British Vogue is taking a page from publishers like Complex and Fusion by launching a branded Facebook messenger bot called Vogue Fashion Update. Meant to coincide with the start of London Fashion Week, the bot is the first of its kind for fashion publishing, giving it a rare leg up over its sister publication, American Vogue.
Launched by Condé Nast International’s new digital team, the bot will allow users to receive daily updates on the magazine’s top stories and timely runway news, as well as content tailored to their favorite designers or topics.
The news follows in the footsteps of fashion brands like Burberry and Estée Lauder who have previously used Facebook Messenger for promotional and e-commerce purposes. BuzzFeed, who first launched a bot to curate election-specific content for readers last year, also rolled out a commerce-focused bot this past December as an extension of its shopping guides. After answering a few questions from the bot, users are presented with a personalized pick that they can purchase in the app.
While British Vogue has no official plans to get into e-commerce with the app (and could not be reached for comment), it does note that it will evolve over time, with future updates providing “further personalization and interaction.”
“Messenger offers brands an amazing opportunity to hit consumers with the right message, at the right time and place. Imagine if British Vogue hits readers with an article about beauty trends as they walk into Sephora or with an article about the best fitness trackers as people walk into gyms,” said Vishal Sapra, chief executive officer of digital experience consultancy Code & Culture,. “If users click through to articles like those, the next message the bot sends can offer a deal on beauty products or fitness trackers, respectively.”
But with so many competing messages out there already, what could be the benefit of throwing one more voice into the mix?
“A lot of brands have been trying to gain direct, more personal access to their audiences through messaging,” explains Thomas Rankin, the CEO and co-founder of the visual intelligence platform Dash Hudson. “Vogue is going after that closeness and immediacy on the world’s biggest platform, at a time when Facebook Messenger and bot marketing are just hitting [their] stride — not a bad place to start.”
Indeed, Facebook Messenger has over 1 billion monthly active users, according to Sapra, who added that it’s already a major source of content sharing for users. What’s more, messenger bots can help publications like British Vogue compete against feeds that are increasingly dominated by video. “[Video] is sucking user attention away from everything else,” said Sapra. “Messenger is a great way to get personalized content clicked on, while also offering a unique CRM opportunity to get user feedback.”
It will be interesting to see how popular the bot is with readers, and if many other fashion publishers will quickly follow suit. Rankin, for one, believes they have no choice. “Brands and publishers cannot afford to sit back and wait on new channels. There is tremendous pressure to be everywhere,” he said. “The smartest ones know that getting in early and building an audience on a new platform is critical. Vogue sets the tone for many — by launching [this bot], it is putting the rest of the publishing world on notice.”