To bot, or not.
With consumers downloading fewer energy-draining apps to their mobile phones, fashion and beauty brands have been considering chatbots as another way of interacting with their audiences. H&M used an approach that was solely geared toward conversions, while Estée Lauder‘s London beauty store No. 6, Burberry, T.J. Maxx and Tommy Hilfiger have tested chat bots through Facebook Messenger to varying degrees.
Now, online clothier Betabrand is partnering with Epytom, an artificial intelligence style assistant, to take the stress out of getting dressed in the morning while selling products along the way.
Epytom makes recommendations based on what a consumer already has in her closet. Since most people’s closets are cluttered with things they never wear, the Epytom bot makes suggestions about garments that can be discarded. Once the clutter is out of the way, Epytom builds a “high-efficiency,” 40-piece wardrobe, starting with a customer’s existing pieces and filling in with Betabrand garments where needed.
New core pieces arrive in a box. “You want some freshness in your look,” said Anastasia Sartan, chief executive officer of Epytom. “The way we approach that is, we show you five pieces that will work with everything you have.”
Those that sign on for the service get a message from the bot every morning with the temperature and a potential look for the day. “Why don’t you mix these pants with this blouse,” the bot says, for example. The bot keeps questions to a minimum by using image-recognition technology. “I just analyzed your Facebook user pic to learn more about you, like, your age,” the bot said, which somehow feels like an invasion of privacy.
In addition to getting style hacking tutorials twice a week, users can play interactive fashion games that highlight different Betabrand products. The San Francisco-based crowdfunding clothing company releases new designs daily and has launched innovations such as dress pant yoga pants, space jackets and the Suitsy, a business suit onesie. “When they get the right answer, they get a 20 percent off coupon,” Sartan said.
“We show you how to increase the versatility of your wardrobe,” Sartan added. “For items you’re missing, to complete your high-efficiency wardrobe, we send you a box.” Sartan said the bot allows for a personalized, yet at the same time, scalable conversation with the consumer. The average purchase is between $250 and $500. Epytom gets a commission for every Betabrand garment that’s purchased.
Epytom technology was tested in Sartan’s native Russia, where she worked in e-commerce before moving to the U.S. “We figured out that the industry doesn’t care about the consumer as much as we’d like it to,” said Marianna Milkis, Epytom’s content editor in chief, who worked as an editor in Russia.
“I have a lot going on in my life,” said Betabrand chief marketing officer Aaron Magness. “If I can get a weather report along with a recommendation of what to wear, it’s becoming quite useful. When you say, ‘I’m going to a meeting and going out afterward,’ there are different ways of serving up information. The end goal is that when you are thinking of buying pants, you buy them from Betabrand.”
“The world of bots is new. It’s also crowded with people trying to figure out the way to use them,” Magness said. “We have this slow play to see how this is developing. We don’t have a hard end date for the test. We want to learn whether women are looking for a full outfit or a key piece? What is the click-through rate? Learning from this will help us determine where we put our resources in the future.”