eCommerce & Merchandising

Conversational Commerce in Retail Delivers Personalized Customer Experiences in Context

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We all need personal attention–from parents as son or daughter in family, from teachers as a student, from managers as an employee. I know I definitely get rattled when I don’t get it, and if anybody addresses me or sends any communication without trying to understand my likes or dislikes, it’s bothersome. Similarly, as a consumer, I always expect personal attention from my favorite brand or retailer, whether I am trying to purchase anything from their eCommerce site or through their mobile application or while in their store. I relate to the research that shows 70% of the consumers are willing to share their locations and other data for clear benefit from their brand. In fact, when I use a favorite brand’s mobile application or buy anything from their website, they have my credentials. They also know what I intend to buy, what category of product, what size or color of product I am looking for, and they have my past purchase and browsing history. After having so much of “my data,” I still get general or unrelated communications from my brand! This irritates me.

Retailers are swimming in data about their consumers, but they’re drowning in it. They don’t know what to do with it.  On top of that, there are 2.5 billion active Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube accounts that are being constantly used by consumers to share their views and feedback on numerous brands and products that they consume every day–80% of which is unstructured or “dark,” as no current retail system can analyze all data together in context. Retailers today need cognitive systems that can understand the correlation between different data sources, learn and reason the data patterns in the context of business, and deliver insights through natural language interactions, just like humans do.

You may be wondering is there are live examples of such systems today? Yes, the artificial-intelligence-based cognitive systems like IBM Watson are currently helping retailers deliver hyper-personalized shopping experiences through “conversational commerce.” Conversational commerce uses technologies consumers enjoy using–such as chat, messaging and natural-language interfaces–blending them with artificial intelligence, so that people can interact with brands or services through bots.  Of course, these don’t replace humans, but bots can handle discovery questions, offer solutions, handle payments, ensuring delivery and personalized customer service. It makes it simple for companies to appeal to customers and for customers to make purchases.

IBM Watson capabilities like IBM Dialog services, along with other cognitive capabilities, can help retailers design chat bots that can interact with consumers just like humans starting from purchase decision making to the actual purchase–mapping the entire path to purchase cycle. For example, a few of the leading retailers like 1-800-Flowers and North Face are already delivering on that promise. For example, 1-800-Flowers used IBM Watson-powered digital gift concierge uses cognitive capabilities to tailor product suggestions for shoppers. Similarly North Face (see video below) uses IBM Watson as an online recommendation engine, a “personal shopper” that lets the customers describe their needs, enabling the tool to quickly provide the exact product they desire. Hilton hotel introduced recently the world’s first Watson-enabled hotel concierge robot “Connie” (see video below) for personalized customer interactions.

Join us at IBM World of Watson for many more real-life examples of artificial intelligence in action today! You’ll also hear from your industry peers about how they are using artificial intelligence, machine learning and overall cognitive system to unleash the power of digital technologies. I hope to see you there, but in the mean, you can also connect me through my twitter, @pk_mohapatra, for updates.

Worldwide Product Marketing Lead, Watson Commerce Insights

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