Chatbots are a hot topic in retail right now – but what are the facts behind the buzzword? Put simply, a chatbot is a service powered by predefined questions and answers which allows users to interact via a chat interface and receive information on a particular subject.

At Red Ant, we focus on developing chatbots to help brands engage with customers. They could take the form of a concierge bot that sits on websites, apps or social media platforms such as Telegram, WeChat or Facebook messenger, or they could be part of an ecommerce website.


In 2016, we launched our first AI chatbot, Anthony, as a proof of concept for a retail expo. He served as a virtual concierge, giving details about food and beverage options, key locations around the expo, real time weather and background information on Red Ant.

Anthony acquired three special skills:

These allow him to speak and process multiple languages, helping retailers to engage with customers in different markets.Anthony currently lives on our website – feel free to test his skills by waking him up in the bottom left corner.

The Entertainer

We teamed up with leading UK toy retailer The Entertainer to bring a little extra magic to Christmas shopping on its website. Customers were able to ask much-loved store mascot Jack, dressed as Santa for the occasion, about all the toys and games they could buy over the festive season as well as facts, jokes and information about Christmas, via both voice and text input.

Built using the unique skills of our Hong Kong team, Jack answered toy- and Christmas-related questions on all devices, with voice input available via the Chrome browser:

  • Jack asked two profiling questions – age and price range – which allowed him to use the information he collected to provide a link to The Entertainer’s existing gift finder
  • Artificial intelligence via natural language processing identified and classified incoming customer questions, enabling Jack to give the most relevant response from his fixed database of answers
  • Responses and relevant questions were ‘trained’ by human helpers and could be continuously refined using new input or existing data via the live chat logs
  • Jack was also able to answer customers’ questions by giving access to other relevant dynamic functionality via links such as the store finder or FAQ page

Rob Wood, Head of Online and Digital at The Entertainer, said: ‘We knew that Red Ant Asia has expertise in developing AI projects, and we wanted to use their experience to deliver a virtual assistant that ticks all the boxes. We wanted something that was fun, relevant and genuinely useful, and Santa Chat is all three. It also paves the way for future connected retail initiatives.’

Social chatbots

AI, chatbots and conversational commerce have really taken off – the big players in the tech world have already joined the party, including Facebook and WeChat. These social media platforms have built comprehensive APIs which allow developers to make incredible things happen. For example, Facebook messenger can now support a carousel menu, keyword response and a host of ecommerce related features; WeChat also provides a list of APIs that enhance their conversation environment inside the app.

Using these powerful APIs allows for easy integration with external services. Way before AI chatbots hit the headlines, we created an intelligent bot on WeChat for our client Hero Baby, a Swiss company producing infant formula, baby food and jam. The bot is able to check the authenticity of the product and help customers identify counterfeited products in China.

Red Ant has also leveraged the APIs from these platforms as well as external services, and integrated them into our Anthony chatbot. As a result, clients can centralise all of their chatbot training in one platform (Anthony himself), while launching services on popular social channels. At the same time, clients can customise the chatbots to suit the look and feel of each different channel.

Interested in launching a chatbot for your business? Talk to us and plan ahead to make the most of AI technology. (Or you can talk to Antony by waking him up in the bottom left corner.)