Macy’s hires a new personal shopping assistant for customers – IBM’s Watson

A visitor to Macy’s in Portland, Ore. or Miami, Fla. can now have their mobile device act as their personal shopping assistant, thanks to a joint venture between the 157-year-old retailer; cloud-based customer engagement platform Satisfi; and IBM’s Watson.

Accessed via mobile browser and currently available in 10 Macy’s stores across the U.S., the “Macy’s On Call” tool allows customers to ask IBM’s signature AI where they can find products, what services are offered, or which facilities are available at a given store, and receive a customized response.

In a July 20 statement, Macy’s chief growth officer, Peter Sachse, said the tool illustrated his company’s commitment to using technology to support new, innovative approaches to customer service, while David Kenny, general manager of IBM Watson, said his team looked forward to the educational opportunity that using Watson in a retail setting would provide.

In its current form, the tool takes advantage of Satisfi’s cloud platform and Watson’s language support to provide help in three key areas: products, services, and layout.

To learn more about a given location, or the products or services available in-store, customers need only type a question into the tool’s main search bar. Thanks to Watson’s advanced language processing capabilities, queries as specific as “Where is the men’s bathroom?” or as laconic as “INC dress” can produce equally useful results.

Like a search engine, the tool is designed to evolve as it learns more about each store’s customer base: a “popular searches” category, for example, highlights the most frequently asked questions, and allows shoppers to access their responses by simply clicking the appropriate button.

Macy’s also expects the tool will help it learn more about the features and services that resonate most with shoppers: for instance, the popularity of a feature, available at only five of the tool’s initial 10 locations, that will allow customers to request face-to-face assistance from a specialty Macy’s associate.

If successful, the tool will receive a staggered release, starting with the current pilot, which was announced on July 20 and is expected to run until late fall this year. Along the way, Macy’s plans to research other potential uses for Watson, with an eye toward incorporating more of its dialogue capabilities into future phases.

For now, visitors can access “Macy’s On Call” by visiting from 10 locations, including two in Miami, one in New York (but not in New York City), two in New Jersey, and two in Georgia.

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Eric Emin Wood
Eric Emin Wood
Former editor of turned consultant with public relations firm Porter Novelli. When not writing for the tech industry enjoys photography, movies, travelling, the Oxford comma, and will talk your ear off about animation if you give him an opening.

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