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Human-Assisted AI in E-Commerce over Mobile Messaging



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A $6.5 Million Mental Pause: Looking Back at How Far We’ve Come

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A $6.5 Million Mental Pause: Looking Back at How Far We’ve Come 

Since the early days of ReplyYes, we knew we were onto something with the concept of message-based commerce. But what we didn't know, was how much consumers and brands would latch onto it. 

Fast-forward to today, we’re announcing $6.5 million in Series A funding and have made a big time dent in validating the market for e-commerce over mobile messaging. While we’re just at the beginning of our journey, we know we’re onto something that’s going to fundamentally transform e-commerce. 


Posted by Dave Cotter, CEO

The idea for ReplyYes stemmed from the need to create frictionless commerce. In 2015 when we were building the platform in Madrona Venture Labs, e-commerce sales worldwide were on the up and up, while similarly, mobile and messaging app usage was eclipsing desktop for the first time. Artificial intelligence and chat bots soon started to gain traction. And through it all we kept with a very simple goal: help people easily discover and purchase things they love.

This created the premise behind our first store, The Edit, a text-based service that sends vinyl fans daily recommendations based on their musical preferences and allows them to instantly purchase and ship the record by simply replying ‘Yes.’ 

Why Vinyl records? We knew if messaging was our primary vehicles for engaging, the offer needed to have visual elements that can say 1,000 words. Music lovers everywhere appreciate the album art of vinyl record covers and it only takes a few words to elicit a ‘Like’, ‘Yes’, ‘No’, ‘Buy’, response. We also liked Vinyl because the vast catalog of albums was perfect for our recommendation engine to delight and surprise our users.

Shortly after launching The Edit, we spun out of Madrona Venture labs and secured $2.5 million in seed funding, which we used to further build out the platform. A short time after, we reached a company milestone – the Edit sold $1 million worth of vinyl records. Demand for this type of e-commerce was exceeding our expectations, spurring a flurry of new content ideas and offerings we wanted to explore. We launched Origin Bound, a comic book store, in May 2016 and began the process of configuring our platform to be white-labeled by other consumer-facing brands. 

With this broader strategy, we were able to land Universal Music Group (UMG) as the first customer to white-label our platform. Using ReplyYes, UMG will enable its artists and labels to send personalized messages to fans with offers for merchandise, tickets, and albums/songs. What attracted UMG to our platform was the ability to maintain control over customer data, engagement sentiment and purchasing signals that are derived out of the messaging platform. 

With this $6.5 million in Series A funding, we’ll be expanding our platform functionality to suit brand engagement and frictionless e-commerce needs across media, lifestyle brands, app and game discovery, events and tickets, wine and other consumables. Based on our rapid growth and demand for our platform, we expect e-commerce over mobile messaging to take off this year. Buckle up! 

- Dave


Posted by Chris Jordan, Ph.D, Lead Data Scientist

Human-Assisted AI in E-Commerce over Mobile Messaging

ReplyYes is an e-commerce over mobile messaging platform for brands that want to engage and transact directly with their customers. ReplyYes sends personalized product and content recommendations. Our platform learns from customer feedback to make the experience unique to each person and brand. It has been architected to support endless numbers of stores, all utilizing lightweight artificial intelligent (AI), product recommendation algorithms, inventory and fulfilment management systems, and payment processing. As a strategy, we launched our own stores in categories where our AI and recommendation algorithm learnings can be leveraged into platform partner opportunities.

We started with a constrained AI and user education around the specific commands that can be interpreted by it. In the event that a phrase cannot be understood by the AI, we pass the customer message and information to a human who will both respond to the customer and train the AI on new keywords and phrases used by the customer; this input into the AI helps improve its ability to automatically respond to customer requests over time.

To that end, we view AI as a means to emulate and scale human interaction. Traditional brick and mortar stores restrict even the best humans to handling a single customer at a time. A huge advantage that the ReplyYes platform offers is the idea of empowering humans to talk to many more customers at once utilizing AI. In other words, we want our AI to be able to converse with customers over messaging as if they were talking with humans.

Content generation is a difficult process and prone to errors that can ultimately lead to a poor user experience. To improve our likelihood of success, we believe that a necessary first step towards an AI supported conversation are tools that suggest content that can be updated and approved by humans. The automatic generation of a first draft that is then checked and updated by a customer support agent or sales rep can improve their efficiency by an order of magnitude by enabling them to handle more customers at the same time  while minimal context switching. Thus, in a way, we are scaling people using AI. 

Humans are essential to the ReplyYes platform experience. They create an atmosphere that is enjoyable to customers. As such, our intention is not to remove them from the store but to empower them to talk to more and more people while not decreasing their quality of service. It is our view that there will always be humans involved in our platform customer stores as it is not reasonable to have the AI handle every single type of conversation; the focus of our AI will be on the most frequent of these types. Like the recommendation algorithm, improvements and gains made to it are not coupled to specific product types. Any store powered by ReplyYes should be able to leverage advances that we make with the AI.


Posted by Brett Goodwin, Platform Strategy

How ReplyYes Works

Check out how The Edit, our vinyl record store running on the ReplyYes platform, works. Thanks to our friends over at Tatango for creating this great visual piece!


Posted by Dave Cotter, CEO

ReplyYes’ The Edit debuts on FB Messenger, Open sources Java Client for FB Messenger API


Posted by Dave Cotter, CEO

$1M in vinyl albums sold in eight months via text, and it’s just the beginning


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