Lush drops social media: Bold move, PR stunt or has it shot its own foot?

“If you are tired of algorithms you are tired of life,” or so said machine learning expert Samuel Johnson, or maybe he said “if you are tired of London, you are tired of life,” since London is emerging as an AI hub, maybe it amounts to the same thing.

What we can say is that UK cosmetics firm Lush UK, is “tired of algorithms.” It has only gone along and said those precise words. As a result, it is about to put an end to using social media as a means of communicating with customers, instead, it is going to use live chat.  Oddly, its US arm is still fighting the good fight, algorithms notwithstanding, and using social media.

It’s “a bold move and one which is in line with today’s consumer trends,” said Sandra Schroeter, Senior International Product Marketing Manager, at LogMeIn. Schroeter pointed to its own research which found that “71% of businesses believe online chat with either a human agent or a chatbot will be among the most common channels used by customers in three years’ time.”

Not all are convinced, William Soulier, CEO and co-founder of Talent Village said: “They are clearly trying to take a stand against the GAFAMs (Google, Amazon, Facebook, Apple and Microsoft) of this world. Sadly, the fact that Lush in the US is not closing its accounts shows a lack of consistency around the decision and some would even go as far to say this is just a PR stunt.”

Live chat: Backing up conversations in the cloud

How can businesses backup conversations had by live chat conversations and chatbots in the cloud, as GDPR waits to pounce?

A lot of followers

Lush does in fact have 202,000 Twitter followers, 569,000 followers on Instagram and 423,000 Facebook likes.

Of course, part of the power of social media is that it can throw the light of public scrutiny upon messages. Send a tweet or a comment on Facebook moaning about a service and it can be there for all to see.

Not that all such comments are reasonable and not all social media based critiques are based on the noblest of motives.

Live chat

Schroeter said:“Live chat enables retailers and businesses alike to respond to customer queries with speed and in real-time. Perhaps more importantly, it enables businesses to own the conversations and speak to customers directly.”

Soulier contributed to the debate saying: “Lush needs to ask itself the best way forward to stay in touch with its customers and continue to engage with its brand fans. In my opinion, reverting to channels like phone and email seems like a very risky move, not least considering Instagram’s continuous growth over the last few years. Not to mention the number of brands who have taken quite the opposite approach of Lush by shutting down their websites and going down the social media route exclusively.”

Algorithms return

Maybe what Lush needs is some AI, after-all, AI seems to be the answer to just about everything, these days.

On this theme, Sandra Schroeter said: “As Lush continues to build on its customer engagement strategies over the coming months, the company should look into further elevating its approach by looking into AI-powered live chat. AI has proven to be critical in supporting live agents throughout every interaction, providing the information they need to ensure that customers are getting personalised help around the clock.”

Then again, one might ask, what is AI without algorithms? Lush might be tired of them, but they don’t seem to want to go away, either as a part of social media optimisation, or the stuff that makes AI and its increasingly dependent cousin: data. Algorithms are alive, kicking and indeed, these days, chatting.

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Michael Baxter

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