Chatter is making headway with retailers.

Crosswalk Ventures, a global consumer insight laboratory, is gaining traction with Chatter.

Chatter, which launched in 2017 and became part of the Crosswalk Ventures offering last year, creates AI-powered and open-ended conversation with a shopper on their mobile phone, lowering costs of acquisition and increasing rate of conversion.

Chatter was started by Simon Foster, and was soon after joined by Rick Albert, a marketing executive. Albert was previously a partner in Swoop Inc., a global brand consultancy that specialized in business intelligence and brand strategy for clients such as Calvin Klein, NFL, Michael Kors and Speedo, and was a partner in Balet & Albert, an ad agency. Foster earlier was senior vice president of digital and corporate development at Blue Ant Media, in charge of building its digital business in the U.S. and Canada. He also worked at Quickplay, where he launched the first worldwide audio and video podcasting service on Blackberry and worked on the launch of Sirius XM on mobile in the U.S.

Simon is ceo and founder of Chatter and Albert serves as chief executive officer of Crosswalk Ventures, the holding company. Together they have been developing and marketing the Chatter platform to the retail, hospitality, sports and entertainment industries. Among the retailers using Chatter are Fanatics, Lush Cosmetics, Modell’s, Mastermind Toys, Purdy’s Chocolatier and The Mobile Shop.

The way it works is a retailer posts a sign at checkout or at the exit of the store asking the customer to call a specific phone number where customized open-ended questions are asked about their satisfaction or dissatisfaction with their shopping experience. Also included on the sign is a recommended incentive that encourages the shopper initiation. Chatter’s AI team then listens for thousands of topics specific to the retail experience and organizes them into relevant, actionable learning.

A retailer can speak directly to its purchasers and nonpurchasers in real time and capture the essence of the shopping experience. The brand builds a database of captured cell numbers from opted-in shoppers, and has a 90 percent completion rate. Chatter has found that it engages over eight times more shoppers than traditional methods.

“Customers may opt into the platform by texting, QR code or NFC,” explained Albert. NFC (Near Field Communication) is a protocol that helps two devices communicate wirelessly when they are placed next to each other — for instance, smartphones or smartwatches can be used for payments or boarding passes.

He said Chatter also has the capability to push the invitation out to the shopper via the client’s WiFi, POS system or e-mail database.

According to Albert, sample questions could range from, “Is this your first visit to this store?” to “Did anyone help you as you were shopping?” and “What was your favorite part of your shopping experience?” They also might ask, “How likely would you be to recommend our store/brand to your friends or family? “

No two conversations will ever be the same when engaging with the platform as each shopper provides his or her own set of answers. It is the answers to these questions that will be the data generated for client use, said Balet.

Albert said they seek to capture the key quantitative KPIs (key performance indicators) for the retailer, such as NPS (Net Promoter Score), which is an index used to gauge the customer’s overall satisfaction with a company’s product or service and the customer’s loyalty to the brand. Albert said they want to understand why the customers gave that score, the drivers both positive and negative.

“To accomplish this we let the consumer lead the conversation to tell us about their experience, good or bad, big or small. Our AI’s job is to understand what the consumer is saying and to ask relevant and intelligent questions to get at the best possible insight. This approach allows us to identify the greatest opportunities for improvement that would have previously been a blind spot for the retailer,” he said.

According to Albert, customer conversations, not surveys, are then analyzed by the retailer in real time, with top customer experience strengths and weaknesses presented to each store and district manager via e-mail or an online results dashboard.

Asked what he thinks this will do for retailing, Albert said, “It will absolutely drive higher in-store conversion and reinvent the way retailers learn from their shoppers. This will be the holy grail for retailers to gain that critical insight on what is most important and impactful to their shoppers. So many decisions  in retail are made on experience and intuition.”

Albert said he expects that stores and brands will be able to understand the “why” of shopper behavior in real time. “Stores will now act more quickly and with the distinct knowledge that ‘they know’ what their shoppers want, in product service and experience. The result will be higher degrees of loyalty, appreciation and sales,” he said.

Mike Moran, vice president of Fanatics Retail, said, “Chatter provides us with the cutting edge tools we need to gain visibility into customer sentiment. Their revolutionary AI provides us with instant feedback from our customers that is straight to the point and actionable.”

“Before using Chatter, we didn’t have consistent customer feedback flowing in,” said Cindy Keddington, Voice of the Consumer, Lush Cosmetics. “We chose Chatter because of their innovative platform and personal touch. Our stores now have consistent feedback flowing in directly from customers on a daily basis. It’s very empowering and motivating.”