Meet New Zealand’s first retail AI assistant, Dott the bot

A retail-specific AI tool has been launched into the New Zealand market. Dott the AI bot is available to every retailer using the Vend point-of-sale and retail management platform, and should be popping up shortly.

Dott is intended to help retailers make better decisions about their stores, says Vend founder Vaughan Rowsell. It’s neither male nor female and appears within the Vend platform to offer suggestions and tips based on retailers’ activity.

“Vend is the only pure cloud-based retail POS platform for inventory-based retailers. Introducing Dott means the system can learn things about retail and develop insights that haven’t been available before for small to medium retail store owners.”

AI can mean anything from sophisticated voice-activated assistants like Alexa and Siri to self-driving cars, but Rowsell says Vend has created Dott to be like a business partner.

“We wanted to simply present Vend as if you had a partner in your retail business that greeted you every day and was keeping an eye on things 24/7, making really smart suggestions on what to do next to grow.”

Unlike Microsoft’s widely-detested intelligent office assistant Clippy, Dott won’t interrupt any tasks that the retailer is undertaking or show up unnecessarily.

“Dott will only appear when there’s something worth sharing,” says Rowsell.

He says Dott’s designed to be unobtrusive and doesn’t “jump up onto the screen”. It’s also not a chatbot, Rowsell confirms.

Dott may possess the signature Vend quirk, but Rowsell is clear that it’s all business: “Dott is not Alexa, it’s not Siri. It doesn’t tell jokes. It’s there for one purpose: to share insights.”

One example of how it may be useful is that it can analyse stock movements, looking at which lines are moving and which are getting “dusty”, then suggest some actions for how to address any slow categories.

It could also identify particular types of customer which may be slipping away and offer a strategy for how the retailer can recapture those shoppers.

It’s this capacity to make suggestions that represents Dott’s real value, says Rowsell. Dott will even attempt to choose a quiet period to engage the user by assessing their schedule and noting the store’s busiest times.

As Vend’s tens of thousands of retailers across 140 countries use Dott, the AI tool will become smarter as it evolves. It will eventually be able to give retailers a heads up on new product trends and customer behaviour, provide regular reminders to replenish stock or fulfil an order, or analyse a retailer’s sales trends and provide suggestions on promotions to run or customers to re-engage.

“I guess this is just the start of a very long journey,” Rowsell says. “We have grand plans for all the things Dott will do for retailers.”

Dott’s launch is part of a major investment in Vend, which plans to grow its product and engineering teams by 25 percent in the next six months. It intends to push further into AI and build other platforms, plus projects intended for new online retail channels like Facebook and Instagram.

This story first appeared at The Register.

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