Conversational AI disrupts CX

Plus: Jen AI, Bard is getting better, and the FTC cracks down on fake reviews

Greetings my people.

Summer is here and July and August promise to be a scorcher. You ever think about how much weather impacts everything we do, particularly commerce? Maybe that’s why small talk tends to revolve around the weather.

Oh! Before we get into everything, just wanted to let you know that Rep AI (i.e. me and our CEO) will be in NYC at Pier 36 next week. We will have a booth at The Lead Innovation Summit showing our wares. You can find us in booth 700, right here:

If you’re in the area, stop on by.

Now let’s get into some news.

The Latest

Consumer confidence is up

From CNN:

“If packed-full restaurants and airports were not enough to convince you that consumers are feeling good at the moment, look at the present situation index, which notched its best monthly gain since December 2022,” Wells Fargo economists wrote. “In level terms, only two months have been higher for the present situation index in the past three years: those being June and July 2021.”

Inflation is still here, people are spending, and the job market may be teetering a bit even though the share of people who viewed jobs as “plentiful” increased to 46.8% from 43.3%.

We’ll keep an eye on this.

AI intrigues small businesses

As much as we talk about AI in this newsletter, it’s important to keep in mind that most people are not as informed or up to speed on AI and its practicality. Retail merchants are busy people, taking on multiple roles with many responsibilities.

AI will be a game-changer for most businesses, but we should also temper expectations—the adoption rate will vary and not every tool will have long-term usability for merchants. But it’s great to see the optimism around AI and its quickly evolving capabilities.

Small business owners recognize the potential AI holds to improve their day-to-day work and the future of their business. Nearly half (47%) say AI could be a valuable asset or game changer for their business, including more than half of Gen Z (71%).

Bard’s AI is getting more “reasonable”

Google just released a few updates to Bard that makes it:

  • Better at logic & reasoning

  • Better at math

They liken it to Daniel Kahneman’s System 1 and System 2 framework. What’s that? Think of System 1 as your gut response. System 2 is the more well-reasoned, thought-out response. Humans have both systems, and now, so does Bard (System 2 upgrade, basically).

You ever feel like people are trying to replicate the human brain (and eventually, a whole human)? Anyway, more on Bard’s new capabilities here.

Fake reviews and the FTC

Consumers hate them. Apparently, the FTC does, too (which FTC higher up did Amazon piss off?).

Well, the FTC just proposed a new rule where businesses could face fines (up to $50,000) for buying fake reviews—for each time a customer sees one.

I’m sure fake reviewers wear a burglar’s eye mask before they start writing

From The Verge:

The FTC also wants to crack down on company-controlled review websites that claim to “provide independent opinions about a category of products or services that includes its own products or services.” For example, that would bar companies from making their own websites — that they claim not to be associated with — to recommend their own products. The FTC’s rule would also fine companies that try to suppress negative reviews through intimidation or other means.

Things are a changin’.

Brand Experience

The checkout is an essential part of the brand experience

You put so much effort into building great products and services, impeccable marketing, and a solid CX team, only for shoppers to abandon your cart at the very end of their journey.

Incomplete journey map

According to Edelman’s recent trust barometer, for newer generations, the purchase is NOT the final step—it’s the beginning of your relationship.

Post-purchase journeys are just as critical

More here.

Marketing Experience

How to Use Customer Success Stories on Instagram

Need more social proof in your marketing? Who doesn’t? Here are 7 ways to repurpose your customer stories on Insta. Give yourself some extra points if your customers produce UGC (user-generated content).

Lululemon gave out $98k worth of leggings—why would they do that?!

What do you do about knockoffs and copycats? How would you deal with them? Well, Lululemon found a way. But why did it succeed?

Because the “dupe swap” was an unusual and clever response to "dupe culture," where people seek out cheap alternatives to expensive products.

Sure, not everyone pull this off, but that doesn’t mean we can’t learn from it. Here’s some potential takeaways for smaller businesses without the same cache as Lulu:

1. Create a newsworthy event: Lululemon used the event to showcase the superior quality of their products by letting people feel the difference. You can also consider product sampling, free trials, or exchange initiatives to highlight your product’s quality over competitors or knock-offs.

2. Target New Customers with Unique Initiatives: The event was targeted towards new Lululemon customers, half of whom were under the age of 30. Because of how remarkable the campaign was, people shared with their friends—besides—who doesn’t want the real thing, anyway?

3. Use Experiential Marketing to Build Long-Term Relationships: You should also aim to build lasting relationships with your customers, turning one-time buyers into loyal customers. Again, doing something remarkable is the same as making a strong first impression.

5. Sustainable brands are “in”: Lululemon partnered with a textile recycling company to responsibly dispose of the swapped-out leggings, demonstrating corporate social responsibility. Consider how your business practices could be more environmentally friendly or socially responsible (Gen Z and Millennials really care).

User Experience

How much friction is too much in UX design?

My team was just having this conversation. Too much friction is usually a problem, but what about too little? Is there a nice balance, where introducing a little friction does more good than harm?

Way too much friction for the most “customer-centric company” in the world

Find your UX balance.

Customer Experience

The Disruption of Customer Experience

Conversational AI is a game-changer for businesses. In this long form article, Jordan Ratner explains how creating better experiences in customer support will lead to greater expectations.

But the benefits, and the competitive advantage that comes with it cannot be ignored.

From the article:

Conversational AI creates many strategic opportunities both externally and internally. Companies can finally achieve the long sought-after goal of providing excellent, personalized customer service across all channels at scale, without breaking the bank.

Chatbots are just the beginning. More here.

Employee Experience

What motivates brand champions?

Your most important brand champions are your team. If they’re not excited or passionate about what you’re doing, then it will eventually trickle down to your customers. And nobody wants that.

If you don’t have an inspired team, here’s some areas you can focus on:

The intangibles, or the soft edge, are critical. But if you’re not compensating people well enough, then Maslow’s rules kick in, and you will lose their focus.

How Miss Amara prioritized employee experience to elevate customer experience

Speaking of great EX impacting CX, here’s a great case study on how online rug retailer Miss Amara brings it all together.

“If you have a happy, engaged team, then that engagement is going to flow through to customer experience; and vice versa, if your team is constantly battling upset, stressed customers, that has an impact on your team.”

Lydia Bertini — Head of People & Customer Experience (you read that right)


Data Experience

Digital Time Spent

Where are people spending their time online? Take a look:

Just take a look at the top 5 (WeChat probably won’t be relevant):

  1. WeChat

  2. TikTok

  3. YouTube

  4. Facebook

  5. Chrome

What does that mean? Nothing if your audience isn’t there, but it’s still good to know.

Top shopping apps during major holidays

Here’s another FYI: top shopping apps. Take a look:

Final thoughts

Jen AI

Virgin Voyages hired Jennifer Lopez to be its Chief Entertainment, Lifestyle & Celebration Officer (that’s a mouthful). Now, if only JLo could call every traveler personally and get them excited about getting on a cruise with them?

Not scalable? Well, there’s an AI for that. With Jen AI, you can send out personal invites from JLo herself (hey, whatever it takes).

Here’s the campaign:

Again, Rep AI will be in NYC next week, so I hope this issue gives you plenty to ruminate on. Will be back with a new issue of The Fringe in two weeks.

Stay cool out there.


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