Beauty Messaging UX: Chatbots To Collaborative Communities
Personalisation is one of the largest shifts we’ve seen beauty brands journey towards this year. Through their products, customer service, marketing and consumer research. AI technology has revolutionised this concept of personal beauty through its ability to collate customer data and present beauty solutions derived from its learned abilities. The topic of data driven algorithms driving beauty is a vast one to explore. It is not without its problems such as diversity of original data, security concerns and accuracy. However, that’s a rather large story for another week. Today we’re going to discuss beauty’s approach to chatbot technology and where Pretty Analytics thinks the future is heading when it comes to the messaging user experience and building customer communities.
What is a Chatbot?
A chatbot is a computer program built using artificial intelligence technology (such as machine learning algorithms) to simulate online conversations with human users. Depending on how well learned a bot is, its ability to adapt to more conversational tones and give more specific answers will vary.
Messaging Systems Have Been a Major UX Trend of 2018.
In particular, the instant messaging ability of chatbots has allowed for better customer service dealing with orders or booking enquiries and answering queries with a knowledge base of a brand’s FAQ.
Sephora Assistant, hosted on Facebook Messenger, is a bot designed to help customers book in-store makeovers. According to Facebook, Sephora has seen an 11% increase in booking rates through the bot. Wah Nails also uses a chatbot, powered by Bowtie AI, to book nail appointments. Used in this way, chatbots are providing greater convenience and accessibility for customers.
Beauty brands have greatly utilised this technology beyond a standard customer service viewpoint. Instead, focusing on how chatbots can provide a more personalised experience for customers. This ranges from personal shopping style services such as L’oreal’s Beauty Gifter to skincare recommendations like HelloAva.
Smashbox’s Smashbot, that launched at the beginning of 2018, innovates the basic chatbot several steps further. Using AR technology you can send a selfie to the conversation and receive a digital image of what the products you’ve been viewing would look like on you. They have also thought about the tone of voice that their bot uses. Carefully considering the language your customer base would use when chatting with their friends alongside the use of popular emojis adds to the personalisation.
Chatbots are instant messaging systems and when given additional information such as images, current location, your plans for the evening or how you’re feeling today, it can bring about a whole new element of personalisation. For example, incorporating information on the weather of where you are when recommending makeup looks or booking appointments.
According to a Mindshare report on Humanity in the Machine:
63% would consider using a chatbot to get in touch with a brand
75% would prefer to know whether they’re chatting to a bot or a human
79% needed to know if a human would be able to step in if asked to
61% felt it would be more frustrating if a chatbot couldn’t solve their problem vs a human
48% felt it was creepy for a chatbot to pretend to be human
[based 1,000 UK participants between 18-65 years old]
Chatbots are very useful but not a standalone solution to automate human interaction processes. They should always remain an optional alternative to talking with a human.
Adding to the discussion of defining ethical behaviour within AI, it would be deceptive to convince a customer that they are talking with a human if they are truly in fact conversing with a bot. Brands must have already established trust with their consumer base before navigating chatbot territory.
AI technology is not perfect and its accuracy develops based on the data its given, proficient training and monitoring by a domain expert. However, we tend to expect technology driven processes to provide higher accuracy so managing consumer expectations when using chatbots is important.
But are Chatbots Really the Future for Beauty Brand Communication?
Yes and no. Chatbots, and any integrated technology, are an amazing way to automate elements of customer service, provide recommendations and create convenient channels for customers. However, beauty is inherently a very personal and sometimes emotionally driven purchasing path that should not be cut away from human interaction. This brings us to where we think brand to customer communication is heading (outside of traditional customer service queries). It’s about creating a beauty community, a conversation, something that indie brands on social media platforms are utilising. A simple example of this is driving conversation through questions in the captions of an Instagram post or a poll on Twitter or Instagram Stories. This has evolved to involving customers in an Instagram or Facebook Live stream or dedicated Twitter chats.
The future of this beauty conversation will focus on forming a community for customers. It’s a step further on from the crowdsourcing market research approach that brands such as Glossier and Volition Beauty use to understand what their customers want when developing new products. For many years, there was a dedicated forum for all things Lush where people could discuss products (new and old) and ask for recommendations. This concept has evolved with brands beginning to use collaborative messaging spaces such as Slack and Facebook Groups.
The VIP Glossier treatment will invite you to join a Slack channel where you can discuss all things beauty, share feedback and take part in Glossier meetups. It’s personal and a step up from the traditional loyalty points card system. This week, SpaceNK launched SNK Chat designed to be a dedicated community for SpaceNK shoppers to discuss beauty, get recommendations and share your beauty knowledge with the added bonus of being rewarded for your participation. Currently available on both the desktop and mobile version of their website, it allows you to ask questions or answer someone else's. This ranges from people asking for recommendations on products to help with acne scarring to new brand queries. Instead of having a chatbot suggest a product for you, a human would be recommending something based on their own experiences. This opens up the traditional customer review platform into something more real-time and collaborative.