WWD Digital Daily

Levi Strauss Gains Ar­ti­fi­cial In­tel­li­gence With Ask Indigo

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The year-old chat­bot has needed some tweaks along the way, but is driv­ing con­ver­sion and low­er­ing re­turns for the brand.

Ask Indigo — Levi Strauss & Co.’s chatty ven­ture into ar­ti­fi­cial in­tel­li­gence — is help­ing to lead the denim com­pany into the fu­ture.

But it hasn’t been a straight path.

Levi’s chat­bot launched in Au­gust

2017 and, while the com­pany worked to care­fully root the high-tech ex­pe­ri­ence in its her­itage, the dig­i­tal fea­ture still needed a few course cor­rec­tions along the way.

Brady Ste­wart, se­nior vice pres­i­dent, Amer­i­cas dig­i­tal, said the trick — for the chat­bot and tech in­no­va­tion in gen­eral

— is to move quickly, avoid spend­ing lots of money and be ready to switch up the ap­proach.

Con­sumers are mov­ing fast and are more dig­i­tally ob­sessed, and com­pa­nies need to be the same.

Ste­wart noted that peo­ple check their smart­phones 86 times a day — ev­ery 11 min­utes, as­sum­ing an eight-hour break to sleep. Four out of five shop­pers also use their phones while they’re shop­ping in Levi’s stores.

“Con­sumers are bring­ing om­nichan­nel to us — it is up to us to de­liver them a great ex­pe­ri­ence around it,” she said, re­fer­ring to the long-touted con­ver­gence of clicks and bricks.

That need to an­swer the con­sumer de­mand and a be­lief that con­ver­sa­tional com­merce, or shop­ping via mes­sag­ing plat­forms, is go­ing to be­come more im­por­tant led Levi’s to build the chat­bot. The fea­ture is avail­able across de­vices and acts as a kind of au­to­mated sales as­so­ciate that can rec­om­mend styles and an­swer typ­i­cal ques­tions shop­pers have in stores.

“What makes con­ver­sa­tional com­merce most im­pact­ful is when you’re ac­tu­ally able to repli­cate authen­tic con­ver­sa­tions that hap­pen in real life be­tween store em­ploy­ees and con­sumers,” Ste­wart said.

Shop­pers on the Levi’s web site also need some guid­ance.

“We have over 20,000 denim [stock­keep­ing units] on our site, so we need to give our con­sumer some guid­ance so they don’t get lost in that sea of denim,” Ste­wart said.

To get the voice of the chat­bot right — it had to carry denim au­thor­ity and be true to the brand — Ste­wart said she and her team spoke with the com­pany’s stylists and de­sign­ers and cus­tomer ser­vice reps.

The re­sult is a chat­bot that, when asked for light-blue jeans un­der $50, comes back with “Sure, let’s try these out…”

“We’re ac­tu­ally see­ing some re­ally great re­sults,” Ste­wart said. “Users who in­ter­act with Ask Indigo are 50 to 80 per­cent more likely to con­vert. That’s a di­rect sales driver and very pow­er­ful re­sult for us.”

Ad­di­tion­ally, she said re­turns were be­ing re­duced as shop­pers get bet­ter fit data and are less in­clined to buy two styles in­tend­ing to send one back.

Along the way, Levi’s found some things about its own ap­proach that didn’t fit so well.

Ask Indigo was first called a Vir­tual Stylist, but users thought they were go­ing to get a live chat and were dis­ap­pointed to con­nect with a ma­chine. The name was changed to Style­bot, but that didn’t sync with the brand’s voice and the name was fi­nally changed to Ask Indigo.

That kind of flex­i­bil­ity is cen­tral to Ste­wart’s ap­proach to tech in­no­va­tion in gen­eral.

“Get your con­cept out quickly and don’t over in­vest in it,” she said. “You can spend in­fin­ity money and in­fin­ity time build­ing out the per­fect con­sumer ex­pe­ri­ence dur­ing which time the con­sumer and the mar­ket will have leapfrogge­d you. The best thing to do is to get out quickly, learn and iterate from there… Cel­e­brate your fail­ures. You will learn as much and as pro­foundly with what doesn’t work as with what does and it will help you chal­lenge your as­sump­tions about what you think about your con­sumers and it will help you to learn more.” — Evan Clark

 ??  ?? Brady Ste­wart
Brady Ste­wart

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