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Gloucestershire Business News

A DIY robot in your pocket: B&Q's AI vision

B&Q and Screwfix owner, London-based Kingfisher PLC, is planning to give "technology-agnostic" customers a helping hand in the shape of the first Smartphone AI assistant.

Hello Casto is initially active for diffident DIY customers in France for its Castorama bricolage chain, but is also in the wings for UK rollout.

Working off an AI chat software platform, the app will answers customers' DIY queries and give step-by-step advice on a range of projects, as well as finding tailored product recommendations.

For guidance on home improvement projects, as well as tailored product recommendations, Kingfisher said B&Q customers will be able to ask the assistant questions "in natural language while shopping online - for example "how do I install a worktop in my kitchen" or "which saw should I choose to cut my worktop?"."

The assistant will give answers in "a friendly and conversational way with relevant advice, drawing on a wealth of DIY and product knowledge", said the company.

As well as conversing with customers via text chat, Kingfisher has stated that the assistant will soon be able to analyse photos to perform visual searches and respond to visual queries. By uploading a photo, a customer will able to use the assistant to identify a particular part, or ask such questions as "I want to replace this broken part of my sink but I don't know what it's called" or "I'd like to find another cushion like this one".

Tom Betts, Group Data Director at Kingfisher, said: "Our new virtual assistant is designed to simplify the world of home improvement, making DIY projects easy and accessible for everyone. Whether you're a DIY novice looking for advice getting started with a project, or an experienced DIYer in need of a technical answer quickly, our assistant will be on hand to support 24/7."

To power the assistant and support other future applications of AI, Kingfisher's data team has developed a proprietary AI orchestration framework, named Athena. This will manage prompting and interaction with a range of large language models, as well as other AI tools developed in-house. Athena also incorporates a range of controls to ensure security and protect against sensitive or inappropriate content.

● Kingfisher said that AI-powered product recommendation and personalisation engines at B&Q and Screwfix are now generating up to 10% of e-commerce sales, while early pilots at B&Q of AI-driven tools to optimise markdowns and clearance are "delivering very encouraging gross margin improvement on clearance products". An end-to-end supply chain visibility tool to support lower inventory levels and faster replenishment cycles is also now live in France, Iberia and Romania, the tool showing early success in reducing inventory levels without impacting product availability.

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