You’d be hard-pressed to find a brand that doesn’t have a chatbot these days. Western Union’s virtual teller lets you move money between accounts. Lyft’s chatbot allows you to request rides via Slack or Facebook Messenger. And Tito’s Handmade Vodka’s digital mixologist recommends cocktail recipes based on ingredients you’ve got on hand.
Now Japanese clothing retailer Uniqlo is getting in on the chatbot craze. The company today announced that Uniqlo IQ, its machine learning-powered “digital concierge” service that shares personalized style recommendations sourced from the retailer’s sprawling collection, is launching in Japan.
“As retail moves deeper into the digital realm, shopping needs to be not just portable and perpetual, but personal as well. There has been a lot of talk about AI in the last few years, but most use cases have been toys, not tools,” said Rei Inamoto, founding partner of Inamoto & Co., the agency that created the assistant in partnership with Party, in a statement. “[This] iteration of Uniqlo IQ is the foundation of how Uniqlo will provide customer service on a personal level, not just reactively but also proactively.”
Uniqlo IQ is built into the Uniqlo app for smartphones. It bubbles up product rankings by occasion, personal preferences, and even daily horoscopes, and helps digital window shoppers complete purchases by providing directions to the closest Uniqlo store with products in stock.
In addition to Uniqlo IQ, Uniqlo customers in Japan can now access the digital clothing curator via the Google Assistant, the company announced. Uniqlo claims that the voice app, which was created with Google’s Dialogflow, marks the first time that a brand has worked closely with Google to create a brand-specific chatbot.
Uniqlo isn’t the first to tap artificial intelligence to tackle style questions. In March, Mode.ai launched a Facebook Messenger chatbot that uses computer vision to identify items of clothing — including pieces from top brands like Levi’s, Louis Vuitton, and Ann Taylor — and show customers where to buy them online. Last year, major fashion retailer Asos rolled out a visual search tool to help customers shop using their smartphone.
About 13 percent of people shop for clothes online, according to market researchers at NRF. And the chatbot and virtual assistant market is expected to be worth a combined $7.7 billion by 2025, according to Kaleido Insights.
Update at 7:25 a.m. Pacific: An earlier version of this article said that Uniqlo IQ is launching in the U.S. We’ve amended the wording and regret the error.