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LVMH x ChatLabs: A Story of Serendipitous Collaboration

Posted at: 04.03.2024in category:VivaStories
A last-minute application for a collaboration of a lifetime. Startup ChatLabs and LVMH share about their work since last year’s LVMH Innovation Award.

Headshot of Laetitia Roche-Grenet and Michel Tjoeng One of the 18 finalists of the LVMH Innovation Award in 2023, startup ChatLabs started its acceleration last fall in La Maison de Startups, LVMH’s startups’ accelerator based in Paris at Station F. We caught up with the co-founder of ChatLabs Michel Tjoeng and Vice President of Open Innovation at LVMH Laetitia Roche-Grenet to hear about how the collaboration has been going.

Captivating Consumers with AI

Harnessing the power of AI, startup ChatLabs addresses the evolving landscape of consumer behavior, particularly in the luxury industry, where decision-making has shifted significantly toward social media platforms.

Co-founder Michel Tjoeng compares the ChatLabs shopping experience with a personal shopper, jumping outside of traditional methods. “We don’t ask ‘What's the best product recommendation for a 16-year-old in New York?’ We don't care about the demographic. We care about the context of their shopping experience. How do I best guide that person and how do I tell the story of the brand in a way that they’ll reciprocate?

“Think of TikTok and Instagram feeds. Every person has their own feed. Your feed is different from your friend’s feed. We are already used to hyper-personalization, but for some reason, websites have not caught up to the fact that algorithms can give a better customer experience than manually curated websites.”

By bridging the gap between social media and the Maisons, ChatLabs enhances the overall consumer experience, leading to increased commercial success and improved return on investment for brands.

The Rush to Apply

With a background in retail and luxury brands, Michel had been experimenting with social commerce for a couple of years, trying to figure out how to boost customer buying experiences, but it didn’t always integrate AI.

“To do hyper-personalization at scale in 0.3 milliseconds when someone swipes you need a very clever model that can analyze data and make decisions in a microsecond. So we decided to use AI for this.”

It was at this moment, after conversations with several luxury brands about their solution that Michel decided to apply for the Innovation Award.

“We’d already built a prototype and we already had a customer with great success. And then, some of the Maisons from LVMH talked to me about the LVMH Innovation Award at VivaTech and suggested I apply.” The deadline was in a week and a half.

After throwing together a pitch deck of mostly screenshots and bullet points, Michel applied right before the deadline. “It was not super polished. It was a bit of a rushed application. Luckily, the team of Laetitia saw through the chaos that I submitted and saw a spark of opportunity and innovation with ChatLabs.”

LVMH winners on stage at VT 2023 LVMH Innovation Award ceremony at VivaTech. Photo credit: Marie Rouge

LVMH, a Legacy of Innovation

Since 2017, the LVMH Innovation Award has put the spotlight on the best global startups. Winners each year enter the acceleration program La Maison des Startups LVMH in Station F in Paris and have the opportunity to build successful collaborations with some of LVMH’s 75 Maisons.

When thinking about innovation and tech, luxury isn’t one of the first industries that comes to mind, but for Laetitia Roche-Grenet, innovation has been at the heart of LVMH since its beginnings.

“Let's take the example of baggage today. Back in the day, people used to have trunks, like huge trunks. But times had changed and we started having cars, so we invented different-sized baggage that were flatter and this was super innovative. Now we have connected baggage. And maybe one day we’ll have baggage that will go to the moon.”

“At LVMH we have this very particular story of craftsmanship and we have many ways to do innovation. We have an intrapreneurial initiative within the Group, meaning that any employee with an innovative idea can incubate a project internally. It’s a big asset for a Group where creativity and excellence matter.

“We also have the LVMH Innovation Award, which is a way for us to detect innovative startups that fit different use cases. The winners are then included in a 10-month acceleration program and they end up collaborating with a lot of LVMH’s Maisons”.

Every year, the Group receives thousands of applications for the Awards. Luckily, Michel’s team got his application in on time. “ChatLabs project was an answer to one of the major topics that we wanted to work on last year,” Laetitia emphasized.

An Experience Like No Other

For Michel, the opportunity to exhibit his startup with the world leader in luxury like LVMH at VivaTech was tremendous. “It’s impossible not to stop by the LVMH booth when you are at VivaTech. So we were super busy and got a lot of exposure. I lost my voice within 24 hours with the amount of speaking we were doing.”

“And after an event like that, you're on a high, like we're going to take over the world, going to change everything. We had some downtime in August and then the acceleration program begins in September.”

Michel highlighted the comprehensive support provided by LVMH in the program, emphasizing the decentralized nature of LVMH, which fosters innovation but also presents challenges. In navigating this complex ecosystem, understanding different stakeholders, and adapting strategies accordingly, Michel had to learn to prioritize early on.

co-founder of chatlabs accepting lvmh innovation award Co-founder of ChatLabs Michel Tjoeng accepting the LVMH Innovation Award in 2023. Photo credit: VivaTech

Contagious Success

Through the acceleration program, LVMH organizes events and workshops for the startups, sets up meetings with different Maisons, and connects them with the right people in the Group.

“During the ten-month program, we help startups make connections with a lot of different people. We make them understand the different ways to talk because how you talk with Sephora and Dior is very different. So we help them really navigate inside the ecosystem and inside the luxury world,” Laetitia explained.

In the first few months of the program, ChatLabs connected with a specific Maison intrigued by the potential of a test run for their holiday campaign. Exceeding anticipated KPIs, the successful collaboration led to an ongoing partnership between ChatLabs and the Maison, with exciting new projects currently in progress.

“This is the type of success that becomes viral in LVMH,” Laetitia added. “We are competitive: once a startup has a success story, other Maisons become interested in them. Success is contagious at that point.”

“It’s really just the beginning of the story with us and LVMH,” Michel concluded. “We’ll be showcasing what we’ve been working on in the last year with this collaboration at VivaTech this year. Everyone better come to check it out!”

“My job is to make startup’s dreams become reality and make them match with those of LVMH, and by working together, we can invent the world of tomorrow,” Laetitia expressed. “We are really quite lucky because, with the support of startups, we can be more sustainable, inclusive, resourceful, and efficient.

Don't Miss It

As VivaTech approaches, seize the opportunity to witness firsthand ChatLab's AI-powered experience and explore the dynamic LVMH ecosystem. And keep an eye out for this year's LVMH Innovation Award winners, to be announced on May 23rd at 10 am on Stage One with the presence of Bernard Arnault, Chairman & CEO of LVMH.

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