Shop Direct has deployed chat bots within its Very.co.uk iOS app. Mobile shoppers are able to use the new 'Very Assistant' to answer customer service questions in a instant messaging platform.

Shop Direct claims to be the first UK retailer to launch conversational user interface (CUI) technology for customer service.  

The chat bot platform asks the shopper if they need any help and customers are presented with a sequence of questions and multiple action options.

The natural-language technology will first be available in the 'MyVery' iOS app and due to the AI automation, customer queries regarding orders will be answer quickly. Customers can use the Very Assistant to track an order, make a payment on their Very.co.uk account, confirm that recent payments have been processed, check their payment dates and request a reminder of their account number.

“This fully native platform is squarely focused on what our customers need," said Jonathan Wall, eCommerce director at Shop Direct. "It’s delivered through our app because that’s where they want to have questions answered. It’s also the best place for us to collect feedback and constantly improve Very Assistant."

The technology was developed in-house by Shop Direct's eCommerce team, but the retailer is also working with IBM Watson to develop a fully AI CUI platform in 2017, which will allow customers to ask questions in their own words rather than choosing from multiple choice options.

Alex Baldock, group CEO at Shop Direct, added: "Our customers want to chat to us as they do their friends on WhatsApp – it’s what they’re used to. Very Assistant is our response to that desire and it will make it even easier for our customers to shop. But this is only the start.

"AI will change the game and we’re backing it in a big way. It’ll allow us to offer a personalised, ‘natural language’ CUI experience for service queries in 2017 – which will be massive for our customers," he said. "And in the long term, we believe AI-driven CUI will go even further by democratising the personal shopper. We will chat to them about the best products, style ideas and offers, and help them select what's right for them. The more customers talk to us the better we'll know them - AI learns on its own. Why should top-notch personalised service be restricted to those who can afford to shop in Bond Street? It’s a bold ambition, but it fits our goal of becoming a world class digital retailer and we believe in it."