8 September, 2016 – ‘Conversational Commerce’ is set to explode with messaging platforms such as WeChat, Facebook Messenger, and Telegram, all looking into the use of chatbots to further boost e-commerce. Chatbots are already being used by a number of companies such as Sephora, Pizza Hut, and 1-800 Flowers as well as the Singapore Government, who use a chatbot called Jamie to assist with government websites.
The appeal of chatbots is their ability to mimic human interaction and resolve customer needs faster than humans. There is no need to put a caller on hold, for example. The chatbot gets straight to work without delay. For e-commerce, chatbots provide the ability to guide shoppers through a shopping experience and assist with product selection and product purchase – all within a single platform, Facebook Messenger. Gone are the days of app clusters crowding out mobile phone screens.
Beyond these, the power of a shopaholic bot like AskVoila truly manifests itself in the ability to curate and personalize – making conversations progressive and not mere transactions. The chatbot is able to retrieve the latest discount codes and host custom features through the “Steal Of The Week” and “Pick Your Style” segments for retail therapy filtered down to personal taste and preference.
Singaporean and co-founder of AiChat Pte Ltd, Kester Poh started working on AskVoila in November 2015. AskVoila began testing on Facebook Messenger in April 2016 after Mark Zuckerberg announced the Messenger Chatbot Platform.
Poh believes the Facebook Messenger platform is ideal for the expansion of conversational commerce because of its established user base of over 1 Billion people and positive feedback from early testing of AskVoila.
AskVoila experienced significant organic growth in its user base and achieved sales conversions of 28% during its concept validation phase, when the service was being carried out manually by human operators through WhatsApp. This is phenomenal traction given the industry standard for online retail is around 1%-3%.
These positive results led to a successful seed funding round for AiChat Pte Ltd where Poh and his team can now expand the AskVoila shopping experience. Poh states:
“…it’s early days for conversational commerce, but the technology is advancing at super speed…”
“AskVoila is improving everyday and will be increasingly automated as we progress. At present, AskVoila can’t completely replace a customer service team but it has cut manpower needs by 50% already since implementation two months ago…that’s pretty staggering progress, imagine where we’ll be with this technology in 6 months!”
Spurred on by these positive results, Poh is now building a broader AiChat platform to enable anyone to build a chatbot. Poh states:
“…the AiChat platform will allow people with little computer programming knowledge to build chatbots…it will also allow them to easily manage the bot, train it, and monitor analytic data related to user engagement with it. However, we understand that many people are still new to chatbots, hence we are offering our expertise to help business owners ensure that the bot created is useful and able to bring a good user experience to their customers…’
Poh also notes that chatbots cannot replace humans completely.
“…the human touch is still required in the conversation. A bots main function is to answer basic enquiries, perform menial tasks and then filter more complex functions to relevant personnel for follow up.” he added.
Looking towards the immediate future, AskVoila will be expanding their product range and services with personalised shopping features in the next phase.
Currently, AskVoila is an affiliate partner of Lazada – selling apparel, watches, bags, electronics, skincare products and furniture via the personal shopper technology developed by AiChat Pte Ltd on Facebook Messenger.
About AskVoila and AiChat Pte Ltd
AskVoila is a digital personal shopping assistant powered by Artificial Intelligence and trained human experts to help you shop via Facebook Messenger. AskVoila is currently seeking additional retail partners. (https://m.me/askvoila)
AiChat is a chatbot-as-a-service platform for businesses to build, manage and train a chatbot. It is now available in beta where AiChat engineers will assist with the development and integration process. (http://www.aichat.co)
AskVoila (A product of AiChat Pte Ltd)