A quick “chat” with ReplyYes CEO Dave Cotter

Text and app messaging startup fosters engagement and builds trust by carefully blending artificial intelligence with a human touch.

Dave Cotter, CEO of ReplyYes, doesn’t just lead an innovative startup. He also has three teenage daughters.

It’s no wonder, then, that his company is focused on text and app messaging. ReplyYes is a conversational commerce platform that allows users to discover and purchase their favorite stuff just by replying “yes.”

If only the rest of life were so easy.

Prior to the start of ReplyYes, the Seattle-based entrepreneur co-founded SquareHub and AdXpose (aka Mpire Corporation, later acquired by comScore) in addition to holding positions at zulily, Amazon and Microsoft.

ReplyYes CEO Dave Cotter

As for ReplyYes, it’s more than child’s play. It found its footing in new and reissued vinyl records (operating as The Edit) and graphic novels (Origin Bound). Such products don’t need a sales pitch, they’re easy to ship and there aren’t many returns. But it went deeper than that, to a more intimate connection.

“There are few things that are as self-expressive as listening to vinyl,” Dave said. “The ritual of listening to a record is something that involves you, when you put on a record and you just listen and do nothing else besides having a good drink and looking at the album art or the lyrics. And with graphic novels, readers have such a deep connection to their favorite heroes and villains. We replace the one-size-fits-all approach to online shopping and discovery with an auto-curated, lightweight relationship-focused experience that’s satisfying and addictive in its simplicity.”

Conversational commerce is still in the “very early days,” Dave said, and “we’re all learning from each other.” The ReplyYes long-term differentiator, however, “is on creating the best user experiences, AI and push-based recommendation engine for messaging. Variable product recommendations, relevancy improvements, refinding, expanded AI library and responses are areas we’re focusing on. We really try to stay focused on solving the discovery challenges for those people who are totally passionate about a particular category.”

Dave’s best suggestions for making the most of the unique challenges and opportunities:

Solve a real problem, not a made-up one.

“Help the user get something done and help them do it quickly.”

Focus.

“Trying to be all things to all people creates an uninspired, overwhelming experience. We’ve found that a well-defined message and a lightweight interaction wins a loyal set of customers.”

Spam is a four letter word for “goodbye.”

“Respect the trust customers grant you by allowing you into their text or app messaging inbox. Spamming gets you kicked out really quickly — and the odds of them allowing you back in are VERY low.”

Don’t try to “trick” customers into thinking they are talking to a human when they’re not.

“Humans have a sense when companies are trying to trick them, and it breeds mistrust — and a lost customer. A bot can have personality, but don’t ever represent your bot as a person. We use a hybrid approach of AI and humans.”

Try to establish some entertainment value.

“Whether through voice, humor or images, customers want to be delighted and have the experience be fun. Even if they aren’t ready to buy, if they find entertainment value in the channel, they’ll actually look forward to the message and have positive emotional feelings with each interaction.”


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