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ReplyYes: Chatbot Helped Vinyl Records Startup Make $1 Million in 8 Months

A startup called ReplyYes, which offers a text-to-buy system for retailers, provides a glimpse into the potential of automated messaging. Interestingly, the company has a pair of e-commerce ventures. One sells vinyl records, the other graphic novels.

The vinyl store, called The Edit, has sold $1 million worth of records since it debuted eight months ago. David Cotter, CEO of ReplyYes and former general manager, attributes much of the site’s success to his chatbot technology, which leans on an algorithm that recommends records based on purchase behavior and other interest-level signals. Yet, there’s also a human element.

It’s meant to feel like an experience in a neighborhood record store,” he said. “And then it’s about, ‘How do we take our machine learning and chatbot and build that kind of experience?’ We are already selling 300 albums a day because of that [style of thinking].”

ReplyYes’ approach differs from what Facebook and Microsoft plan to do with chatbots, making them 100 percent automated. Cotter contended that the hybrid system—part chatbot, part customer rep—might be better than any purely digital approach for retailers.

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