While doing my literature review on sales robots, I first came across a physical sales robot that was working in a hardware store. The robot spoke and understood several languages and it was an expert in guiding customers to the right shelves in the huge store with very many small articles. It was called a sales robot, but it definitively had very little in common with the sales robot that we are developing in the DIVA-project. Our sales robot works in the virtual world. Its goal is to persuade the customer to buy the product. The robot does this by finding out the needs and wishes of the customer in order to be able to persuade him about the good features of the product that it is selling.
The sales robot in the DIVA project is a software robot that lives on a company’s web site and helps in all possible ways the potential customer to end up with a positive buying decision. This definition arises a new question: What is a software robot?
A software robot is a general term that means robots that have no physical components, or hardware. They consist solely of software. Software robots are sometimes also called software agents or bots. Some early software robots from the 1990s were also called softbots.
Now we know that the DIVA sales robot is a software agent that works on a company’s web site. But what does it do concretely? The software robot that we are building pursues a dialogue with the B2B customer. The sales robot asks questions and the potential customer answers them. The answer can be given very easily by selecting it from a predefined list.
This closed-world approach makes sure that the robot always understands the answer as there is no possibility for open answers. Based on the answer selected by the user, the robot proceeds to a new question. In every phase, the user may end the dialogue and buy the product.
The software robot is data-driven in the sense that it has lots of different sales dialogues inside it. The sales robot software is provided with analytical capabilities. At a given moment, tens of sales robots instantiated with different dialogues may be selling the same product to different customers. The robot software monitors the log data provided by each robot. It can tell in real time e.g. which robot is performing best, at which point in the dialogue the customer typically ends the conversation and which features of the product are the most popular among potential customers.
I hope that this description has shed light to what a sales robot in the DIVA project is. We have learned that the term sales robot may refer to very different agents: some have a physical dimension and assist customers in a physical store, some – like the one in the DIVA project – are software agents that sell a product on a company’s web site or a web store. We also have found out that the DIVA sales robot is able to sell one product in one language. However, this is not quite true. Using the DIVA sales robot to sell many different products in several languages is also possible. You just have to create many different instances of the robot – each using different dialogue data!
DIVA project researcher at the Haaga-Helia University of Applied Sciences