ITW | Hello Alix, Mother of all chatbots?

French startup behind the menswear specialist conversational robot launches new B2B offer

in brief

We met Camille Fagart, co-founder of Hello Alix, the messenger Messenger of men’s fashion. The startup has recently embarked on a B2B pivot, we wanted to know more about their new proposal for brands.

Launched last June, the menswear dedicated chatbot (contraction of chat and robot, for conversational robots on messaging apps) Hello Alix, co-founded by Frédéric Degouy and Camille Fagart, already counts a million exchanged messages and a community of more than 30K users and 200 brands.

Passionated about fashion, mostly menswear, the two co-founders imagined this assisting solution after a very disappointing experience in store.

“The trigger was a very disappointing experience I lived entering a Parisian boutique of a small ready-to-wear brand I appreciated. I was looking for a warm parka for the winter, but when I entered, no one was there to help me, not a salesman nor a manager! 10 minutes later, still no one to help me. So I left without buying anything, even if I wanted that coat. And I think everyone would have done the same in my stead.”

The Hello Alix team.

This is what happens online, as Camille explains us, today, 70% of sales opportunities online are missed because nobody’s there to seize them. Thus, the duo wondered how they could offer brands a service that could help them provide the same quality of service as in a physical store.

“It is by pointing out this problem that we drawn our vision: digitalizing and automating the salesperson job.”

With a chatbot? Yes, because instant messenging is a channel used by the majority of online shoppers today. The Hello Alix team has thus developed an artificial intelligence capable of understanding natural language (clients’ requests), simulating a human conversation and personalizing the experience according to past discussions.

The launch of this first mainstream tool helped the startup validate its value proposition, with the help of its 30K+ users and 200 brands community. The chatbot recommends trendy products to its users, according to the request they make, and accompany them through to the purchase.

“For example, by geolocating a boutique that has the product around the user, or by alerting him in case there is a promotion on the product, through the instant messaging app.”

The robot is capable of understanding what the user asks for, in natural language, as if he was talking with a friend. The AI will then be capable of understanding his request, and answering accordingly.

Like any startup, Hello Alix seeks to be flexible, and its team hadn’t hesitated, six months after its launch, to pivote its business proposition and model, in order to better adapt it to the industry’s needs.

“Given the traction observed, and at the request of a large amount of brands and retailers, we have decided to offer our solution and technology in SaaS mode (Softwear as a Service).”

Henceforth, Hello Alix allows brands and retailers to have their own intelligent shopping assistant to accompany their customers in a personalized way, through a natural language conversation, be it on their Facebook page or on their e-commerce website, through a live chat.

“All this happens in real time, without human intervention, 24/7, in order not to miss any more sale opportunity. Our solution uses our own artificial intelligence solution in SaaS mode and we commercialize it in a personalized way depending on the number of sales points and users of the tool that we provide to the brand or retailer.”

An example of shopping assistant in SaaS on Facebook Messenger and on a brand’s e-shop.

A brand can thus install, in a few hours, the Hello Alix shopping assistant, without mobilizing teams, personalizing it with its chosen wording, all this without installation fees. So far, Camille explains us that the user version will continue to exist. It becomes the window of their technology and know-how. This version, pretty much as a lab, helps them experiment and improve their product and its functionalities continuously, and thus offer their clients an always more performant tool.

Enticing. But then, what is, for a fashion brand, the advantage of working with such a tool? First, seizing the missed sales opportunities online. The Hello Alix assistant offers a presence where customers are, be it on the e-shop of the brand or on its Facebook page. Figures confirm its usefulness:

“We have witnessed that 25% of the users of our tool transformed into customers, with a 15% to 20% increase compared to the brand average basket.”

Furthermore, Hello Alix has a long term memory, and uses historics of its discussions with every user to personalize the experience and the answers it will provide.

“We can reasonably say that it knows its customers better than a physical store salesperson!”

All conversations and feedback given by users on every product are saved, and these data are reported product by product on an analytics dashboard for the brand. A great opportunity for the brand to understand the real reasons behind a product’s success or failure, and adapt its offer accordingly.

The client interface of Hello Alix for brands.

Besides, the startup has developed its natural language processing brick through the use of deep neurons (Deep Learning) with a recently published Lyon-based AI lab. The stake, in such a conversation, is to be able to contextualize, in order to answer in the more appropriate and personalized way to the customer’s request. Because the same request can be formulated in different ways depending on users, the assistant has to be able to understand them. And the available data, products pages for exemple, can take a large amount of different forms. In response to this, Hello Alix counts on the excellent generalization and abstraction capabilities currently offered by deep neurons networks.

“This capacity of contextualizing the conversation can also allow the shopping assistant to suggest products that the user hasn’t explicitly asked for, and thus answering to cross-selling objectives.”

Finally, we wanted to know more about Camille’s vision on the opportunities offered by AI in the fashion industry. He reminds us that until today, AI was essentially used in a repetitive and no-added-value tasks’ automation objective.

“We’re now heading to an era where AI will be able to do more and more difficult tasks. Fashion is a fabulous experimentation field for companies creating artificial intelligences, because it can intervene at almost all the levels of the value chain, from creation to sales.”

So far, the startup’s objective is far from replacing human in their jobs, the tool intervenes at the moment of online sales, and so is bearing the absence of human to give clients a similar service quality compared to physical boutiques, Camille specifies.

As for his vision of the personal shopper job, Camille reminds us it is a human job before all, in which physical contact, trust and feeling are essential.

“This strong human dimension makes it a job that can not be replaced by AI.”

Moreover, this business is not focused solely on advice and sales, but is often accompanied by other services such as renting a VTC, he continues.

“What we offer brands today with Hello Alix, is to offer every viewers of their online store or social networks a hyper personalized service, a true sales-oriented style assistant, available to customers and able to maintain a privileged relationship with them.”

To test Hello Alix, go to Facebook Messenger, type its name in the search bar, and start chatting!

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