- Gap Inc. introduced a chatbot to recruit and interact with a community of "wear testers" for the company's new line of men's athleisure wear. Men who are interested in receiving free products in exchange for providing feedback on the fit and look can apply for the program via the new Hill City chatbot on Facebook or Twitter, according to a press release.
- The Hill City chatbot relies on artificial intelligence (AI) to learn about each applicant's style preferences, size, daily activities, lifestyle and past purchases. Men who are accepted into the wear tester program will then tell the chatbot their experience wearing the clothing — information that the brand will use to improve the products before they hit the Hill City website.
- In applying for the program, potential testers need to tell the Hill City chatbot about their clothing preferences and daily activities. Hill City will respond about a week later to let applicants know whether they've been accepted or are on a waitlist. Accepted testers and those on the waitlist will earn invitations to special events and promotions.
The way Gap is running its Hill City test program demonstrates how chatbots are evolving to gather individualized information about customers on a potentially massive scale, opening up another channel for one-to-one marketing to deepen brand loyalty. The test program not only can help to create a community of consumers who provide valuable feedback about Hill City's products while they're in the design stage, but also can help to identify future customers among an audience of brand enthusiasts.
By accepting applications and testers' comments via chatbot, Gap is framing the wear tester program as a non-intrusive activity in which the average man could participate. While on the go, the tester could open his Facebook or Twitter mobile app to engage with the chatbot and provide product comments, for example. This system could also help boost familiarity with chatbots overall, potentially driving more regular adoption of the tech.
Gap is far from the first fashion brand to enlist chatbots to engage with loyal customers. Burberry, Tommy Hilfiger, H&M and Levi's have created chatbots to interact with customers in a conversational setting, including providing style tips and suggestions on related products. Beauty retailer Sephora boosted its appointment booking rate for makeovers by 11% with a bot on Facebook Messenger, Facebook said in a case study.
Chatbots have been mocked for offering awkward conversations or limited capabilities, but they're becoming smarter through developments in AI and natural-language processing (NLP). Two-thirds of U.S. adults now regularly use chatbots or voice assistants like Amazon Alexa or Apple's Siri, while 87% are aware of the technology, a survey by Mastercard and researcher Mercator found. Facebook has made a major push into chatbots in the past few years. More than 300,000 chatbots are active on Messenger, the company announced in a blog post, pointing to the growing number of businesses leveraging the messaging tech to communicate with customers.