Skincare brand Pond’s recently launched an AI chatbot that matches people to the right skin products and found that it delivered better results compared to its existing digital channels.
While it does not mean that Pond’s will shift all its energy and funds into chatbots, the brand has found a strong business case in including the technology as part of its digital mix.
The Drum spoke to Rohit Bhasin, global brand vice president, Pond’s to find out what exactly goes into such a project and why the activity sits comparably with digital advertising.
Where did the idea for this come from?
Pond's has been one of the beauty brands at the forefront of offering skin diagnostic services to our consumers online and in-stores since 2016. It started with launching My Skin Advisor on our brand sites and tablets in selected stores, leading us to deliver an enhanced and more holistic skin-care regimen tool, with rich skincare content, through the Skin Advisor Live (SAL) app in 2017.
Throughout this journey, our mission has always been to provide our consumers with a high-quality skin diagnostic experience, wherever they are and whenever they want. This dedication ensures the team is constantly in tune with the evolving needs and habits of our consumers; both on skincare and media consumption aspects.
When there were early trends of consumers spending more time on social messaging apps, we saw an opportunity to create an even more seamless experience for consumers to access SAL, an AI-powered skin diagnostic service, via an intuitive chat experience.
Why use the chat function over other forms of communication?
Today’s consumers, many being digital natives, prefer to interact with a brand over a chat as their first point of contact. This is compared to other forms of communication such as email or a call. Our decision to pioneer with a skin diagnostic tool in the form of a chatbot experience was further affirmed when we observed that many skin diagnostic tools are available on web or app platform. We wanted to make the skin diagnostic experience accessible on the social messaging platforms they are on and make it more enjoyable and intuitive, just like chatting with a beauty advisor in our stores.
What data was used to ensure that the information was accurate?
SAL’s AI-powered skin diagnostic technology is a rich integration of The Pond's Institute and BrighTex BioPhotonics’s (BTBP) years of clinical research data, combined with dermatologist graded data and selfies we received from consumers’ smart device. The analysis is also built on a global database of over one million images, which will continue to be enriched for unparalleled accuracy with machine learning. This means that the sharpness of analysis gets enhanced with every new image being added. For consumers, they will receive a diagnosis of their skin health at higher consistency than dermatologists’ reviews.
Did you have to think about how the ‘bot’ interacted with people? What did you learn from it in that sense?
Our first design of the bot had a standardised ‘customer service’ tonality. We wanted to maintain the credibility of the brand’s expertise in skincare. Upon several consumer quals, we realised that the younger generation of consumers - Millennials and Gen Z skincare users - like to have fun when interacting with the brand. Personality plays a big part in making the chat conversations fun and entertaining. We took to using emojis and slangs to making SAL relatable – creating an experience that’s closer to how our consumers would chat with their friends online.
And then in terms of the results, this was very successful when benchmarked against other channels. Why did you compare this to digital ads?
SAL AI chatbot is a digital channel that serves to drive similar business objectives as digital ads. That is to engage a consumer from awareness, to consideration and finally purchase for skincare products that will meet her skincare needs.
Will you look at replacing or supplementing digital ad spend with investment into technology like this in the future?
Any piece of technology will require investment to be optimised to reach its full potential. We believe investment in technology should not be isolated but viewed as part of marketing investments.
What’s next for SAL?
Currently, SAL offers skin diagnosis across four categories: uneven skin tone, spots, pimples and wrinkles. With this, it means that we will be able to gain an in-depth understanding of our consumers’ various skincare concerns by regions. This will enable us to tailor skincare products that would be suited by the region and for individuals. Making it available across more digital touchpoints to provide consumers with easy accessibility will also be part of the expansion plans.
To find out what other brands are doing with chatbots, see more articles by The Drum.