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Retale’s RetaleBot lets customers chat their way to the nearest deals

Retale has a new Facebook Messenger chatbot that acts as a mediator between users and the brands who want to target them with sales and coupons at nearby stores.

By asking questions directly to RetaleBot, Retale can send users promotional information about what stores are having sales near them right now. Retale provides information on sales and promotions at a variety of stores to users who are nearby.

“With over a billion users already on Facebook Messenger, the platform provides our retail partners with an automatic pool of potential mobile customers who don’t have to download anything new to access our services,” said Christine Cline, vice president of marketing at Retale.

“This significantly lowers the barrier to entry, allowing our users to find their local deals and put together a shopping cart by simply sending a message.”

Meet RetaleBot
Through a partnership with Facebook, RetaleBot can be accessed through Facebook Messenger. The bot is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

RetaleBot is loaded with up-to-date ad and coupon information on all participating retailers in the user’s current vicinity. Users can either share their location with the chatbot, or just enter their ZIP code.

RetaleBot will then offer them the option to search by store or by product. For example, a user can search for “Best Buy” and see any deals from that retailer, or for “TVs“ and see deals on that product from Best Buy and any other nearby retailer that sells televisions.

Additionally, RetaleBot allows users to create their own shopping lists, adding things such as certain groceries or household items. The list will be saved until items are cleared from it.

While an item is on the shopping list, users can ask RetaleBot to fetch them any deals on the items on their list from nearby stores. RetaleBot will bring up the relevant deals and offer directions to get to that retailer.

Finally, users can schedule alerts from specific retailers, which orders RetaleBot to send a message to the user when certain items or deals become available.

All of these features are accessed through Facebook Messenger, where natural language can be used to converse with RetaleBot. For example, users can write “Show me deals from Target” and RetaleBot will comply.

“Mobile is now central to the bricks-and-mortar shopping experience and in-store customer journey,” Ms. Cline said. “Often shoppers are researching deals and product information on their mobile device before they ever enter a store.

“Shoppers are leaning on smartphones to compare prices in-store, search for coupons to be used at store locations, create shopping lists, check store hours, find nearby store locations, and more. This channel, across the funnel, continues to define the way most people approach their purchases, and people continue to discover the advantages of leveraging mobile in their shopping.”

Friendly robot
Chatbots can be a powerful tool for retail engagement. Over the past year, Facebook Messenger bots associated with brands have been making waves when it comes to engaging customers both for raising brand profile and for providing information.

On the more practical side, Icelandair unveiled a chatbot early last month that let travelers book stopover flights to Iceland while visiting other countries through its messaging service (see story). While helpful, the bot did little more than help customers book flights.

Comparitively, Starbucks released a chatbot later that month that had a little more fun with users. A chatbot personifying a pumpkin spice latte gave customers quizzes and discussed fall-themed topics (see story).

RetaleBot leans more heavily towards the functional aspect of chatbots, but with a wider variety of features that will ensure its not too limited to be of use to customers.

“We are in the early days of bots being used to automate the interactions people have with a marketer’s brands, products, and services; now is the time for marketer’s to start paying attention to the rising power and capabilities of the communications and retail bot,” said Michael J. Becker, co-founder and managing partner at mCordis.

“Gartner estimates that by 2020, 85 percent of the interactions people have with a brand will not include a human on the side of the brand,” Mr. Becker said. “For marketers to succeed in the future, they must accept that many of today’s most common marketing jobs, including analytics, campaign management, and individual engagement, will be outsourced to the algorithm, to the bot.

“Bots will help drive brand. They will help drive engagement. They will help drive commerce, in the moment, and at scale.”