Let’s face it, not all bots are created equal. When it comes to your website’s chatbot, you can deploy a bot that merely says ‘hi’, or you can use a supercharged bot that creates sales, furthers your brand’s mission and helps you connect with customers like never before. Introducing Headliner Labs, the software solution that gives you the ability to easily create AI-powered bots to for messaging platforms. Structured as an affordable SaaS or Chatbot as a service, Headliner Labs is making sure that your chatbot is doing more than those of your competitors.AlleyWatch chatted with COO and cofounder Dana Gibber about the startup and how they are raising the chatbot standard.Tell us about the product or service.We’ve built an end-to-end software solution for retail companies to create chatbots for messaging platforms. With our software, a brand can build a chatbot on-demand that is branded and populated with a company’s products and content, has strategic funnels for sales conversions, enables robust follow-up micro-targeting of users, and has natural language processing (NLP) capabilities that are hyper-specialized for retail queries. Headliner chatbots are designed specifically for retail companies to amplify their brand stories, drive engagement, convert sales and bridge the gap between online and offline experiences. With Headliner chatbots, brands can identify and intelligently communicate with customers at all points in the engagement and sales funnels as well as the highest-value potential customers, all inside the platform where users spend the most time on their phones: messaging apps. Headliner chatbots are deployed across mobile messaging platforms, and incorporate advanced digital experiences such as virtual try-on, recommendation algorithm-based guided selling and image processing. All of the bot functionality is built on Headliner’s authoring tool, on which brands can A/B test messaging and access robust bot analytics, enabling them to deeply understand customers and create delightful and meaningful experiences for them.How is it different?We are the only bot platform with a product specifically designed for retail companies. Everything about the Headliner bots enhances a retail brand’s ability to effectively communicate with and convert customers. Headliner is the easiest, most seamless, and quickest way for a retail company to stand-up a high-quality bot with vertical-specific artificial intelligence and natural language processing, experience modules designed for converting sales, and the most robust customer targeting and marketing capabilities on the market.What market are you attacking and how big is it?The market is anyone selling anything online. Specifically, this encompasses e-commerce companies of all sizes, irrespective of what they are selling. Currently, there are about 500,000 e-commerce companies in the US, so that’s the most near-term market for us. However, our technology is flexible and can easily be deployed in other verticals. We rolled out bot for the fashion industry publication Women’s Wear Daily, the success of which opened up our potential market to include any publishing or media company.What is the business model?We have an upfront setup fee that varies based upon the complexity of the bot, and then a monthly licensing and hosting fee.What inspired the business?We live during a technological revolution the likes of which has fundamentally altered mass commercial and transactional behavior irrevocably. Perhaps the most significant of all recent developments has been the proliferation of mobile devices and the instant connectivity that has resulted—among individuals, and between individuals and companies. Companies are still struggling to meet customer expectations in this regard and remain in the experimental stages of figuring out how to harness the power of mobile communication to better serve customers in the way customers now expect to be serviced. Our founder, Caroline, was the Director of Strategy and Operations at a massive e-commerce startup where she was tasked with identifying and implementing the best possible tools for facilitating this kind of communication for both sales and service. In doing so, she came to deeply understand how customer expectations are manifold, complicated, and sometimes even contradictory, but are only becoming more pronounced and expensive; communication must be accessible when sought, deeply personal in both tone and relevance, have a tone and cadence optimized for satisfaction, and most importantly, provide key functionality without being overcomplicated by that which is superfluous. At Headliner, we are obsessed with building chatbots that have the best positioning to deliver on these expectations and provide the most efficient means through which information flows between individuals and companies.While chatbots may be hot now, how do you plan on building a viable business when the fad subsides and chatbots are commoditized products?The key with chatbots is to build experiences that deliver real value to customers and brands. We’ve been obsessively razor-focused on building chatbots that are entirely optimized to convert sales. When you have a product that is lifting a company’s direct-to-consumer sales by considerable amounts—a whopping 63% in some of our customers’ cases—plus increasing basket sizes and brand engagement, it becomes a function of when companies will implement bots like ours, not if. Reaching all the e-commerce companies with this message is what we’re concentrating on.What are the milestones that you plan to achieve within six months?Within six months, we plan to continue rolling out bots to as many fashion, retail and consumer companies as we can! We have some exciting projects in the pipeline both for top retail brands, and for industry trade groups who need bots for their live events, most notably their big annual conferences. We’re excited to apply our same underlying tech to the live-events use case, because it will showcase to our retail clients how they can use their bots to bridge their online and offline presences.What is the one piece of startup advice that you never got?Do everything fast and imperfectly! The exact skillset that makes for a successful person in many traditional contexts – obsession with detail, precision, a propensity for reflection and caution, careful planning – can be a real liability when you need to execute fast, experiment constantly, evolve quickly, and see things ten steps ahead of where you actually are.If you could be put in touch with anyone in the New York community who would it be and why?We have been a pioneering force in building bots for jewelry companies; in fact, we built the first-ever Messenger bot for fine jewelry, for a company called Jemma Wynne. There is real artistry and creativity that goes into the creation of a high-impact, moving, luxury brand experience inside of a messaging platform, and it was truly exhilarating! We would love to meet any of the luxury jewelry purveyors on Fifth Avenue – from Harry Winston to Tiffany to Bulgari to Chopard and Cartier – to create beautiful, branded bot experiences that offer all users a magical and emotional connection to the brand…and of course that convert into jewelry sales.Why did you launch in New York?We launched in New York because it’s the global retail capital, where so many brands—established and up-and-coming—are based. To design chatbots that achieve meaningful results, we think it’s critical to be close to our customers, many of whom are here in NY. Similarly, the tech talent pool in NY is growing, and we have tapped into some of the best developers in the NYC area.Where is your favorite bar in the city for an after-work drink?We have some professional-grade beer drinkers on our tech team who actually import artisanal craft beer from small breweries and drink them in the office – apparently there are no bars in NYC with beer that can satisfy them! But when we do venture out of the office for drinks, we love the Gin Mill on the Upper West Side, which has a charming old-school vibe.