eCommerce & Merchandising

Finding Your Passion – Driven by Today’s Cognitive Era

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Sci-fi movies often portray a long-off future filled with robots and technology zipping around, co-mingling with humans. And they’re not always friendly robots – occasionally they try to take over the world. Take the 2004 sci-fi thriller, I, Robot or even an earlier film (1973) from which HBO released a fall series – Westworld.

Though the creative fears and speculation of filmmakers were certainly well founded and make for great entertainment, today, we no longer speculate about a future where robots and AI exist – it’s here! But, instead of viewing this technology as the enemy, we now understand it as an “advisor,” “colleague,” something that helps us make things and experiences far better than we ever could have imagined. AI, or cognitive technology as we like to call it, is here to stay… and it’s a huge change for those businesses that are using it.

Building a Relationship with Technology

I’ve just returned from Amplify 2017, a conference where the main focus was on highlighting – through customer stories, Business Partners, product experts and special guests – how cognitive solutions bring customer engagement to life. What was most astonishing to me was the passion that each person had for their story, and their improved ability to drive towards, or achieve, new business results provided by cognitive. I have never seen so much excitement about any other technology and how it will help us be better marketers, merchandisers, or fulfillment practitioners.

With cognitive, and more specifically, Watson, practitioners build a relationship with technology – a relationship of mutual benefits. You, the practitioner, share information and experiences with Watson and each of your actions teaches Watson more about content and context. For example, H&R Block President and CEO, Bill Cobb, shared how Watson is helping the tax professionals in his company prompt appropriate questions to their clients while they collaborate over each client’s tax updates. Watson has learned 600 million data points relevant to their industry as well as the US tax code. Cobb confirmed that “Watson is learning more and more as it does more tax returns.”

Thus, as Watson learns more about you, your industry, your dataset, and even your natural language such as speaking to him in colloquialisms, the relationship between you and Watson grows.

Bringing Cognitive to Life

From the moment the event kicked off with host Katie Lindendoll, a profound lover of tech trends and gadgets herself, passion and excitement filled the room. An early adopter of Watson, Peter Brook of adidas Group, shared how they are exploring open source technology and allowing their customers the ability to design their own shoes!

When IBM’s CMO, Michelle Peluso, took the stage, she shared stories of her friends, fellow business leaders in several industries, and how they felt a sense of delight and opportunity with cognitive technology. Peluso stated that cognitive will provide a way for business to build more relevance, build brands that are more human and warm and enhance customer care. In a series of casual, unscripted videos of these 10 or so friends, we saw that their main focus was on the “humanity” of their customers – focusing on what really makes individuals unique. They then delved down into how cognitive helps each one of them to see their customers as individuals – their emotions and intent. Each action a user takes on social media, each purchase they make, allows marketers and merchandisers to really get to know more about what interests their customers. Cognitive solutions help to deliver human experiences to customers when, where and how they want them, in a way that transcends push marketing. “It used to be about keeping up with the customer and her data, but now it’s using the power of that information to create truly relevant experiences. It’s in the marriage of all this data that cognitive really comes to life,” concluded Peluso.

Digging into the Data

At the Amplify 2017, I got a new perspective on data. Sure, I already knew some tremendous data stats and how our every interaction is just a tidbit of data to merchandisers and marketers, but I didn’t realize how much data we have now, and that much of that data that exists is referred to as “dark data.” That is, data that exists outside the corporate firewall, in social forums all around the world. What’s even more jarring is that this is just the tip of what’s to come. “By 2020, we’re going to have 20x the amount of data than we have today”. Without cognitive technologies like Watson, it’s impossible for practitioners to comb through that data to spot business trends or market opportunities, or find news to streamline fulfillment processes or better shipping routes.

Just about every customer, partner, influencer, or expert that I spoke to during the conference spoke highly and passionately about cognitive and Watson. They were excited with the promise, or excited by their actual business results. As Harriet Green, General Manager of Watson IoT, Commerce and Education stated, “One billion people will be touched in some way by Watson. We’re infusing Watson into nearly every IBM product and service. We are co-creating cognitive solutions with thousands of partners today.”

To find out more about redefining customer engagement in today’s cognitive era, visit Watson Customer Engagement webpage or watch some video content from the Amplify 2017 keynotes.

Program Director, Content & Editorial, Watson Customer Engagement

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