- Unilever, the consumer products giant that was ranked No. 1 for marketing effectiveness this year, and ad agency M&C Saatchi Shop created a chatbot for the Simple brand of skincare products, Little Black Book reported. "Bella the Bot" was developed in partnership with Superdrug stores, a major retailer with 789 shops in the U.K. and Ireland.
- The chatbot aims to help shoppers research and purchase Simple products on a mobile phone or in stores, as Bella the Bot provides skincare tips and advice on finding products. Shoppers can initiate a chat session by using their smartphone camera to scan a Facebook Messenger code on a store shelf or website.
- The chatbot not only helps the 83% of smartphone users who consult their mobile device while shopping, but also provides better measurement of consumer behavior, according to Evelyne Wilkinson, Unilever's global customer marketing manager.
Shopping at thinly staffed drugstores can be frustrating for consumers, especially when retail salespeople are poorly informed about the thousands of products that line the shelves. Unilever's new branded bot is one way to counteract the dearth of information available to shoppers. It's also a way for the Superdrug chain to provide the same kind of product guidance that can be found on e-commerce sites, which bridges a gap often found between the offline and online shopping experience.
Unilever's new chatbot comes as other skincare and beauty brands are moving in the same direction. Estée Lauder, the cosmetics brand with $11.3 billion in yearly sales, unveiled a lipstick-advising chatbot this month for Facebook Messenger. The bot lets customers search the company's assortment of lip shades and try them on with an augmented reality (AR) selfie before making a purchase.
AR is taking off among beauty brands that see the potential in unique mobile features, especially with younger consumers who are generally attached to their smartphones. The beauty industry has hopped onto these tools to chase millennials, many of whom have abandoned brick-and-mortar retailers and turned to digital resources for beauty advice.
While chatbots are still in their infancy, they have the potential to one day replace the tasks of some human workers, saving billions of dollars for companies, according to a forecast from Juniper Research. The company estimates that chatbots save more than $8 billion a year by 2022, up from $20 million this year, as artificial intelligence becomes increasingly sophisticated. However, bots still have their limitations for both brands and users. A State of the Chatbots report by Forrester revealed AI-driven bots aren't very effective and often cause frustration among users, as they can't replicate the complexities of human conversations — at least not yet.