ReplyYes, a Seattle startup that helps retailers engage with customers via its mobile messaging platform, is jumping into ticket sales under a deal with Universal Music Group.
The partnership was announced Thursday alongside a new $6.5 million Series A funding round, which GeekWire reported on in December. ReplyYes revealed more details about the round today; it was led by Madrona Venture Group, Cross Culture Ventures, Lowercase Capital, Muse Capital, and Arnold Venture Group.
ReplyYes, a spinoff of Madrona Venture Labs, will work with Universal to allow artists to use its messaging service to sell tickets, music, and merchandise to fans.
This isn’t the company’s first venture into music. Its first venture, “The Edit”, offers a way to sell vinyl on the ReplyYes platform. Customers receive daily recommendations for records via texts and can simply reply “yes” to purchase, or help the chatbot learn their preferences by responding “Like” or “Dislike.” If users have more complex requests or needs, a human agent takes over to help.
Since launching 18 months ago, The Edit has sold more than 100,000 albums.
“The ReplyYes mission is to help people discover and purchase the things that they love,” ReplyYes CEO Dave Cotter said in a statement. “Our platform enables brands to engage and transact with their customers where they increasingly are – on their mobile phones messaging.”
ReplyYes also last year launched its second text-based storefront, Origin Bound, which applies the same approach to graphic novels.
Messaging bots, fueled by artificial intelligence and machine learning technology coupled with human assistance, have gained traction in recent years. Facebook launched its own chatbot last year and more than 33,000 businesses currently have Facebook bots. Facebook told Wired in December that about one billion people were interacting with businesses on Messenger each month.
Other tech companies like Microsoft, Amazon, Google, IBM, and smaller startups like Ozlo are also utilizing AI and machine learning for related chatbot-like products. Peach, another Seattle startup, is using mobile messaging to help improve how workers order lunch.
Top retailers Starbucks and Nordstrom are now also starting to roll out their own chatbots. While messaging bots have been slow to gain traction with mainstream consumers, ReplyYes’ recent funding round and its partnership with Universal suggest the trend isn’t going away anytime soon.
“Our recording artists, songwriters and labels benefit from these exciting new forms of fan engagement and merchandising that are created by conversational commerce,” Peter Sinclair, Universal’s Senior Vice President of Consumer Engagement, said in a statement. “We are excited to work with ReplyYes, and even more excited for the millions of fans around the world who will experience this new and direct way of interacting with their favorite artists.”