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DIY retailer Kingfisher launches AI-powered customer assistant

FILE PHOTO: A general view of a B&Q store in Crewe

LONDON (Reuters) - Home improvements retailer Kingfisher, home to the B&Q and Castorama brands, has launched what it says is the sector's first artificial intelligence-powered assistant to support customers with do-it-yourself (DIY) projects.

Seeking cost savings and revenue gains, more retailers are using AI to boost personalised shopping experiences for consumers.

FTSE 100 group Kingfisher said on Tuesday the virtual assistant would answer customers' DIY queries online and provide step-by-step advice on a range of home improvement projects, as well as product recommendations.

It said customers could ask the assistant questions such as “how do I install a worktop in my kitchen” and “which saw should I choose to cut my worktop?” The assistant will answer with relevant advice.

As well as conversing with customers via text chat, the assistant will soon be able analyse photos to perform visual searches and answer visual queries.

Kingfisher said the virtual assistant, which can operate in multiple languages, is initially launching on the website and app of its Castorama France unit. If it proves successful, it will be rolled out to its other businesses which include B&Q and Screwfix in Britain and Brico Dépôt in France.

"We’re hugely excited by the potential of this technology," Tom Betts, Kingfisher's group data director, said.

The group's e-commerce sales grew 7.1% in its first half to July 31, representing 16.8% of total sales.

Third quarter results will be announced on Nov. 22.

(Reporting by James Davey; Editing by Mark Potter)