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Jan 2, 2018 | 4 min read


Finding the optimal balance between AI and "human touch"

Estelle Yafi

Lead project manager

Personalization, customization, 1-to-1 interactions: these words are never off the lips of customer facing businesses.

To create the most outstanding customer experience, all interactions should be relevant for each customer:

– the products themselves: in fashion and beauty areas, we do not count anymore the start-ups that create personalized products: personalized foundations (by MatchCo, acquired by Shiseido earlier this year), personalized fragrances by Hawthorne for Men, personalized shampoos and conditioners by Function of Beauty, personalized skincare by Figure by Romy Paris etc.

– the online experience: from retargeting campaigns to product recommendations, e-mailing and website layouts, the online experience should always push relevant product recommendations and marketing messages to resonate with each customer, increasing word-of-mouth conversation and brand loyalty.

This mass customization is made possible by algorithms and other technological tools (big data) and will exponentially improve in the next few years thanks to Artificial Intelligence (AI).

AI is the key to improving personalization, and we already observed many applications in the fashion and beauty areas:

– smart chatbots provide personalized customer service and product recommendations

– virtual personal assistants at home (Amazon Echo) or in store. Lowebot for example is a robot that helps Lowe customers navigate the store to find products. Macy’s launched the app « Macy’s on call » that answers customers’ questions related to products, brands, and additional services available in store

– visual recognition to buy products that customers see in real life. Slyce for example, is a start-up that plugs in on retailers’ apps visual search and image recognition features


AI often relies on NLP (Natural Language Processing) or Computer vision to interpret meaning and what people see, and to extract their intentions and be relevant to each one.

We will soon see other AI applications that capture and understand what people feel (through sensors and captors, emotions recognition technology), what people hear, and what people see (connected glasses etc.)

But we should not forget that personalized individual experiences produced by AI are still not real human interactions.

AI is just mechanical: scalability leads to necessary automation. Marketing teams can manually design and send campaigns for a limited number of groups or populations. The more granular the segmentation is, the smarter automation (artificial intelligence!) required by marketers.

In this upcoming world of artificial intelligence and ultra-personalization, how can brands still create meaningful relationships with the end customers? How can they remain authentic and real, while leveraging the power of technology and artificial intelligence? Especially luxury brands: how can they still provide this feeling of uniqueness and exclusivity by using technology?


1 – Empower your in-store staff with technology

When debating between using AI or using humans, always ask yourself: which is better at doing what?

AI and machines will always be better than humans at crunching data and creating order within monstrous and chaotic data sets.

Humans will always be better (at least for a few more decades…) at creating relationships, empathy, and sincere bonds with other humans.

Reunify the best of both worlds by empowering your staff in-store!

Let’s imagine a scenario where a sales associate takes care of customers without knowing at all who they are, their relationship and history with the brand or with the store etc. (which is still the case in most stores today…).

By the time the sales associate asks all the questions that will help him/her giving relevant recommendations, the customer may already be bored, tired, or distracted by a Whatsapp message on his/her smartphone

Let’s imagine the other extreme scenario (that some retailers are experiencing right now), where customers can turn to their phone for any question they have: finding a product in-store that they browsed the day before, having information about a product, comparing prices etc. In this case, the experience can be seamless and impressive (provided the app works perfectly), but the store and the brand miss a great opportunity to embody its identity, values, and to convey messages in a subtle and empathic way.

Reunifying the best of both worlds would mean that customers feel that the store associate has the same information as his/her smartphone and uses it in a smart and friendly way.


2 – Invest in « human » for specific activities like customer service

Like mentioned before, certain activities should be completed by humans. Customer service is one of these business activities, especially when it comes to fashion and luxury brands.

The successful start-up StitchFix chose a smart balance between AI and humans.

AI algorithms crunch data from customers’ style questionnaires to come up with smart outfit recommendations.

Stylists keep the lead to analyze qualitative feedback and information left by customers (reviews, comments on social media, links to their Pinterest boards, etc.).

They also always have the final word before sending the outfit recommendations, to make sure those really make sense. They write personalized letters to their customers explaining their choices.

Stitch Fix really made a point building and nurturing an outstanding stylist/customer relationship.


3 – Invest in « human » for your most loyal customers / your influencers


Automation is needed because it is impossible to manually customize messages and campaigns for each customer. But if we want to dedicate some time to customers, who would they be? If you could add a real human touch for some of them, who would you choose?

Your most loyal customers or your social media influencers are worth spending some time for, in order to spread authentic messages that improve brand recognition.

This is nice to receive an automated email on the day of your birthday, but what about a hand-written note by the store director of your favorite brand wishing you all the best and inviting you to a private shopping session?

Pamper your most loyal customers and your ambassadors to make them feel special and taken care of by real humans.

Willing to discuss about AI and customer experience with us?

Contact Estelle
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From idea to execution, FABERNOVEL in the US empowers companies to digitally transform and win.

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