Vogue’s Facebook chatbot is this season’s must-have accessory

By Alex Wood 20 February 2017
Model Doina Ciobanu at London Fashion Week. Image: istock/cocomtr

Computer says no.

Forget apps – they’re so last season.

Imagine having a chat with Alexandra Shulman, Editor-in-Chief of Vogue.

Unless you’re fashion royalty, Vogue Fashion Update – a new automated Facebook chat, is the closest you’ll get this London Fashion Week.

This new chatbot allows you to chat directly with the Vogue brand for the first time, through Facebook Messenger.

It’s a bold new way for publishers to talk to their fans that’s perfect for people tired of endless scrolling and searching for news. Now your favourite content comes straight to you, through a “natural” Facebook chat.

Talking to a brick wall

We found Vogue Fashion Update to be a smart new way to get your favourite news, on your own terms.

But when it comes to having a conversation, this chatbot felt behind the curve.

Getting started is easy. Head to Vogue’s Facebook page and click “message” to start a chat. The chatbot then ask you about fashion preferences:

“Would you like to get daily updates at 1pm?” it asks.

There’s no learning curve. The conversation feels natural.

“Would you like to receive the latest updates from London Fashion Week?” Yes, yes I would.

Feeling confident – I thought it was time for me to talk back. And here’s where things went a little off-trend.

“What’s hot today?” I asked.

“Sorry, we didn’t understand that. Try using the menu button or tell us the name of some brands you would like to follow” it responded.

A disappointing response to a fairly bland question. “What should I wear today?” I asked next.

“Sorry, we didn’t understand that. Try using the menu button or tell us the name of some brands you would like to follow.” it responded.

Getting that same response suddenly burst the bubble for me. And it continued with every other question I asked. This quickly became a one-sided conversation.

What seemed like a “smart” chatbot suddenly became the digital equivalent of those infuriating audio menus when you call your bank. Not the kind of experience you expect from one of the world’s finest fashion magazines.

The must-have accessory for publishers

For smart companies, chatbots are almost certainly the future.

Brands like Vogue are leading the charge, but just like apps from ten years ago, it’s early days with bugs that need ironing out. Conversations can’t be one-sided, even when they’re digital.

Until we can give them a voice that’s true to the brand, they’re a long way from them hitting the mainstream.