Why retailer DXL is sponsoring an NBA Finals chatbot

The effort integrates useful information for basketball fans with brand messaging to drive awareness

Recognizing the need for innovative ways to engage potential new customers on digital platforms, apparel retailer DXL is sponsoring GameOn’s chatbot called Trash Talk with Gary Payton.

Chatbots are still very much in their infancy, and the responses from brands and consumers have so far been mixed. While many initial brand efforts have taken a utilitarian approach and focused on driving engagement through customer service or on conversions via shopping tools, DXL — which targets men with waist sizes 38 and up — is betting it can build brand awareness by putting itself in front of sports fans on messaging apps.

“This is an innovative way to grow our brand presence and get more exposure to who DXL is and do it in a way around a subject manner that we know resonates with our customers,” Sahal Laher, chief digital officer and CIO at DXL, told Mobile Marketer.

Casting a wide net

DXL recognizes that being on digital platforms is no longer just about reaching younger demographics, as data shows older customers and baby boomers are on these platforms, per Laher. Building a digital effort around sports, in particular, can help to cast a wide net.

“Sports really bring fans together regardless of background or demographics to rally around a common cause,” said Laher. “Obviously, the NBA and the finals have a huge following.”

Trash Talk with Gary Payton, which is available on Facebook Messenger, Skype, Slack, Kick and Telegram, includes automated bot responses when someone asks a question about scores, schedules and news on specific teams. An element of personality comes in when Payton broadcasts his own messages via text, video and audio content in real time during games.

GameOn Technology

The brand is incorporated into the experience in several ways. When users request the latest news, they're presented with a carousel of sports updates along with one content item by DXL.

The retailer is also the sponsor of DXL Impact Player of the Game, which consists of sending users a brief game preview and prompting them to pick the player they think will have the greatest impact that day. They can also click on a "What is DXL" button to see a brief description. An "Opening Tip" message indicates the content is "Powered by DXL" and prompts users to ask about the brand.

Character development

Trash Talk with Gary Payton is DXL’s first foray into chatbots, and the retailer didn’t go into the venture with any metrics or key performance indicators in mind. Rather, it's viewing this as a fresh way to drive brand awareness. So far, DXL is not promoting the chatbot outside of the messaging apps.

The retailer is also planning additional efforts with GameOn for this year. Possibilities include something around NFL games in the fall and a more sales-oriented effort tied to the website or mobile app. It's also considering marketing these future efforts to drive discovery.

One lesson that's emerged from initial chatbot marketing efforts is that giving a bot a personality may help to drive engagement, whether that means building an experience around a known character in a film or creating an entirely new digital persona. In GameOn’s case, the company, which focuses on developing engagements for messaging apps, created a bot around the personality of Payton, who also happens to be an investor in the company.

Giving a bot a personality can make it feel less like someone is interacting with a robot, according to Nate Simmons, founder and COO at GameOn Technology.

“We have experimented with giving a bot a face and found that engagement goes up,” he told Mobile Marketer.

Money bot

As use of messaging apps continues to grow, developers are looking for ways to monetize their efforts, with brand sponsorship emerging as one possible route.  

“We’ve been interested in how do you monetize chat, integrate advertising into it in a way that is natural and not offensive to customers,” Simmons said. “Because we’ve been largely building around sports, there’s a natural advantage as sports and advertising go hand in hand. Sports fans are used to brands being associated with their viewer experience.”

Right now, GameOn is experimenting with other ways to incorporate DXL into the experience. For example, if the bot doesn’t understand what a user is asking, it could send a message along the lines of: “Sorry, I didn’t get that, but I do know where you can get some awesome clothes.”

“We are working on how to integrate the brand in a way that users find fun and useful,” Simmons said.

While it's too soon for any results from the Trash Talk chatbot, GameOn reports that, in general, its bots see about a 60% retention rate.

“The main focus is really about brand awareness,” said Laher. “This is not a salesbot, it is not about driving conversions. Instead, we are getting the brand out of there.”

Filed Under: Apps Chatbots Mobile marketing trends
Top image credit: GameOn Technology