The jewelry industry is a lot of things--interesting, creative, mysterious, complicated, tight-knit, old-fashioned.

Nobody, however, would accuse it of being innovative or “ahead of the curve” when it comes to technology.

But now, with the help of two old friends, the industry can hope to at least keep up in one area--Chatbots.

A Chatbot is a program powered by either rules or artificial intelligence--which still has a ways to go but is advancing, allowing ‘bots to have conversations that are increasingly human-like--that allows people to have their questions answered or get information from the computer without having to interact with another human being (oh, the horror!).

People interact with Chatbots on major chat platforms, like Facebook Messenger and Kik, and they are in increasingly wide use among retailers including H&M, Nordstrom, Sephora and at the Mall of America this holiday season to help consumers build an outfit, get make-up tips, find gifts or navigate the mall.

Forbes contributor Rachel Arthur called Chatbots one of the top technology trends in retail for 2016, alongside virtual reality, and said that they are expected to “make significant inroads” in 2017.

“Everybody,” Arik Marmorstein told me during a recent telephone interview, “is getting into Chatbots today as we speak.”

This includes Marmorstein, who works in the tech industry in Israel, and a friend of his in the diamond industry whom he met while serving in the Israeli army.

Marmorstein and his partner, who asked that his name and company name be withheld for this article, have spent the last nine months working on a Chatbot called BlingChat, which recently launched on Facebook Messenger and is designed to help people use chat to find the perfect engagement ring.

Here’s how it works: You go on to the BlingChat Facebook page (you don’t have like the page to start having a conversation with the computer) and hit the “Send Message” button. The ‘bot will then personally greet you (meaning it will use your name) and give you the option to learn about engagement rings or discover different styles.

I clicked “Discover” and then selected “Trending,” which told the Chatbot that I wanted to see the rings that have gotten the most likes.

If I saw a ring I wanted, I could have clicked through to the website of the company that’s selling it and gone from there. The rings pop up based on number of likes, though Marmorstein said all things being equal, the order is completely random.

I didn’t like the ring it showed me, though, so I clicked a button and told the computer that I wanted to see more choices. If you were engaged and really interested in rings--and not perpetually single and terrible at dating like me--you could keep on clicking.

There’s also an option for consumers, designers, retailers and manufacturers to upload pictures of rings they’d like to be shared on BlingChat, though they won’t go up automatically. Marmorstein’s partner will work to verify the ring’s authenticity--that it belongs to the company or person who uploaded it, is accurately described, has a good picture and is available--before allowing it to go into circulation on the Chatbot.

Marmorstein said they are not looking to charge people for uploading ring pictures to the Chatbot. Instead, their business model is to make money by becoming an affiliate program of an online jewelry retailer like James Allen.

While the BlingChat Chatbot is now showing rings from companies like Blue Nile and Richline-owned Gemvara, Marmorstein said who they would really like to feature are independent designers, the ones who create the engagement rings with the unique appeal that younger consumers allegedly crave.

“Millennials today are looking for unique stuff, for vintage, for stuff you can’t find anywhere,” he said. “Our main goal is to cater to millennials.”

They also would like to eventually incorporate location data into the Chatbot, so it can show the users rings available from retailer’s master jewelers, estate jewelry stores and designers with boutiques in their immediate area.

Marmorstein also told me that BlingChat Chatbot does indeed use artificial intelligence, or AI, via a company called Wit.ai, which works with Facebook to track the ‘bot.

The Chatbot gets better at giving proper responses as it goes along and builds up a better memory bank, so to speak, of interactions; Marmorstein’s partner compared to the way a smartphone gives better auto-correct suggestions once it learns more about its user.

“(We are) always adopting and developing, as there is a long way to go there,” Marmorstein said of AI.

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Filed Under: Consumers , Web/Tech
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Since 1906, National Jeweler has been the must-read news source for smart jewelry professionals--jewelry retailers, designers, buyers, manufacturers, and suppliers. From market analysis to emerging jewelry trends, we cover the important industry topics vital to the everyday success of jewelry professionals worldwide. National Jeweler delivers the most urgent jewelry news necessary for running your day-to-day jewelry business here, and via our daily e-newsletter, website and other specialty publications, such as "The State of the Majors." National Jeweler is published by Jewelers of America, the leading nonprofit jewelry association in the United States.
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