High-end fashion brands are turning to Facebook Messenger as their modern concierges.
At Facebook’s F8 developer conference on Tuesday, the company announced the launch of its chatbot tool, opening it up to brands and companies to use artificial intelligence to connect with customers. Mobile fashion marketplace Spring’s live messaging and personal shopping service, Spring Bot, was demonstrated on stage as an example of how brands and retailers can use the platform to help facilitate online and mobile purchases and answer customer questions.
“Customers aren’t spending their time on a sprawl of apps anymore,” said Spring founder Alan Tisch. “But, there’s a high concentration of engagement on Facebook Messenger. So we created an experience to fit into the natural behavior that’s already happening on the platform.”
That natural behavior, Tisch said, is “conversational commerce.”
“That isn’t new — talking to an associate and getting advice, and training retail associates to work with customers, is an old pastime,” he said.
The difference now is how customers are seeking out that advice, but Tisch said that a well-made chat service will be digital complement to that seasoned, warm-welcoming employee in physical retail stores — an important touch point for high-end brands selling pricey items and looking to build long-term relationships with customers. As these retailers recreate their premium experiences online, a virtual concierge is a key component of the online luxury purchase.
“There are a lot of things that luxury brands can do in digital to ensure they have that high-touch feel,” said Neda Whitney, group account director at R/GA. “One major feature is the online concierge customer service live chat. The luxury clientele expects a certain type of experience when they walk into the store, and this translates that online. The question is how do you achieve the same level of prestige.”
Spring Bot’s personal shopping assistant on Facebook walks customers through a series of multiple-choice questions to help them find suggested items. Prompts include “What are you looking for today?” (women’s items or men’s items) and “What’s your price range?” (under $75, $75 to $250, over $250). The interactions feel authentic, not robotic, but Spring Bot’s one flaw is not getting the hint when your shopping trip on Messenger is over.