4 Ways IBM Watson is Connecting the Brand to the Consumer

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Making it easy for customers to shop your brand and get what they want when they want and how they want is the name of the game for retail today.  Whether you are a B2C or B2B brand, engaging with a customer and knowing what their preferences is vital to the overall shopping experience.

Artificial intelligence is slowly making its way through the retail space. A perfect example of this is the IBM Watson, an artificial-intelligence technology that has both conversational and cognitive capabilities.

Staples is taking advantage of these capabilities for its B2B customers by bringing its Staples Easy System to life and working with IBM Watson technology.   Staples unveiled the new cognitive-enabled “Easy Button” office supply reordering system making it easier for Staples Business Advantage customers.

Get Personal with Customers

In Staples’ case, working with IBM Watson offers an easy ordering interface for customers across the Staples Easy System ecosystem.  And this can be through Staples Easy Button, through its app, text, email, Facebook messenger or with Slackbot.  It allows customers to reorder supplies, track shipments or chat about customer service needs.

“Staples and IBM have combined the power of Watson technology with Staples’ expertise in helping small and medium businesses to transform how companies shop for everything they need for their office,” said Faisal Masud, Executive Vice President of Ecommerce and Customer Experience for Staples in a press release.  “With the Easy System, administrators will have greater overall management of their organizations’ procurement processes, ultimately saving them time they can instead spend on running their office. It’s the assistant’s assistant.”

One of its many capabilities includes strengthening the customer service chat feature with IBM’s Watson Conversation service allowing the system to quickly respond to requests, like product availability.

“The critical component of Watson’s technology is engagement, facilitating better interactions between brands and consumers, deepening connections and enhancing how people engage,” Steve Abram, Distinguished Engineer and Vice President of Developer Advocacy for IBM Watson.

Staples own internal personalization APIs will help Easy System learn more about each businesses’ preferences over time, including their preferred products and quantities and eventually the system will be able to make product recommendations base on the customer’s needs.

Mobile Capabilities

For Macy’s, IBM Watson has been beneficial to create a mobile app called “On Call” using artificial intelligence allowing customers in 10 Macy’s locations use natural-language queries to find products.

Another example was that IBM Watson will soon be coming to enterprise iOS apps, enhancing decision making, productivity and employee experience.  For retailers, using IBM’s Sales Assist iOS sales mobile app will allow retail sales associates to access data across different channels such as social media, customer databases and product forums. This provides deeper insights into a customer’s preferences as well as the purchasing trends and popular products, helping the customer choose the right item.

Engagement with Customers

IBM Watson partnered with 1-800-Flowers in May, helping customers search and place orders with 1-800-Flower’s GWYN (Gifts When You Need) concierge service.  It engages consumers in conversation through both mobile and desktop sites.

Instead of searching the site, GWYN makes it possible for consumers to tell the site what they want.  Consumers can basically tell GWYN what they are looking for and the more inquiries it receives the smarter and more useful it becomes.

The NorthFace partnered with IBM Watson and launched a similar app allowing customers to talk to the site looking for specific products they want.

Data Filled Insights

In the beginning of 2016, Under Armour partnered with IBM to create data-backed health and fitness insights, powered by IBM Watson technology.  Under Armour’s new UA Record, combined with a cognitive coaching system serves as a personal health consultant, fitness trainer by providing athletes with timely, evidence-based coaching around sleep, fitness, activity and nutrition, including outcomes achieved based on others “like you.”

A person can compete and compare with other people their age.  The UA Record app will share health and fitness insights comparable to others including average weight, resting heart rate and average steps taken per day.  Additional insights could show how long an average workout is or how long someone is sleeping down to the minute.

It will be able to tap into user’s behavior and performance trends through existing Under Armour mobile apps and fitness tracking devices and can customize programs.

It also offers food intake tracking and overall nutrition management along with how the weather and environmental factors effect training.

Daniela Forte is Multichannel Merchant’s Associate Editor

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