How Noel Leeming retooled its digital assistant for the pandemic

The Nola digital assistant started as an in-store kiosk but was made into an online chatbot as the lockdown closed stores, and pushed customers to the web.

Dylan weymouth, noel leeming/the warehouse group
The Warehouse Group

Like their global counterparts, New Zealand retailers are accelerating their digital agendas to keep customers engaged and loyal. Noel Leeming, a 76-store subsidiary of the Warehouse Group, is at the forefront of the move from in-store to online shopping, accelerated greatly by the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The consumer electronics and appliance retailer originally developed its digital assistant Nola as an in-store customer service tool, but then pivoted to making it an online chatbot when the first lockdown took place in March 2020. This means the business can handle changes in lockdown levels, as was demonstrated when Auckland was recently placed into Level 3 lockdown.

Dylan Weymouth, business operations lead at the Warehouse Group, says Noel Leeming’s Nola digital assistant is a key part of its plans to deliver a multi-channel experience. “In retail today, tolerance for poor service is lower than it’s ever been. Customers expect things to be simple and easy; otherwise, you’re at risk of losing them. For me, utopia is getting to a point where we deliver frictionless shopping, making it so easy to interact with us whether on the web, instore or on an app,” he says.

Nola’s origins in the physical store

Partnering with local firms Ambit AI and UneeQ Digital Humans, the concept for Nola began in 2019 as an in-store feature at Noel Leeming’s signature store in Newmarket, Auckland. Noel Leeming wanted to create a ‘wow’ experience for customers, conveying a forward-thinking brand but also delivering useful information.

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