How Ted Baker developed online social chatbot 'Seemore'

Ted Baker has been one of the positive news stories on the UK high street in recent years, growing at home and abroad at some pace, supported by a sophisticated and seemingly well-sought-after digital platform.

But at the start of October, in an interim results announcement for the first half of its financial year, it stated that although revenues are rising, international expansion continues apace, and eCommerce sales were up 24%, profitability had slipped.

CEO and founder Ray Kelvin spoke at the time of “challenging external trading conditions” and said he expected the second half of the year to be similarly tough, but he was confident in the brand’s potential to continue its “long-term development”.

In his roundup of the results, Kelvin highlighted the prowess of Ted Baker’s global eCommerce business, and he offered a nod to the company’s “digital marketing strategy and unique stores that showcase the brand”. One new component of that digital marketing strategy is the online chatbot, ‘Seemore’, which was brought to life this summer, and represents a fresh customer communication channel for the retailer.

Who is this Seemore character?

Emily Davis, global social media manager at Ted Baker, says innovation is an important part of Ted Baker strategy, and it was this outlook that contributed to the Facebook-based chatbot emerging on the scene in July.

“Seemore, as Ted’s unique virtual assistant, will be able to offer an immediate answer to our Facebook followers’ questions, as well as offering an enriched experience with product and outfit inspiration,” she explains.

Using artificial intelligence (AI), the chatbot is expected to learn from interactions with customers and, therefore, provide more accurate answers and greater personalised service over time for Ted Baker’s Facebook community. The core purpose on launch was to help promote the fashion retailer’s autumn range and provide transaction opportunities via the Messenger app.

Craig Smith, Ted Baker’s digital commerce director, gave the chatbot its name, but the decision process was validated by seeking customer feedback. “It allows us to build up a storytelling piece around the chatbot to capture the imagination of our followers,” Davis explains.

“We want to create new ways for customers to engage with Ted on the social channels that they are using most frequently. There has been growth in communication through instant messaging across industries, which Ted has seen reflected in changing use of our Facebook page by customers.”

“Ted Baker is a unique brand, and it’s essential we communicate that in an exciting way, whichever channel we’re using to do so"

Partner project

Ted Baker needed to work with Zendesk to integrate the bot with its customer service workflow, and it required a link-up with Metapack to ensure users who purchase items through this new channel can access the necessary delivery updates.

The retailer also recruited social and mobile digital agency Puzzle London for the project. “We felt that their expertise in bringing together technology and brand made them the right agency to partner with on this project,” Davis notes.

“We worked as a team, bringing Ted Baker’s brand expertise and knowledge of our customer with Puzzle’s technical expertise and experience in the Facebook Messenger chatbot space.”

The process to bring Seemore to life began in March 2018, and the technology continues to be tweaked in its live form as Ted Baker garners feedback from users. In a retail world where organisational silos are often cited as a barrier to progress, Ted Baker stands out as a good example of a business operating with inter-departmental teams.

This was the case again as Seemore was developed, with customer service and digital product teams apparently combining with trade and product teams to ensure the most suitable proposition was created.

“To plan for the launch, we put together a team with representatives from CRM, marketing and digital marketing to ensure that we were communicating the message as widely and as effectively as possible – it was a real team effort,” Davis explains.

Measuring Seemore’s success

Davis acknowledges that chatbot technology is still relatively nascent, and the deployment of Seemore represents the first time Ted Baker has worked with chatbot and AI technology on Facebook Messenger. Naturally, there are concerns that the technology is providing the best possible service to customers.

“Ensuring that Seemore delivered a compelling brand experience as well as a functional one was also a priority,” she adds. “Ted Baker is a unique brand, and it’s essential we communicate that in an exciting way, whichever channel we’re using to do so.”

What does success look like for Ted Baker in terms of the chatbot project? According to Davis, it keeps changing as the retailer continues to monitor consumer response to the technology.

“We see this as a massive opportunity to drive efficiencies by deflecting common queries away from our customer services team, as well as providing these customers with an immediate response,” she says.

“We’re also measuring engagement and revenue from the product inspiration side of the chatbot, and finally, looking at customer feedback in real time.”

To date, Ted Baker is seeing higher usage on the outfit and product inspiration section of the chatbot compared to the customer help part of the proposition. The service will continue to be monitored and as-yet-unknown bot functions are expected to be uncovered, but one thing Davis and the team seem certain about is user numbers will continue grow.

And it’s this approach to trying new things in retail that bodes well for Ted Baker, according to Emily Salter, retail analyst at industry intelligence firm GlobalData.

Following last month’s half-year interim announcement, Salter noted: “Ted Baker is well positioned to continue to achieve future growth due to its strong brand identity which garners shopper loyalty, alongside its willingness to adapt to developments in technology to improve customer experience.”

Seemore is the latest incarnation of this strategy and the chatbot is showing early signs of success in customer engagement.