AI Can Help You Find the Perfect Pair of Jeans

Centuries-old legacy retailer Levi’s is harnessing the power of AI to provide a customer-centric experience at the push of a button.

Customer analytics have become all the rage in recent years, but classic denim purveyor Levi’s was ahead of the curve — more than a century ahead of the curve, in fact. Levi’s stumbled upon what could be billed as its first “customer insight” over 165 years ago, when a San Francisco gold miner visited a tailor by the name of Jacob Davis. The miner’s pants were in tatters after spending all day in the mines, and he wanted Davis to patch them together with additional cloth. But Davis had a better idea: understanding his customer’s need for a more durable garment, the tailor added copper rivets to the pants to reinforce them at their stress points.

That day, Davis invented the modern blue jean and gave rise to a brand that would always be known as an innovator in the customer journey. Levi’s believes that it’s at its best when the brand is at the center of pop culture, and it often is. For example, Beyoncé was photographed onstage at Coachella this spring wearing a pair of Levi’s cutoffs — you can’t get much more culturally relevant than that.

Staying au courant after 165 years requires consistent quality paired with constant evolution. While the sturdy, stylish jeans with which the brand made its name are still its main focus, Levi’s has changed a lot over the years. According to Brady Stewart, Senior VP of LSA Digital for Levi’s, the company is fundamentally different than it was just six years ago.

Building a 21st-Century Customer Experience

Across the globe, Levi’s has 50,000 points of distribution and 2,900 branded stores. Those branded stores, in particular, are helping Levi’s to facilitate direct-to-consumer interactions and more personalized connections with customers. But because 75% of consumers now expect a consistent experience across channels, Levi’s knew that great in-person experiences alone weren’t enough to turn one-timers into lifelong customers.

Levi’s conducted research on what its customers needed and wanted from their denim-buying experience, and found that the biggest concern for customers across the board was finding the right fit and style: with thousands of SKUs on offer, browsing through Levi’s product offerings could feel a bit like wading through a sea of denim. With these insights in hand, Levi’s took the customer experience to the next level, using AI to create a personalized experience online.

That’s how Ask Indigo, Levi’s AI chatbot, was created. Indigo gives online customers the same experience they would receive in-store, helping customers find the perfect size and fit and answering frequently asked questions, such as returns and shipping.

Since the launch of Ask Indigo, Levi’s has found that customers are 50 to 80 percent more likely to convert following their “conversations” with the chatbot, and returns have significantly decreased because customers more consistently choose the right size and style on the first try.

Your chatbot should follow the same guidelines that in-store sales reps follow, from the greetings they begin with, to the questions they ask, to any specific brand jargon they use.

The Dos and Don’ts of Chatbotting

Innovations like Ask Indigo are what happen when retailers combine smart branding with cutting edge technology to create an exceptional customer experience. Here’s what other retailers looking to build a chatbot should keep in mind:

  • Keep the chatbot’s voice consistent with your brand. Your chatbot should feel authentic and give customers the same experience they’d get from an in-store sales rep. If your brand voice is witty or chatty, your chatbot should be too.

  • Discoverability is key. Some brands opt to make their chatbots appear as a popup, while others keep them visible but tucked into a corner of the page. Still others have them appear only when a customer is further down the funnel and close to making a purchase. Whichever approach you choose, make sure that customers are able to find your bot when they need it.

  • Names matter. Levi’s called Ask Indigo a “Universal Stylist” at first, but that was confusing for customers, who thought they’d be speaking to a real stylist. Levi’s tried “stylist bot” next, but given the trend towards giving AI bots plausibly human names like Siri and Alexa, “Indigo” ultimately won out.

  • Make sure your chatbot replicates in-store conversations. Your chatbot should follow the same guidelines that in-store sales reps follow, from the greetings they begin with, to the questions they ask, to any specific brand jargon they use.

  • Get many teams involved for input. Your customer service reps, for example, can help to ensure that the bot provides a consistent, positive experience for customers, while the merchandising team can help to ensure that the bot isn’t heavily favoring some products over others.

  • Leverage customer data. You likely have a wealth of customer data at your disposal — so use it to offer a personalized experience to each customer who interacts with your chatbot. An analytics-informed approach can ensure that your chatbot is offering the most helpful (and potentially lucrative) experience to each customer.

  • Celebrate failures. Often, learning what doesn’t work is even more important than learning what does, especially when it comes to your own assumptions about customers. So when it comes to your chatbot, don’t just set it and forget it: strive to consistently learn from your failures and improve upon the technology driving your bot.

  • Move fast. Don’t put too much time or money into your chatbot upfront. Rather, roll out the technology quickly, before customers leave your brand in favor of more tech-savvy competitors. Then, strive to improve your chatbot based on the insights you gather from customers’ interactions with it.

  • Last but not least: focus on your customers. They’re your North Star, always.

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