Artificial intelligence and messengers: what voice for luxury brands?

While Apple’s Siri and Google’s OK Google conversational interfaces are getting closer to human intelligence everyday, other companies are joining the artificial intelligence race. Whether it is with Amazon’s Alexa assistant, or Facebook’s virtual assistant M, brands now have more opportunities than ever to reach consumers, and to offer a personalized and on-point experience.

As of now, Facebook’s M is not available to all users nor to brands, but it will very likely change the way brands do customer service online. Brands can already use Facebook Messenger to improve their customer service and dialogue with customers as they would chat with friends, while answering requests and providing recommendations, etc. The trick is to adopt the codes of Messenger and become as close as possible to a friend. And this means carefully choosing a brand voice.

When using services such as Messenger, consumers are expecting to be treated as greatly as they normally would be by a great customer service rep. This includes: omnichannel consumer knowledge, quick answers, personal recommendations, and friendliness!

everlane

Now, if you’ve been to a luxury store before, you know friendliness and proximity aren’t always sales reps’ main qualities. Efforts are usually put into great service, professionalism, personalized recommendations, and status. Let’s put it that way: sales reps are not acting as friends.

If we consider digital marketing, it’s more or less the same. Brands use display ads, websites, apps and social media to share an exclusive, high-level and inspiring brand image.

But would you want to have a Messenger discussion with a luxury sales rep? Would you send gifs to someone only sharing product updates? I wouldn’t.

The challenge for luxury brands is to find their voice for conversational interfaces such as M. This voice may be different from the one they have in-store or online, but it should embrace the values that define the brand. You can be the best in our area, have the most elegant style, be rather exclusive, and yet be super friendly and thoughtful with your customers. It all goes back to the usual trade-off between the luxury’s exclusivity, and digital proximity and personalization.

Considering the fierce competition between brands to be the one consumers want to engage with, the ones mastering the voice their consumers want to hear will gain legitimacy and their consumers will be more likely to ask for advice on their latest products or to use their highest level of services, because they’ll feel like the brand understands them like a friend. It’s not about pushing products, or even engaging consumers anymore; it’s about exchanging with individuals in the most authentic way possible.

It may be easier for startups like Jam in France, or trendy brands like Everlane, to find their voice and successfully engage with customers via texts and Messenger, but it will be worth the effort for luxury brands to attract new customers and develop new services to achieve the most personalized and unique digital brand experience yet.

Are you a Four Seasons expert? Find out through a social quiz

It’s not always easy for luxury hotels and resorts to engage with customers in a simple way. Last Sunday, the Four Seasons group posted a little quiz on the Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts Facebook page, displaying 4 photos of their hotels and asking their fans if they recognized any of these.

Given the 285k fans of the page, the post received a quite low engagement rate: over 300 liked the post and nearly 20 commented.

Still, this quiz led to several positive results on the customer experience side. It led to a real engagement on both fans and brand sides. Fans who liked the post manifested interest in the topic, those commenting showed they had brand knowledge and showed it to other fans at the same time. Thanks to a rather low engagement in comments, the brand managed to answer to each fan who tried to answer. This personalized treatment shows the quality of service you would get in a stay at a Four Seasons resort and it surely benefits the brand image. It also gives a young and connected image of the brand, using social media to stay in touch with visitors beyond their stay.

Yet this low engagement seems to show that the Four Seasons social media strategy is not on the same level as their fans’ expectations. Other posts on the page show pictures of various resorts, redirect to the company’s website, mention recent news about resorts, but not many of them engage with customers, leading to a couple hundred likes and a few comments. Four Season should diversify its posts and make them more surprising and in line with their fans’ (if not visitors’) language and preferences.

Harrods Green Man finally gets to travel

P1090144British retailer Harrods is commonly associated with its large red building with green screens, its lights at night and its wide product range – meant to cover any demands customers might have. Another characteristic of the store is its Green Man, the historical doorman character, always there to open the door for visitors.

To leverage the company’s heritage and to celebrate the Vogue Festival 2015, Harrods is holding a photo contest on Instagram. It started on March 27th and lasts a month. Whether they bought a figurine of the Green Man, or simply download the character online, contestants are asked to take a creative picture of the Green Man somewhere around the world and then share it on Instagram using #MyGreenMan @Harrods #VogueFestival.

This contest should help modernize the retailer’s image and make its Green Man even more part of the brand’s image.

Spontaneous and fleeting storytelling with Snapchat

Making us dream is part of luxury brands’ DNA. Their ads are conceived to trigger aspirations or emotions, and you end up endlessly idealizing the brand. These brands mostly leveraged traditional ads for a long time: print ads, billboards, TV spots… Then came the digital age and ads were popping on your favorite websites, especially as targeting techniques became more and more efficient. Social media were then yet another tool to promote brands’ messages.

Today, we are super-connected – so connected that it’s nearly as if we had a sort of digital “transplant” to our hand. Smartphones are kings. Obviously, pop-up ads are extremely annoying and having a 15-second spot of my favorite luxury brand wouldn’t make me happy when I’m opening an app. Social media help, as brands can post there – and Instagram is helping them push visual contents where customers are expecting – and enjoying – them. Still, non-spontaneous visuals are not enough to make a digital-savvy customer excited about a brand for long.

Valentino snapchat during the Paris Fashion Week preperation

Valentino snapchat during the Paris Fashion Week preperation

Communication apps are multiplying and new features come up. Brands are more and more welcome by apps to reach customers on their messaging channels. Line did it, and Snapchat, too. The big difference with Snapchat – as I’m guessing you know – is that contents are taken spontaneously (you can’t really edit them) and are fleeting (they usually last 10 seconds). Given these constraints, some luxury brands have decided to make the most out of the app and share some behind-the-scenes moments with their customers, as well as creating an exclusive customer experience on their smartphones. Valentino and Michael Kors did so during the fashion weeks. Snapchats are therefore a great way to share some extracts of a fashion brand’s preparation for a show. It’s applicable to any luxury industry I believe, as long as brands have a story to tell.

The main point I believe makes Snapchat such a great channel is that it’s usually a channel to connect with friends, and not many luxury brands use it. It’s probably one of the most appropriate tools at the moment to engage with customers as would a real person. It’s most effective when brands are targeting millenials, among which Snapchat has the highest penetration, and it allows brands to use a language they might not overtly use on more serious social media posts (e.g. using emojis millenials enjoy).