PARIS — Meet Louis Vuitton’s new virtual assistant.“Hello! I’m your Louis Vuitton Virtual Advisor. Which handbags are you looking for?” The sample chatbot-generated message swivels through other suggestions: Accessories? Shoes? Fragrance?Marking the latest stride by artificial intelligence into the retail sector, a star brand of French luxury behemoth LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton has introduced a chatbot to Facebook messenger in the U.S.The company turned to Silicon Valley startup Mode.ai for the new tool to boost business during the crucial holiday season.“We see messaging platforms as future key drivers of conversations with our clients, and potential for the integration of artificial intelligence and chatbot technologies to further enhance service to clients across these new channels,” said Louis Vuitton chief executive officer Michael Burke, in a statement.The executive added that the use of the Mode.ai-powered virtual advisor was meant to personalize shopping experiences for the brand’s clients who connect to Louis Vuitton wherever they are, following it on social networks like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, as well as the official Web site.The brand counts more than 20 million followers on Facebook, and plans to take the virtual advisor to Europe and Japan in addition to other messenger platforms such as WeChat and Line.Through the service, consumers can share products with friends in Messenger, access an exhaustive online catalog, locate stores, browse product care instructions and learn about the brand’s fashion shows and history. It also has the ability to suggest products, the companies said in a joint statement.“We are still in the very early stage of AI technology adoption in the retail industry,” said Mode.ai ceo Eitan Sharon, referring to it as “not just a trend but an ever-growing arena.”The company launched a virtual stylist — also on Facebook Messenger — for Levi Strauss & Co. this summer, suggesting products based on customer responses to questions like “How would you like your jeans to fit through your hips and thighs?”The retail industry sits in the middle of the range of digital maturity across sectors, according to a report entitled “Artificial Intelligence: The Next Digital Frontier?” published by McKinsey & Co. over the summer. The industry is embracing digital technology at a faster rate than tourism industries but slower than high-tech sectors.Companies with the most digital experience will likely be the quickest to turn to artificial intelligence to improve their businesses because they have already built up the technical skills more easily, according to the study.“We expect that large companies with the most digital experience will be the first movers because they can leverage their technical skills, digital expertise, and data resources to develop and smoothly integrate the most appropriate AI solutions,” the report said.The chatbot bet from the largest fashion brand of industry leader LVMH comes as the company and its peers hustle to improve their digital offerings in the face of progress from online pioneers Amazon and Alibaba. Many sellers of high-end goods had been reluctant to embrace the online sphere, unsure of how to provide the personalized attention demanded by their consumers. This appears increasingly to be a concern of the past, as companies look to online business for growth, analysts say.“Digital has clearly become a strategic area for luxury goods. It holds the key to growth in the current market plus it opens new opportunities in communication and client relationship management,” noted Luca Solca, analyst with Exane BNP Paribas.
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