US teen-focused fashion and accessories retailer Rue21 is deploying the new Extensions feature of Facebook’s Messenger artificial intelligence (AI) chatbot tool. The just-launched feature – which allows for group chats, not just one-to-one conversations – is being used as part of Rue21’s overall brand migration towards more youth-resonating digitally based communications.
Devised in partnership with Palo Alto-based technologists Mode.ai, the core tool allows shoppers to talk to an AI assistant on Messenger to receive styling advice and easily browse products according to preferences such as size, price and colours. The bot sends users a carousel of image suggestions from which they pick categories they would like to explore in more depth – selecting one of the displayed options or simply writing their response in the text box provided.
Primed to add significant extra traction is the Extensions feature, which acknowledges the teen pack mentality – a desire to shop in groups, or to at least receive validation from peer circles. It allows users to chat with the virtual stylist alongside friends, including simultaneously sharing messages with them – a previously impossible task.
Chatbots and messaging apps in general are becoming the default mode of communication for younger consumers. In the US, 52% of teens spend more than three hours per day on messaging apps (Google, 2016).