Online retailer Very.co.uk saw revenues jump almost nine per cent after harnessing the power of artificial intelligence.

Parent company Shop Direct, which also operates Littlewoods.com, saw group revenue increase by 3.7 per cent year-on-year for the seven weeks up to and including 28 December 2018.

The performance was driven by 8.8 per cent year-on-year growth at Very, its largest and fastest growing retail brand.

Shop Direct said integrating IBM Watson’s AI technology into the Very Assistant chatbot was an operational highlight for the trading period. The chatbot allows customers to ask account-related questions in their own words and receive answers.

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Shop Direct also developed a Facebook Messenger chatbot in-house support the Very Christmas brand campaign.

The Very chatbot, which has been highlighted as ‘best in class’ by Facebook for its in-house execution, helped customers choose thoughtful gifts for children and drove social media engagement.

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“I am delighted that against a challenging retail backdrop we delivered a record Christmas period in terms of total revenue whilst maintaining retail margin rate in line with last year,” said Shop Direct group CEO Henry Birch.

“I’m very proud of what the team’s achieved. Throughout our peak trading period we focused on delivering a great customer experience and curating the right deals for our customers and our business during our extended Black Friday event.

“We put more emphasis on December than ever before and saw encouraging growth in key departments like sportswear and toys.

“Looking ahead to 2019, we’ll focus on continuing to play an important role in the lives of our customers – those who value our unique combination of leading brands and the flexibility to spread the cost of purchases.

“Given the potential impact of the political backdrop on consumer spending, we expect the year will be challenging for retailers. However, our peak trading performance gives us reason for cautious optimism.”

The group’s website achieved 107.3 million site visits, up 8 per cent year-on-year. It said 79 per cent of online sales came from mobile devices, up from 74 per cent during the same period in 2017.