One thing you may not know about me is that I’m a total fashion marketing nerd, although not at all a techy type. From the history of print advertising to exciting new developments in digital content, the world of marketing is fascinating to me, despite its sinister stereotype. A huge new digital marketing trend is bots, which, as the computer boffins predict, are the new ads. And I want to know, what does this mean for the fashion industry?
What the hell is a bot?
Bots are robots, but not as you know it. Bots are everywhere in technology, ranging from malicious bots that come with a virus to search engine spiders that crawl the Internet looking for new Web pages to add. In this context, we’re talking about chatbots, which can hold a conversation with you to accomplish a task. Today’s bots can help us order food, shop for clothes, save money and find restaurants. For example, Digit helps you manage your money by showing your bank balance, upcoming bills and helping you save money through text messages. The Hi Poncho chatbot available in Facebook Messenger tells you the weather around you.Many bots are programmed to act like humans when you talk to them so it feels like asking a person for help instead of just typing in a search engine. Basically, bots are a simple form of Artificial Intelligence integrated into our everyday lives. (source)
I thought that my first experience with a chatbot was in the most recent general election (*shudder*) when the BBC News Facebook page started talking to me on messenger and responding to my questions and comments about the results in my constituency, which was very useful but also mildly too futuristic and terrifying. Then I had a flashback to the primary school days of MSN messaging, where bots like ‘Smarterchild’ would provide hilarious entertainment. this was just one of many forms of automated, computer generated communication that has been going on for a long time and that most of us experience daily (think customer service texts and emails, and of course Siri).
What Do Bots Mean For Fashion?
Bots appeal to fashion brands because they can provide detailed insight into customer behaviour, location and interactions in real-time, which further enables targeted communication with the customer. This is at current mainly through apps like Facebook messenger which could essentially eliminate the need to open a third-party app for a broad range of transactions, since most people already have a Facebook account. Essentially, bots are set to become the preferred customer service advisor of the future, combining bespoke communication with the consumer as well as cookie technology to collect big data, helping brands get more value from their digital analytics.
Essentially, the possibilities here are endless, what with tech geniuses developing natural language processors, multilingual interfaces, mobile platform capability and multichannel capabilities. But how will consumers actually respond, and will the model work for fashion? Despite fast-evolving technology, will over-the-phone and email communication continue to be the method of choice for resolving customer service issues, and will simple, user-friendly websites and apps reign supreme for buying fashion products?
If you are interested in more digital marketing news, then a great source of in-depth information and a super helpful newsletter is Spot Studio. Plus, as you probably already know, The Business of Fashion (BOF) is the number one source of daily news from every part of the fashion industry. Both of these websites have been a useful bibliography for this article, directly cited in some parts.
Ruth @ Urbanity xxx