Michael Kors Access Sofie Smartwatch

Michael Kors has a new tech up its sleeve: On Tuesday, the fashion brand unveiled a chatbot to help users navigate its Access Sofie smartwatch.

Available through Facebook Messenger and Google Assistant, the bot caters to current and potential owners of the connected timepiece. The experience features campaign video clips that show what the device can do in everyday settings, style inspiration through a selection of user-generated content, and shopping information, so customers can pick up a new smartwatch or a band for an existing one. Once a selection is made, they can purchase right there in the chat or get store details on where to buy.

Aside from previous experiments, the company considers this release its first chatbot, and it’s capable of navigating some of the nuances involved in customer service or sales. Think going over an assortment of product and customization options, offering guided setup for new owners, and information on how to get the most out of these arm gadgets. It’s also equipped with information from a list of frequently asked questions, but if it encounters issues it cannot address, the tech can hand off to a customer service representative.

For the Facebook chatbot, Michael Kors will offer QR codes that users can scan to activate it. They can also search brand names inside the Messenger app or tap the “Message Us” button from the company’s Facebook page. The bot will be available through the Facebook Discover page and promoted through ads on the platform, so it can appeal to new consumers. Google Assistant users can turn it on by searching “Michael Kors Access Smartwatch Chat” in the app and type or talk to the bot.

The announcement is geared toward the Sofie model and its various versions — from silver and gold tones, to styles with pavé accents. The company didn’t specifically mention its Grayson and Bradshaw smartwatches, though they’re all based on Android software and have similar features, and Michael Kors didn’t respond immediately to a request for comment.

As a first line of sales or customer service, the use of bots has exploded across the retail sector, going from brands’ own web sites or apps to external programs. Integrations by Facebook and Google over recent years have turned Messenger and Google Assistant into platforms unto themselves, allowing companies to reach out beyond their front yards and appeal to broader audiences. The result gives retailers and labels a way to go out and meet customers where they tend to congregate.

Messenger went from 30,000 bots in its platform as of September 2016 to more than 100,000 seven months later in April 2017. In December, Facebook said its marquee chat app serves as many as 1.3 billion people. As for Google Assistant, its leap from mobile devices and browsers to smartwatches and Google Home smart speakers has driven up the number of available apps: Google Assistant apps grew 144 percent between Oct. 1 and Dec. 1 of last year, for a four-month increase of 211 percent and a tenfold increase over the previous eight months.

The numbers speak to a rise in conversational commerce, a trend that’s expected to continue well into 2018. Beyond that, new platforms and technologies on the horizon — such as Amazon Alexa-enabled glasses and other devices — could continue to fuel it in new and intriguing ways. In effect, as the transactional layer becomes a ubiquitous part of how people type, talk and see an augmented reality around them, then the conversation really may be only just getting started.

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