Shop Direct has launched an automated WhatsApp-style customer service function within its Very iOS app.
The new technology, called Very Assistant, presents customers with a sequence of questions and multiple action options to determine their needs.
Customers can use the platform to track an order, make a payment on their Very account, confirm that recent payments have been processed, check their payment dates and request a reminder of their account number.
The new technology has been introduced in response to customer research, which showed people wanted to interact with the group’s brands in a chat environment.
Shop Direct said it was the first step towards introducing “natural language” technology in 2017.
It is working with IBM Watson to develop an artificial intelligence-fuelled conversational user interface platform, which will allow customers to ask questions in their own words within a chat environment, rather than relying on a series of preordained questions, making their experience more personalised.
Alex Baldock, group chief executive at Shop Direct, said: “Our customers want to chat to us as they do their friends on WhatsApp – it’s what they’re used to. Very Assistant is our response to that desire and it will make it even easier for our customers to shop.
“Artificial intelligence will change the game and we’re backing it in a big way. In the long term, we believe 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 – artificial intelligence learns on its own.”