How HGTV Developed “Hazel” its New Chatbot

Posted on by Patty Odell

HGTV just launched a chatbot on Facebook Messenger to inspire its fans with trending design and home ideas and it gave it a name to personalize the interactions.

“We try to step back and think about what our consumers are looking for and how can we build a service around that,” says Liesel Kipp, senior vice president of product and design, at Scripps Networks Interactive, the parent of HGTV. “What do we know about our audience, what are they looking for and how best can we serve them based on the media and platform that they’re on.”

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HGTV chatbot
HGTV fans can ask “Hazel” to find projects like the contemporary neutral living room with pattern tile fireplace.

“Hazel” was the name chosen for the digital assistant’s voice to guide Messenger’s 1.3 billion users to HGTV content like tips, trends and DIY projects. The idea was to give the assistant a personality true to the brand that fans could emotionally connect with.

The strategy for the chatbot was based on how to get people a quick piece of information that they could find easily and then be inspired by beautiful, descriptive and inspirational photography. The bot was built internally, designed to understand users questions and intent based on standard natural language processing tools. When a query comes in, the information is sent back with the brilliant visuals HGTV’s fans are used to, Liesel says.

Hazel can be accessed either through Messenger or from the HGTV Facebook page. Users can sign up to receive curated daily tips and design inspiration, browse tips for decorating a room or sort trends by style type and project. Requests can be conducted by favorite shows and recent renovations on “Fixer Upper” or for information on the next season of “Good Bones.” Sweepstakes and other promotions will also be offered.

“We want it to feel conversational and similar to our brand,” Liesel says. “The team is very focused on thinking about new platforms and what are the best ways we can pull content requests together. As new platforms emerge we think about how to present that content in the context of that new platform.”

In addition to the standard content HGTV fans would expect, seasonal content is rotated in to provide relevant, fresh and timely content. As Valentine’s Day approaches, cocktail recipes, crafts, décor and other content have been added.

This is the second chatbot for Scripps. The Food Network chabot for Messenger launched in late 2016 and the team continues to develop updates and take learnings from that bot to apply to the HGTV bot. For example, a new feature for the HGTV bot allows users to “save” searches.

“We learned that pictures work and that people like the ability to have a daily piece of content,” she says. “We’ve seen that works well in holding onto that audience over time. Bots are fairly new and people are still adopting to how they interact with them. We saw that too many options can be confusing and that we shouldn’t add too many new features without looking at the total picture. So we held onto the core features that do well and added in the ability for people to save those pieces of content. It’s nice from a user perspective. It makes it easy for people to come back to that content.”

Facebook Messenger opened its platform to developers less than two years ago, and Scripps began exploring what a chatbot would look like since it could now engage with its audience through Messenger’s huge user base.

“We had to think differently,” Liesel says. “This is not visual first. People are usually looking for something bite-size. How can we make that as easy as possible for them to discover.”

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