H&M Group’s Elin Frendberg on the Role of Voice and Digital Assistance in the Brand’s Innovation Strategy

H&M Group Business Development and Innovation executive Elin Frendberg, explains the thinking behind the brand’s voice assistant, the H&M Home Stylist.

Elin Frendberg works across Business Development and Innovation at H&M Group, so she’s an ideal person to talk to about how voice assistance is transforming retail customer experiences.

In early 2018 H&M collaborated with Google to create the H&M Home Stylist, a voice app that provides customers with personal styling suggestions and recommendations for every room in the house. I sat down with Elin to get a good idea what initiated H&M to create an assistive experience, what guided the design process and what the expectations are for this project going forward.

 

Video credit: H&M // voice.hm.com/home/en/howto.html

Magnus Friberg: Why did H&M Group decide to invest in voice and digital assistance?

Elin Frendberg: We’re interested in all technologies that create a better experience for customers. Over the next three years, industry predictions suggest that as many as 40% of retail purchases will be made through voice interaction, so we want to be at the forefront of that development.

How did you get started developing your assistive experience?

We attended a design sprint session at Google London, working quickly to get the first version of our experience up and running. The team tried to be as agile as possible, generating ideas with the intention of failing fast and iterating. It was good to work with the Google team and get an insight into what voice assistance can do, but more generally this testing and exploration process is why we have a dedicated innovation team at H&M Group.

How does the voice experience help H&M’s customers?

Our experience isn’t so much an assistant as a stylist, like a cool friend who gives you inspiration. It’s not something we’ve seen anywhere else in the voice realm so far; most other assistant experiences are very rational and functional, but wanted something that was more fun for our customers. We worked with personas a lot to make our stylist trustworthy and warm, open and emotional.

When you interact with the H&M Home Stylist, you can ask for help with a specific room, choose from a range of styles such as classic or modern, and then receive inspiration and mood boards based on your preferences. We then show you example products from H&M Home, along with suggestions for materials and colour schemes.

We decided that the core device for the experience should be the smartphone. This was the democratic choice, as most people have access to this device and allowing a visual experience with images for inspiration. Making fashion available to everyone was one of our founder’s goals for H&M, and with this voice stylist we are democratising interior design so that it isn’t just something for people who can afford a human designer.

What did you learn while creating your voice experience?

With an innovative project like this, you need to establish clear values from the very start: be agile, fail fast, and embrace everything you learn in the process. Then pick a team that is confident and aligned to those values. Around the core team you’ll also need a big network within the organisation that you can call on at key moments to keep things moving forward.

Has the investment paid off?

One of the great things about voice interaction is that we get immediate customer feedback; they can tell us exactly what they think of the experience, and what they want from it.

In terms of KPIs and metrics, this is a test project for us, so the most important thing is learning as much as we can about the technology.

What role does voice assistance have to play in the future of H&M and the future of retail?

At the moment, the key thing for us is to learn from what we’re doing right now, and concentrate on how our customers are reacting.

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