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Published
Nov 11, 2016
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Shop Direct adds artificial intelligence to its iOS app

Published
Nov 11, 2016

Shop Direct, the online retailer, has moved into the world of artificial intelligence and has launched an automated conversational user interface for its MyVery app. It is currently only available for Apple’s iOS system.

Shop Direct says AI can help it personalise the user's shopping journey


The operator of the Very.co.uk and Littlewoods.com sites said the new technology, called Very Assistant, allows customers to quickly find answers for their customer service questions in a WhatsApp-style chat environment.

Shop Direct is the first UK-based retailer to apply conversational user interface (CUI) technology to customer service and said the tech is the “first step towards an AI-fuelled ‘natural language’ CUI platform, which [it] is developing with IBM Watson and is aiming to introduce in 2017.”

The company said the development comes as research showed customers want to interact with the retailer’s brands in a chat environment. Its research also showed the most asked questions and it has integrated these into the new offer, where the technology allowed.

Very Assistant works by asking the app user if they need any help. The customer is then presented with a sequence of questions and multiple action options, which the customer taps within the chat environment. The customer’s answers enable the platform to instantly serve up the information they are looking for.
 
Customers can use Very Assistant to track an order, make a payment on their Very.co.uk account, confirm that recent payments have been processed, check their payment dates and request a reminder of their account number.
 
Shop Direct, which is the UK’s second largest pureplay digital retailer, will move further into AI customer service next year allowing customers to ask questions in their own words within a chat environment.
 
Alex Baldock, group CEO, said: “Our customers want to chat to us as they do their friends on WhatsApp – it’s what they’re used to. AI will change the game and we’re backing it in a big way.”
 
He added that in the long term, the company believes AI-driven CUI will go even further by “democratising the personal shopper… We will chat to them about the best products, style ideas and offers, and help them select what's right for them. The more customers talk to us the better we'll know them - AI learns on its own.”

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