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Tool tracks evil bunnies on Facebook

By Ben Ames | March 14, 2018 | 2:27 PM

The typical e-commerce consumer of 2018 lives online, skipping between smartphone apps and social media feeds with ease. In a world of short attention spans, young shoppers view opening a new web page or dialing a phone number as a boring and onerous distraction.

So where is an eager shopper supposed to turn when the item they purchased an entire day or two earlier has still not appeared on their doorstep? HighJump Software Inc. says it has solved that puzzle with an app that embeds a “Where’s my stuff?” function directly within the instant messaging feature of your Facebook profile.

HighJump unveiled the “Social Connector” tool at its user conference in Dallas on Monday, making the pitch that embedding customer service in social media would deliver personalized supply chain visibility data directly to individual shoppers, instead of making them stutter through phone trees or fill out online forms.

Execs showed off the chatbot in a live demo on the convention stage, using the Facebook page of HighJump’s fictitious microbrewery, Evil Bunny Brewing Co., a straw company created by HighJump to demonstrate its software capabilities.

Posing as an impatient customer, HighJump’s vice president for product management, Jackson Bilbrey, opened a Facebook chat window and typed “order status 1234.” That entry triggered the tool to use its automated chatbot capabilities—developed by HighJump using Facebook’s application programming interface (API) framework—to query the virtual retailer’s supply chain database. The chatbot instantly asked Bilbrey to double-check his invoice number, correct a typo in the digits, and then provided data on the estimated delivery date for his Evil Bunny products.

The “Social Connector” tool can currently provide data about parcel shipping, allowing retailers to communicate more effectively with consumers, HighJump Chief Technology Officer Sean Elliott said in an interview. Future versions of the chatbot could also support instant-message queries of track and trace or warehouse management system (WMS) data, Elliott said. And while the chatbot currently lives in Facebook, it could just as easily take up residence on other social media platforms, he said.

But wait, what if you’re an online shopper who’d rather ask “Where’s my stuff?” by shouting questions across the room than by typing into a keyboard? Fear not, UPS Inc. has you covered. The logistics and shipping giant on Wednesday launched a spoken-word chatbot that allows customers to call out questions to their smart speakers, Android or Apple phones, or other devices.

The product is an expansion of UPS’ existing chatbot function onto the Google Assistant platform, which powers the voice recognition capability used in “Google Home” speakers and other applications. The chatbot now uses its artificial intelligence (AI) to interpret spoken questions like “OK Google, ask UPS about my packages,” and respond with spoken answers.

 

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