By Robert Williams
Louis Vuitton is bringing in some robotic help for the holidays.
The maker of $1,370 canvas duffle bags and $575 monogram belts has launched a “virtual adviser” on Facebook Messenger for U.S. clients, Palo Alto, California-based AI startup Mode.ai said in a statement Wednesday. The chatbot will answer queries for all things Louis Vuitton: searching the brand’s online catalog, pulling up catwalk shows and history about the brand, and giving tips for product maintenance.
The move comes as owner LVMH, whose products also include Christian Dior perfumes and Dom Perignon Champagne, accelerates its efforts to bring its luxury-goods empire into the digital age. This year the company launched multibrand e-commerce sites for both its fashion and beverage divisions, while Louis Vuitton rolled out its first e-commerce site in China. The brand also introduced its first smartwatch, the $2,450 Tambour Horizon.
“Our clients like to be connected to the Louis Vuitton universe wherever they are,” the leather-good brand’s chief executive officer, Michael Burke, said in the statement.
It has long been common practice for retailers to bring in extra staff to make the most of the holiday rush. In recent years, high-end brands like trench-coat maker Burberry Group Plc, perfumer Estee Lauder Cos. and watchmaker Richemont’s Jaeger-LeCoultre have also looked to boost their sales force by a more elastic means — enhancing their social-media presence with chatbots that can talk to thousands of consumers at once.
Facebook Inc. has encouraged retailers to develop chatbots as part of the company’s strategy of keeping users on its own site and applications, not navigating away to seek services and information from other companies.
“We are still in the very early stages of AI technology adoption in the retail industry,” said Eitan Sharon, CEO of Mode.ai, which developed the bot for Vuitton. Sharon said he expects more companies to turn to AI as clients demand a more personalized online shopping experience.