Chatbots: Live & On-demand

Chatbots – apps driven by artificially intelligent processes that can conduct 'natural' conversations with consumers – are becoming increasingly powerful tools for brand marketers looking to engage customers more efficiently and effectively.

A report from Juniper Research forecasts that chatbots will be responsible for cost savings of more than $8bn a year by 2022, up from $20m this year. 

Development was fast in 2016, but last year saw an explosion in exploration of chatbots, voice ordering and live-chat support. A personal concierge, whether automated or real, is never far away. Here are some innovative ways different brands have been utilising chatbots.

A Digital Wine Sommelier

German supermarket chain Lidl has launched a new Facebook chat tool that can assist customers with choosing the right wine to pair with their meal.

To access the bot, dubbed Margot, consumers head to the Lidl Facebook page and click 'send message'. They then select from food-pairing advice, a wine finder, or an educational wine quiz. For the first two options, the user types in what they are looking for, for example a wine to be paired with a particular dish or a variety from a specific region. The chatbot then picks up on key words such as foods, grape varieties, countries, colours and even emoji, subsequently suggesting wines from Lidl's wine selection.

Creating Fashion Hang Outs with Group Chats

US fashion brand Rue 21’s Facebook Messenger chatbot tool acknowledges teens’ desire to shop in groups or receive validation from peers. Using Facebook’s Extensions feature, users are able to chat with a virtual stylist alongside their friends in real time. The just-launched feature – which allows for group chats, not just one-to-one conversations – is being used as part of Rue21’s overall brand migration towards more youth-resonating digitally based communications.

Devised in partnership with Palo Alto-based technologists, the core tool allows shoppers to talk to an AI assistant on Messenger to receive styling advice and easily browse products according to preferences such as size, price and colours. The bot sends users a carousel of image suggestions from which they pick categories they would like to explore in more depth – selecting one of the displayed options or simply writing their response in the text box provided. 

Primed to add significant extra traction is the Extensions feature, which acknowledges the teen pack mentality – a desire to shop in groups, or to at least receive validation from peer circles. It allows users to chat with the virtual stylist alongside friends, including simultaneously sharing messages with them – a previously impossible task.

Chatbots and messaging apps in general are becoming the default mode of communication for younger consumers. In the US, 52% of teens spend more than three hours per day on messaging apps 

"We’ve proved categorically that consumers still need and want help with the purchasing process – whether it’s sofas or trainers. That guidance and contact still matters because most people have questions they want answered. The unscripted nature of the experience is key."


Ordering on demand

Last month, US fashion brand Alexander Wang launched its latest Adidas Originals collection in New York via a chatbot. A code printed on posters displayed across the city enabled people to text the chatbot at midday on July 29 and order directly from the bot. Items were then delivered by bike messenger the same day.

London’s Inclusive Digital & Mobile Hair Salon

New mobile hair salon concept Chop-Chop London brings inclusive, streamlined and tech-driven services to the busy modern beauty consumer – tapping into three essential trends and strategies driving the beauty industry. Opening in London’s tech district Old Street, hairdressers offer clients 24 styling and cutting options. 

Alongside celebrity hairstylist Sherman Hawthorne, co-founders Kaye Sotomi and Laure Ferrand’s goal was to create a salon that is accessible to all races, genders and hair types. The brand’s ethos is grounded in inclusivity and this is reflected in its service menu, which boasts an affordable set price of £20 for 20 minutes, regardless of gender or request.

The most striking feature is the ‘virtual queue’ on Chop-Chop London’s app, which is used for all bookings. Customers can select their desired timeslot on demand and simply wait; an alert is sent 10 minutes before the appointment. The salon hopes to cater to consumers seeking high-tech, time-saving solutions with effective results.

The brand is aiming to open three salons by the end of 2018 in popular hubs such as shopping malls. The foldability and mobility of the pods enables them to be moved easily and quickly to different locations – suggesting big business for music festivals and large events.

Real-Time Beauty Responses

Sephora also launched its Live Community Chat last September, enabling customers to ask other community users questions in real time on the product page as they are shopping.

“Our clients are fast,” said Payne. “The average response time from our users is one-and-a-half minutes.” Essentially, Sephora is cleverly harnessing its connected consumers to not just build community but to participate in customer service. Just over one month since it launched, more than 100,000 live chats have been started, with upwards of 20,000 photos shared and uploaded. For more on brands enabling consumers to engage in direct, real-time dialogue, see The Disloyalty Opportunity section in our report Renegade Retail

Benefits of the chatbot
· Chatbots can answer to an unlimited amount of chats at the same time. It’s robotic, therefore you often see this at big companies with a lot of customer traffic.
· It’s way cheaper than a live chat. You will need less employees to answer to all the questions. You have 24/7 support. A chatbot works 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.
· It has a way faster response time, companies spend a lot of time on the improvement of the response time to their customers. A chatbot replies instantly.

Disadvantages of the chatbot
· Chatbots only work if customers ask specific questions and there aren’t any misspelled words in the sentence. The bot will not know what a customer wants if the question is not specific enough.
· Customers can miss the contact they receive with a human.


customer service, that doesn’t mean the role of humans will be completely eliminated. The future of customer service isn’t just in AI powered bots and automation. Human supported live chat is still a very powerful customer service tool, especially for small and mid-sized businesses.

Chatbots are only there to assist human agents to serve customers faster, save time and money. The most forward thinking and customer focused companies will succeed in finding the right mix of AI and human support agents, using both to the best of their abilities and in cooperation with one another, not in competition.

The chatbot or also known as a virtual assistant, uses the FAQ to answer questions. Customers can ask limited questions to the chatbot, which will then search for the answer. The question you ask the bot must involve specific keywords for it to understand, otherwise it will not work. The development of chatbots is moving quickly. In the upcoming years chatbots will have an important role in the purchase decisions of customers.


AI Chatbots Vs. Human Powered Live Chat

Chatbots can operate without human help 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. A recent study by Tagove showed that 80% of customer’s queries have been resolved by chatbots without human supervision. They can handle an unlimited amount of chats at the same time, which makes them a great customer support tool for companies with large customer traffic flow.