- As more industries incorporate chatbots into their customer service platforms, grocers are beginning to adopt the technology as well, according to Smartbrief.
- Whole Foods Market launched a feature on its website last year that lets customers look up recipes with the help of a robot chef. Through Facebook Messenger, shoppers can send key words and even food emojis to the chatbot, and it will respond with recommendations.
- According to the Ben Lamm, CEO of chatbot maker Conversable, chatbots are another tool grocers can use to mine consumer data. “Now, brands like Whole Foods have real-time data about their consumers’ needs and desires,” Lamm said.
As grocers turn to automation in areas like fulfillment, couponing, and checkout, it makes sense they would also incorporate automated systems into their customer service capabilities.
Grocers’ budding e-commerce platforms, in particular, could benefit from the use of chatbots. Customers could find out about specials while they’re shopping, ask when an out-of-stock product might become available or check on the status of an order. Online grocer FreshDirect uses a chatbot program to help customers build shopping lists and place orders.
On the plus side, chatbot programs are growing increasingly sophisticated and retailers can incorporate them into their existing apps and websites. But their usefulness may be limited in a grocery industry where customer-retailer interaction isn’t often necessary and where websites often list enough product and company information to satisfy shoppers. Retailers don’t need a chatbot to tell customers what’s on sale each week or what farm grew the red pepper they just bought.
There’s also the question of just how willing shoppers are to actually use chatbots. According to a survey by mobile engagement marketing firm Vibes, 60% of U.S. consumers say they’d feel comfortable using a chatbot, but only 22% have actually done so.
The best use for chatbots in grocery may be as an ordering tool akin to FreshDirect’s, which lets multiple users add items to a single order. They also could be a way to add a dash of convenience and personality to their online offerings such as with Whole Foods’ robot chef.