Shopping at Whole Foods Market is about to become much more entertaining.
In addition to browsing for unusual vegetables or gazing at the wide assortment of organic tortilla chips, customers will now be able to tap into a recipe database from their phones and use artificial intelligence to converse with a robot chef.
A new chatbot will let customers browsing through the store find products, and then, with a few taps in a Facebook Messenger chatbot, find recipes for an upcoming meal. But it’s more than just a chat with an A.I. agent who knows how to cook. Customers can select an emoji, like a jalapeno or a banana, and then see recipes that involve those products. The chatbot lets customers mix and match by typing a word, selecting a cuisine (like Tex Mex), and adding an emoji to the text chat. They can also select keywords and choose recipes for special diets.
It’s exploratory and fun, and it shows how chatbots can add to a shopping experience and lead to some interesting results — say, a tamale recipe for vegans.
“We are living in the ‘expectation economy,’ where consumers expect to have information at their fingertips, and we want to keep innovating to meet our customers where they are,” said Jeff Jenkins, global executive of digital strategy and marketing at Whole Foods Market. “Our goal is to make recipe discovery easy and to help our customers find new ways to experience the foods they love. Whole Foods Market customers are always looking for inspiration, no matter whether they are at home, on the run, or walking down our aisles.”
Whole Foods plans to add more features soon, including the ability to link the chatbot to your Whole Foods account, save recipes for later perusal, and sign up for coupons and deals.
Whole Foods demonstrated the chatbot at the MobileBeat 2016 conference this week. Nichele Lindstrom, the director of digital marketing at Whole Foods, showed how the emojis work for finding recipes and how you can add more keywords and search for special diets.
The Whole Foods chatbot was created by Conversable, a company that provides an SaaS platform for creating conversational messaging experiences. You can find the bot on Whole Foods’ Facebook page, or by searching for “Whole Foods” in the messenger app and on the web.
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