nativeMsg is a Chicago chatbot company creating conversational interfaces in all channels. Chicago skyline, where nativeMsg is based.

Chicago chatbot company nativeMsg combines hometown tech cred and excellent service experience with NatBot, the company ChatHost, a chatbot for Facebook Messenger.

Great brand experience isn’t just satisfying, it’s a delightful surprise and ultimately leads to higher customer loyalty.  In fact,  “41% of U.S. consumers are loyal to organizations that offer them new experiences, products or services.” Chicago-based brands have been part of the early adopter community forging the way in innovative chatbot experience and maximizing on the technology.

Alongside innovative brands, Chicago figures prominently in tech development. Chicago’s tech employment rate in the last five years has been second only to Silicon Valley at 19.9% and 19.3%, respectively. 

But, by and large, many businesses are just learning about how to use chatbots to delight users. Consumers are even less aware of the tech, and most consider it a current novelty. Though, data shows that most consumers have had at least one interaction with a chat interface.

However, you need look no further than large brands from Chicago that are offering consumers and employees engaging and useful chatbot experiences.   

If you’re unsure of how to utilize the technology for your business, here are three Chicago-based and well-known American brands in retail, insurance and pharma that deliver unique and innovative chatbot experiences.

Ulta Beauty and Madison Reed offer In-Store Chatbot “Madi” for Color Consultation

Ulta Beauty opened its doors in the Chicago area 25 years ago and has since become a leading beauty retailer nationally. The brand offers hundreds of beauty brands and over 20,000 products. The retailer also features full-service in-house salons in every location.

Ulta’s market targets female consumers and a younger, tech-savvy demographic. For this Chicago retail company, their in-store chatbot experience evolved as a collaboration with high-end hair color brand Madison Reed to offer shoppers a fun, fast and useful experience.

In the spring of 2017, Ulta Beauty partnered with Madison Reed to launch their innovative and hip in-store color consultation service with a chatbot called “Madi.” The service is the first-ever color-recognition chatbot, per Madison Reed. Customers take a selfie, upload it and begin a real-time consultation that guides them through the customer journey from color selection to purchase. 

Unlike typical color consultations where a stylist advises you, or you take several steps with a program to see an image-result, with Madi, you get a quick, life-like result of your new color.

The technology combines color-recognition with artificial intelligence for quick, seamless results toward a perfect match. It also offers additional recommendations based on a customer’s feedback.

Madi takes your image, and your feedback about your hair type and the look you want, and then recommends the best color for you. Th chatbot can identify both primary color and underlying, secondary tones––pretty cool.  Touted as “that colorist you’d wait months to get in to see,” Madi is available 24/7 through text service and Facebook Messenger.

When you enter an Ulta Beauty store, you can use an in-store text for the in-store experience. Through their collaboration with Ulta Beauty, Madison Reed increases consumer brand awareness, which extends to Ulta Beauty’s brand as their customers are treated to an enjoyable and useful in-store experience that guides them more easily into a likely purchase. 

Walgreens and FLAVORx’s FlavorBot Engages Kids and Decreases Parent Frustrations

Remember when taking medicine was a major chore? Flavored prescriptions service is meant to solve that problem for kids and parents. 

But Walgreens has taken that service further by including a chatbot that recommends the best flavoring for every medicine. You don’t need to be a kid to enjoy this service; Walgreens prescription flavoring service provides flavoring for any liquid medicine––it’s included for pet prescriptions, too. But they’ve cleverly added-on a chatbot service geared toward kids. FlavorBot is featured on Walgreens’ Pharmacy site  on their “Prescription Flavoring Services” page.

nativemsg, Chicago chatbots-companies that lead the way in user experience. FlavorBot image of cartoon robot with slot machine of best flavor medicine options.
Source FlavorBot

Walgreens has built the page around solving that universal pain point of “medicine meltdown” and the challenges parents face administering medicine to their children.

The page is an interactive experience to help include and engage kids in taking their medicine, complete with an activity sheet of word puzzles and games. But the most interesting feature is”FlavorBot.”

Users click through to FLAVORx’s embedded on-site chatbot. It’s a simple user experience with a fun execution: Select your prescription or over-the-counter medicine from a drop down of hundreds of alphabetized medicines. Once you’ve selected it, watch as a slot-machine-like experience of flavors, complete with colorful, cartoonish pictures of smiling strawberries, bananas or cherries, scroll to a stop at the best flavor combination(s) to mask the particular medicinal taste. 

Walgreens, founded in 1901 in Chicago, and FLAVORx partnered to create a customized and entertaining experience. While this bot is a simple-objective, rule-based interaction, it’s an example for how clever application of current tech can extend brand loyalty and customer satisfaction.

Allstate Decreased Call Center Traffic and Increased Employee Satisfaction with ABIe, Their Virtual Expert

As a Fortune 100 company, Chicago insurance brand Allstate was one of the earliest chatbot adopters. The brand spotted an opportunity to use artificial intelligence combined with a conversational interface to significantly decrease internal call center query loads. In 2013, Allstate launched ABIe (“Abby”), the AllState Business Insurance expert to help answer policy and sales quote questions.

An upgrade in a commercial insurance line for small business sparked a steep increase in internal policy questions and agents seeking guidance while walking customers through the sales quote process. Allstate solved this by creating ABIe.

Since it’s been deployed, ABIe has significantly decreased call center turnover rates,  simplified the quote process, and three years in, has answered over one million questions.  

Allstate exemplifies what many businesses are just beginning to learn: Conversational interfaces built well for the most frustrating pain point are highly cost-effective, create a large rate of return and provide serious serviceability.  

Mike Barton, President of Allstate Business Insurance, touts the addition as a “shoe-string approach” akin to Apple’s Siri at a small percentage of the cost, but with huge benefits.

How Can Your Organization Get Similar Results? 

It’s no longer a question of whether chatbots are viable for an organization, but how and when you’re going to jump into the space to offer better service and experience.

These use-cases show that highly creative and useful applications create highly positive results. Even more promising, most companies aren’t offering this level of full-service, partnered or engaging experience with chatbots just yet.

It becomes increasingly more evident, then, that employing some kind of conversational layer within your organization’s structure, as early as possible, differentiates  your organization from your competitors. It also stakes your claim within channels that are set to evolve at an accelerated space in just two to five years.

So, where do you start?

Identify the Biggest Friction Points within Your Organization

  • Internal Friction. Is the friction internal? Internal friction points are caused by missed connection in execution. When rolling out its new product, Allstate saw that increasing call center support wouldn’t be a realistic solution for handling the influx of calls and knowledge gap. But a chatbot that is an always-open virtual assistant fundamentally solved the problem in the most efficient way.
  • External friction. This is a missed connection between an organization and a consumer. Omnichannel marketing is the product of customer demand for always-open, endless-aisle service. Despite this solution, live chat is typically limited by hours, and responsiveness on social channels widely varies in timing.

The gap is still gaping in this regard. Many businesses in all industries tout “instant responsiveness” or a response within one hour via messaging channels, but the responsiveness is not instant, or within an hour. However, chatbots can redefine that access to not only meet consumer demands for fast responsiveness, but also to set a consistent bar in responsiveness.

Ulta Beauty and Madison Reed proved that consumers don’t have to wait months, weeks or days for a long-awaited and needed color consult. Their always-open virtual consultant circumvents that process. As a result, consumers become more loyal based on the effectiveness of their experience.

Do Your Homework: Vet the Chatbot Developer and Chatbot Company

  • You need to understand whether a company has the chops to do what it says it can for your company and objective. It’s not enough to organize a group of developers and project managers.
  • Is the underlying API and proposed AI execution possible and is the organization capable of delivering on what you need? Allstate emphatically believes their success came as a result of a “rigorous” process in development and execution.
  • You don’t need sophisticated functionality, as Walgreens proves, when you can accentuate the positive with highly creative applications. You can increase conversions, service and satisfaction with creative, industrious and clever applications that are also simple. Work with a nimble team that explores opportunities to do just that for you.

Just Get Started!

This is “chatbot 1.0.” Much like the internet and mobile started, chatbot service and functionality are set to grow.

Start with a simple messenger bot to answer the most common questions. Use a partnership structure, like Ulta Beauty’s, to create a richer customer experience. Create a persona bot as an engaging extension of brand personality and for consumer awareness.

But if you’re still wondering whether a chatbot can perform what you have in mind, it most likely can. (A travelbot that searches and books your flight, a pharmabot that re-orders your prescriptions and answers important questions, it’s out there or it’s just around the corner).

What is your organization waiting for? (To be left behind?)

Get started today . Learn more about all the ways you can improve experience and service with a conversational layer for your business.

Published on Nov 16, 2017