3 min read

Why This Virtual Shopping Platform is Betting on Conversational Commerce

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This article originally appeared January 31s, 2022 in Sourcing Journal.

As the in-store and online retail experiences continue to blend together, apparel and footwear retailers must take advantage of every opportunity to give customers a personalized experience.

Salesfloor, a provider of virtual shopping and clienteling mobile applications, was hoping to do just that when it acquired Automat, a conversational artificial intelligence (AI) platform designed to power guided shopping experiences, product recommendations and personalization for brands. Terms of the transaction, which took place earlier this month, were not disclosed.

The addition of advanced AI to Salesfloor’s feature mix gives the company a new “sales automation” capability to assist retailers in every B2C vertical. Automat’s chatbot technology is designed to interact with consumers, listen to their shopping needs and use the data to recommend either products or fill bundles, all while displaying product badges, ratings and reviews.

To provide shoppers with detailed information on a retailer’s products, Automat can ingest, tag and sync their entire catalogue in real time. From there, brands can take the data to launch personalized customer experiences on e-commerce landing pages, category pages, product pages, banners and homepages.

Automat is built to integrate seamlessly with a retailer’s existing tech stack, so it can pull data from systems including Shopify, Commercetools, Salesforce, Klaviyo and more.

“The same way telemedicine and remote work and virtual fitness are continuing to evolve, the virtual shopping space is aggressively growing. While we were very focused on making that experience even more immersive, we started to think about how we can make this even bigger and more impactful,” said Oscar Sachs, CEO of Salesfloor. “In discussions with customers and with store associates, we started to understand that there’s an even greater opportunity to leverage what store associates are doing online and impact an even larger percentage of the customers who are shopping.”

Through its mix of conversational AI, product tagging, recommendations and post-purchase e-commerce website personalization, Automat says it has driven an average 14 percent top-line sales uplift for its participating brands.

Salesfloor will integrate the new tech into its own platform, making it available to current retail clients including global brands like Chico’s, Saks Fifth Avenue, Bloomingdales, Ben Bridge Jeweler, Shiseido and more.

Sachs told Sourcing Journal that Salesfloor wanted to help assist the associate-consumer interaction, mainly by leveraging the Automat technology to qualify what shoppers are interested in, understanding their needs and getting more information about their shopping preferences.

“As a qualifier, it was really helpful to send that information back to the store associate, so that it made it much more effective when the associate was engaging with the customer,” Sachs said. “They didn’t have to go through as much of a lengthy conversation to help the customer. They would have already had a wealth of info collected by the retail sales automation about the customer and about the customer needed.”

More than 50,000 associates currently use Salesfloor to engage with customers via video, live chat, email, text messaging, customized online storefronts and appointments every day.

The technology appeared to be hitting its stride ahead of the acquisition. In 2021, Salesfloor says the shopper engagement across these channels grew 40 percent year over year, while the number of total shoppers served per week jumped an even greater 88 percent.

Automat already provided conversation sales automation capabilities for brands like L’Oréal, Harry Rosen, Colgate-Palmolive, Amika and others, but under Salesfloor’s wing, the software will be exposed to more brands in the apparel and fashion space. This is vital for a sector so reliant on fit and presentation, in that it may further ease consumer concerns about shopping for clothing or shoes online.

The deal came after Salesfloor sponsored a recent study discovering that 55 percent of consumers agree having a knowledgeable store associate assist in recommending products is preferable to shopping online without such help.

“For the percentage that say having a store associate is better, this acquisition is going to help us increase the engagement to people who want that kind of service. But equally important is that other 45 percent, who didn’t say that the associate option is better—that’s the browser, that’s the customer who’s not ready to really talk to an associate right now…maybe in a month, maybe two weeks when they’re ready, but not right now. And that 45 percent is also what AI and automation is going to address, because they are the ones who will interact with an automated tool, get some quick direction and options to educate them and then decide where they want to go from there.”

Of the more than 1,000 respondents surveyed, only 20 percent said they’ve used a virtual store associate before, illustrating that there is still significant potential for this kind of engagement to accelerate further in retail businesses.

“Our customers have been asking us to add live human features to our retail sales automation platform for a while now,” said Andy Mauro, CEO of Automat in a statement. “The typical way the industry thinks about this is to connect a customer service live chat team to a conversational AI or chatbot system. However, in speaking with retailers, we realized that they were not trying to automate their customer service so much as they needed help scaling their live store associate teams, many of whom have been disrupted throughout the pandemic with store closures.”

With Automat under Salesfloor’s wing. the companies are already collaborating to deliver new ideas to their client retailers. Sachs said the team will be launching new products in “as early as three months from now,” and will launch additional products in approximately six months.

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