Startup ReplyYes announced a $6.5 million Series A investment to expand its artificial intelligence-based mobile messaging platform, which leverages text and Facebook Messenger to help lifestyle brands speed the shopping process, personalize audience engagement and find new ways to reach out to their customers.
The funding — led by Madrona Venture Group, Cross Culture Ventures, Lowercase Capital, Muse Capital and Arnold Venture Group — builds on ReplyYes' success running The Edit, its text-based service that sends vinyl fans daily recommendations based on their musical preferences and allows them to instantly purchase and ship the record by simply replying 'Yes.' The Edit has sold more than 100,000 albums via mobile text in its first 18 months of operation.
In addition, ReplyYes has inked an exclusive agreement with Universal Music Group to create new engagement and music, tickets and merchandise shopping opportunities for UMG artists and their fans worldwide. The deal is the first under ReplyYes' expansion into the lifestyle space, where it can provide brands with a white-label, mobile messaging-based e-commerce platform to directly engage and transact with customers.
As we have started to see more evidence of rapid growth in mobile shopping, everyone is starting to want a piece of the m-commerce pie. This goes for lifestyle brands as much as it does for traditional retailers. However, we may already be at the stage where you can no longer experiment by rolling out an unheralded mobile app with a little product info and limited features, and seeing if it draws users. Any brand, big or small, pursuing m-commerce needs an app that's as slick and full-featured and engaging as possible, and that requires advanced tools.
If you think about earlier generations of m-commerce apps being somewhat two-dimensional — nice to look at, informative, and capable of enabling consumers to browse product, add them to carts and close purchases — AI-based tools can help add another dimension that allows brands to personalize the shopping experience, make the shopping journey more efficient and enable them to engage directly with customers in the process.
AI tools are being used by retailers in many different ways, perhaps most evidently in the form of chatbots on Facebook Messenger. ReplyYes has a strategy to use AI capabilities to enable quicker, almost instant purchases through a messaging platform. As demonstrated by The Edit example, customers can initiate a purchase by replying "Yes" to texts promoting various products. It could help retailers and product brands avoid some of the shopping process pitfalls that sometimes lead to cart abandonment before a purchases is closed — a big problem in e-commerce, but especially in the realm of mobile shopping.
ReplyYes may be just getting started, but this funding will help it expand on this interesting concept. Plus, the opportunity to host shopping capabilities for Universal Music Group should help it get noticed by other big brands.