Social commerce business Crowd Media Holdings (ASX: CM8) has launched a beta version of its conversational commerce “talking head” technology 12 months ahead of schedule.
The trial product is an artificial intelligence (AI) driven chatbot designed to help customers select appropriate products for US-based skincare brand MD Complete as part of an exclusive distribution deal signed in September.
Crowd Media also announced it has entered two new partnerships to fast-track its stated “Horizon 3” strategy, which follows the company’s mission to develop the ‘talking head’ experience to facilitate conversational commerce between a social media influencer and follower.
The first partnership is with New Zealand-based UneeQ Ltd for the creation of “digital ambassadors” to “help power conversational commerce and influencer marketing”.
The second is the formation of a 50:50 joint venture with Israel-based VFR Assets and Holdings to create a platform for “the scalable creation of talking heads for the digital influencer, education and various other sectors”.
Crowd Media chief executive officer Domenic Carosa said the beta launch and new partnerships bring the company closer to its goal of changing the way products and services are sold via digital influencers.
“We believe conversational commerce is the future of e-commerce and are excited to have executed these various initiatives that bring forward the reality of one-to-one conversations between influencers and their respective followers,” he said.
Talking head test launch
Crowd Media’s unique chatbot technology combines answers from both AI and real humans answering questions. According to the company, more than 65% of questions in the last 12 months have been answered by AI and the platform has been responsible for processing over 180 million questions and answers over the lifetime of its Q&A mobile business.
The beta version of the company’s talking head technology will be showcased to prospective Crowd Direct brand partners with a focus on highlighting its commercial potential across multilingual markets.
According to Crowd Media, this opens unlimited opportunities across entertainment, sport, influencer marketing and the fields of health and education.
“By launching this beta version, we can undergo the next level of testing, build on our artificial intelligence and data pools, and advance the technology to extend its commercial capabilities across different products, services and interactions,” Mr Carosa said.
UneeQ has created an AI-driven platform currently used for customer support and sales across various industries.
Under a three-year binding heads of agreement, the companies will work together to develop methods and technologies to create “digital ambassadors” to drive e-commerce activity.
The partnership will be managed through a board consisting of both companies’ chief executive officers and may include sharing and developing strategies, people exchange and identifying opportunities to mutually use Crowd’s AI chatbot technology.
Under the deal, Crowd Media will pay UneeQ the associated costs incurred to create these digital ambassadors plus a margin agreed between the parties from time to time.
Talking head joint venture
Via a separate binding heads of agreement, Crowd Media will form a joint venture with VFR Assets to create a platform to scale the talking head visual technology.
VFR’s claim to fame is the creation of Zoe Dvir, one of the world’s first virtual digital influencers – one that is not based on a real-life human.
The joint venture will combine the technical and commercial expertise of both Crowd and VFR to create a platform to roll out many “talking heads” in days and at a fraction of the cost of current platforms.
Under the 12-month deal, the companies are aiming to develop a proof of concept within 180 days with VFR working on the technical and design aspects while Crowd provides access to its chatbot technology and takes on the back office and marketing side.
Crowd Media has agreed to invest US$250,000 (A$343,000) in the incorporated joint venture while VFR will provide the intellectual property (IP), know-how and resources to develop the proof of concept.
Any new IP will be owned 50% by each party.
Crowd Media chairman Steven Schapera said the commercial opportunity of these partnerships is “tectonic”.
“As the nature of influencer marketing changes, this gives us a seat at the table.”
“By linking Crowd’s existing Q&A chatbot technology with the voice and visual technology of our respective partners, we will create an entertaining conversational commerce experience between consumer and influencer,” he said.