Asos is giving its Enki fashion chatbot voice powers, and it has nothing to do with Amazon’s Alexa. Indeed, the British e-commerce company revealed Thursday it has become one of the first fashion retailers to launch on Google Assistant.
The company upped its conversational commerce game when it launched Enki, its virtual shopping assistant, on Facebook Messenger in the U.K. in August. Now the bot takes its first steps into voice tech through Google Home smart speaker appliances and mobile devices.
“With the launch of Enki on Facebook Messenger and now Google Assistant, we’re exploring ways that conversational commerce can help us make the Asos shopping experience as easy and intuitive as possible,” said Jason Gregory, senior product manager.
Enki draws from the retailer’s “Style Match” tech, which calls up products based on looks shoppers already favor. One example is a customer seeing and snapping a photo of an outfit, submitting it to Enki and then getting similar items available from Asos. The bot can add products to a shopping list or make other suggestions. Since it can conduct proactive and focused searches for patrons, it comes off more like a personal shopper than a mere robotic customer service tool.
The support for Google Assistant now takes the company beyond the snap-and-tap scenario. Consumers in the U.K. and the U.S. can talk to their Google Home smart speakers or Google Assistant mobile apps.
To kick off the action, users say, “Hey Google, Talk to Asos,” and describe what they’re looking for. (Texting the Assistant within the mobile app works as well.) From there, Enki searches products across six of the retailer’s top women’s wear and men’s wear categories and puts them on their smartphones’ displays.
“With 85,000 products on site at any one time, and on average 5,000 new items added each week, it’s more important than ever to make it easy for our customers to stay on top of what’s new on Asos,” Gregory said.
Google’s interest in shopping and fashion may not be as pointed as the numerous efforts from Amazon, which includes the Echo Look fashion selfie camera, the Prime Wardrobe try-before-you-buy service and Echo Show speaker with display. But that doesn’t mean the search giant is not in the mix. Notably, Google Assistant ties into its Google Express shopping service, and the company unveiled its own smart speaker with display. It also noticeably featured a fashion player in its Google Lens ad campaign.
The voice assistant has support from eBay, Kohl’s, Target, Faer, Neiman Marcus and others. And, notes a Google spokesman, the Google Assistant Investment program recently backed Maison Me, which is developing a Google Action for the Assistant that provides shoppers with custom-made dresses.
But Asos in particular, as one of the first fashion-specific retailers to support Google Assistant, will likely be a focal point for industry watchers. Enki has the potential to gain traction among voice customers, given that Google Assistant is available on more than 500 million devices worldwide. But it also means that any middling results could make a stronger case for aligning with Amazon and Alexa.
To set expectations, the retailer said it will use customer feedback to refine the experience. It’s a reasonable point, given this is its first foray into voice platforms. Tech users are accustomed to unpolished launches refined by later software updates. The next few months could be critical in determining if fashion shoppers will have the patience as well.