Even for the most experienced health food connoisseur, a trip to an organic market like Whole Foods can be a little bit confusing, or at least prone to distraction. It can be easy to walk in hungry and walk out with three times what you came in for, or walk in looking for a quick dinner idea and get lost in the sea of colors and aromas before you. In the past, you would have had to ask an employee or a fellow shopper for help, exposing yourself as distracted or a rookie when it comes to healthy foods. As of today, the only person who needs to know that you need help with your shopping, at least if you go to Whole Foods, is a Facebook Messenger chat bot.
A new Messenger bot put out by Whole Foods today allows users to browse the stock of the store they're currently in, search the items and recipes by text, or even use an emoji to have the bot point them in the direction of relevant recipes. An avocado emoji, for example, would get you recipes like guacamole, or avocado-lime chicken bombs. A steak emoji, on the other hand, may net you all the know-how you need to find the ingredients for a killer beef wellington right there in the store. More features are coming down the pipeline, such as saving recipes and linking the bot to your account to get deals.
The bot is a step toward modernization, according to Whole Foods head honcho of digital strategy and marketing, Jeff Jenkins. Jenkins said that the company plans to continue "innovating to meet our customers where they are", saying that the company is catering to customers who are "always looking for inspiration". While the AI muscle needed for this kind of chat bot is minimal at best and it would never pass a Turing Test, it is an example of an immensely useful and engaging chat bot; exactly the sort that some industry insiders have in mind when they say that bots may replace apps in the future. The next time you're at Whole Foods, fire up Facebook Messenger and have a glance at one possible future for man-machine interaction.