Macy’s is set to launch an in-store shopping assistant powered by artificial intelligence thanks to a new tie-up with IBM Watson via developer partner and intelligent engagement platform, Satisfi.
Macy’s On Call, as it’s called, is a cognitive mobile web tool that will help shoppers get information as they navigate 10 of the retail company’s stores around the US during this pilot stage.
Customers are able to input questions in natural language regarding things like where specific products, departments, and brands are located, to what services and facilities can be found in a particular store. In return, they receive customised relevant responses. The initiative is based on the idea that consumers are increasingly likely to turn to their smartphones than they are a store associate for help when out at physical retail.
The tool uses Watson’s Natural Language Classifier API to enable such interactions, while Watson’s Language Translation API is also integrated at select locations in order for consumers to communicate in Spanish. Watson’s machine learning capabilities also means the platform will become more intelligent and accurate with every customer interaction it has.
“The combination of Satisfi’s location-based, intelligent engagement software, with the cognitive learning capabilities of IBM’s Watson, has helped us build a powerful and comprehensive tool to enhance the in-store shopping environment,” said Don White, chief revenue officer at Satisfi.
Peter Sachse, Macy’s chief growth officer, added: “At Macy’s, we remain focused on identifying, testing and supporting new ideas and approaches that will help elevate service to our customers through technology. With an eye towards innovation, we are moving fast to test and scale up pilot programs that help enhance their experience with us.
“This program, in partnership with Satisfi and leveraging the power of IBM Watson, will help us explore new ways to engage one-on-one with customers in-store, providing them another level of service right at their fingertips.”
Of the 10 locations chosen, five act as base learning stores, with the tool acting as a customer-led self-serve initiative, while the other five have an additional feature that enables shoppers to request assistance from a Macy’s associate in person too.
Included in the former are Macy’s Montgomery, Bethesda, MD; Macy’s Woodbridge Center, Woodbridge, NJ; Macy’s Clackamas Town Center, Portland, OR; Macy’s Santa Anita, Arcadia, CA; Macy’s Miami International, Miami, FL. With the additional sales associate support are: Macy’s Short Hills, Short Hills, NJ; Macy’s Mall of Georgia, Buford, GA; Macy’s Lenox Square, Atlanta, GA; Macy’s Aventura, North Miami, FL; Macy’s Roosevelt Field, Garden City, NY.
This first phase of Macy’s On Call will run through late fall of 2016, with the hope to study and gauge other potential uses of the technology as the program progresses.
Watson has previously been used by retailers including The North Face, which launched an online shopping tool focused on customer service last December. This spring, it also announced a partnership with 1-800-Flowers to enable more personalised gift selections. During this year’s Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Costume Institute gala in New York, IBM further worked with fashion house Marchesa to create the “cognitive dress”, an intelligent garment covered in three-dimensional LED flowers that reacted to online conversation about the event in real-time throughout the night.