Two decades ago, people who were trying to figure out the right computer or refrigerator to buy likely would have gone to a store and talked with one of the sales representatives in the appropriate department.
Today, consumers typically do their research and much of their shopping on their phones and computers. But Steve Desjarlais thinks many would love to have the same kind of individualized attention and expert recommendations online that they used to get in brick-and-mortar stores.
Desjarlais’s company, Heyday, has created a chat service that’s designed to help online retailers do just that. The service uses an artificial-intelligence powered chatbot to answer routine questions, figure out what consumers are shopping for, and to make general product suggestions. When customers need more help, the AI service directs them to human representatives, then helps those representatives answer their questions.
“With Heyday, we can bring back the conversation we had 20 years ago” between customers and sales representatives, Desjarlais said.
Heyday merges AI with human intelligence
Heyday’s retail and business customers — which include Ford and French food conglomerate Danone — use its service to power the live-chat features in their apps and on their web sites. When a consumer clicks on a live-chat link, it activates the startup’s chatbot. That AI-based service is able to tap into retailers’ product, customer, and other databases to answer shoppers’ questions.
When customers have questions the bot can’t answer, it’s designed to connect them with a sales representative that’s knowledgeable about the particular products they’re shopping for. The representative, who may be in a central call center or on the floor of a store, interacts with customers using a smartphone chat app. The app allows them to make recommendations with a few taps. The system is intended to work seamlessly; the human sales representative can see customers’ previous interactions with the bot, so they don’t have to repeat questions.
“We give the sales person the tools so they can engage [customers on their phones] in the same way they do with people in front of them,” said Desjarlais, who previously worked as the head of product at video-game publisher Ubisoft.
Heyday, which is based in Montreal, has designed its service to be available through many of the major messaging apps, including Apple’s iMessage and Facebook Messenger.
After founding the company in 2017, Desjarlais and his partners essentially bootstrapped Heyday for its first two years. They were able to develop the product, build out a 23-person team, and attract big-name customers with basically no marketing budget speak of, he said.
The company now will have the opportunity to promote its service much more widely. In April it closed a $2 million seed funding round led by investment fund Innovobot, and Desjarlais is planning to use the funds primarily on sales and marketing.
“We’re really proud of what we achieved, but now that we have raised $2 million, we will just open the flood gates and [promote] our solution everywhere,” he said.
Here’s the pitch deck Desjarlais and Heyday used to raise its seed-funding round: