Retail bots might be hot right now but we’ve got 3 ways to make them sexier

Forget retail apps, bots have quickly been heralded as the future. Jumping on the huge success of messaging apps, bots offer new possibilities for retailers: they can be built into platforms to offer ‘natural’ conversations to gauge preferences, make product suggestions, and, ultimately aid purchasing in a quick, seamless way.

So when H&M made its debut on the Kik messaging app last month our ABA Fashionistas decided to put it to the test and see what all the hype was about. It’s still early days and this bot has got great potential – here are 3 things we think it needs to nail to help its invasion further into the future.

​Live up to the promise – get my personal style​

From the get-go, H&M chat bot promises to create a custom style profile, but whether this goal is ever truly achieved is dubious. The process is simple; users enter their gender and life stage, are taken through a series of ‘either/or’ outfits, and are then asked to describe their style. Once complete, there’s a sense of awe at how quick this was – can H&M really establish my style preferences so easily? Disappointingly, it only does so loosely. Most outfit suggestions don’t feel at all relevant in terms of styling. Ultimately, there’s a need for more in-depth questions and analysis at the start of the process. Finding out shoppers’ true style requires a much more complex and lengthy process than six quick questions. ​

Offer more relevant, inspirational content​

​One key frustration is the absence of asking what users don't like to help filter out the looks and garments that would be instantly dismissed. Whilst the initial ‘either/or’ outfits give a ‘none’ option, this ability to rule out styles isn’t continued. More questions up front about what customers don’t like will ensure subsequent suggestions are less likely to miss the mark. Without this, unwanted items can repeatedly feature in outfit suggestions, tainting overall trust in the suggestions and, ultimately, the bot. On top of this, suggesting complete outfits is a great avenue for inspiration, but more on-model visuals and video content could help users better understand and connect with the overall theme of the looks suggested and feel more confident to buy them.

Build more natural conversations

Bots are seen as the most natural technological means of communicating and transacting with customers but there’s a danger this instant conversation can feel very unnatural. The impressive speed of responses – and often insistence on replies – verges on overwhelming. Add to this a young, colloquial language with phrases such as ‘perf’, we are reminded of the bot’s one-dimensional nature. Toning down the speed and language will help create a more natural, leisurely experience.

​​With these 3 builds we think there’s a world of future possibilities for H&M’s bot and other bots like it. Are you ready for the bot invasion…?


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