IBM’s supercomputer Watson dominated humans on Jeopardy, crunches mountains of data in seconds and has already been changing the face of healthcare, cyber-criminology and even advertising in major ways. Now it’s tackling a new vertical — shopping.
For a new pilot project at 10 Macy’s retail locations, Watson will give shoppers information as they navigate the stores. Called Macy’s On Call, the technology aims to supplement the research customers are already doing on their phones while they’re in store. If successful, the web app could be the first step in replacing human store associates (although that’s still far in the future.)
Forbes explains how it works: “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 customized 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.”
A visitor from the store can ask: “Where can I find women’s jeans?” or “Find me an Under Armor shirt.” Then Watson will give the shopper product information, show them where they can locate the products and help them connect with a store associate.
Barry Levine of Marketing Land caught up with IBM Watson Program Manager Jonas Nwuke via email. Nwike told him the On-Call pilot is “more than just a product map” and is designed to provide customers with “context in its response, [interacting] as if they were having a conversation with another person.” That’s because it provides contextual information about where other departments are in relation to the product you searched. “For example: The ladies’ shoes are on the second floor, across from the cosmetics department and next to jewelry,” Nwike told Marketing Land.
Macy’s On Call will pilot in Bethesda, MD, Woodbridge, NJ, Short Hills, NJ, Portland, OR, Arcadia, CA, Miami, FL, North Miami, FL, Buford, GA, Atlanta, GA; and Garden City, NY.