, March 2017 issue

British Vogue has made its first foray into the AI space via a chatbot on Facebook Messenger that allows users to personalise their fashion news.

“Vogue Fashion Update”, as it’s called, was launched to coincide with the start of London Fashion Week, enabling users to catch up on all the latest shows and their favourite designers.

Alexandra Shulman, editor-in-chief of British Vogue commented: “This is a new method for us to be able to talk directly and immediately to the huge Vogue audience, who rely on us to provide inspiring and authoritative fashion news.”

On joining a chat, users are first given options as to what information they receive, including daily alerts on top stories, up-to-date runway news during the show season, or more tailored content based on specific designers of interest.

Vogue Messenger chatBot

The bot will evolve over time, with future updates set to provide further personalisation and interaction, the Condé Nast International digital team behind it explained in a press release.

Their view is on taking away the need to compete with a scrolling newsfeed and instead deliver content directly to the subscriber for a distinctly more personal interaction.

Cantlin Ashrowan, Condé Nast International’s director of product, said: “We are always seeking to engage with our audiences in new and innovative ways. Today marks the latest step in British Vogue’s long history of innovation in fashion journalism.”

More specifically, it also follows British Vogue’s attempts to run a Whatsapp group (which was really just a broadcast list) for similar reasons. This started out as an instant message update every time there was any relevant fashion news – and fairly frequently – but closed down within a month or so with no word as to why. One can only assume the manpower behind it didn’t make sense for the team (in terms of returns), comparative to this automated version using Facebook’s bot store.