The North Face: AI Personal Shopper
In a bid to improve its online search experience, American outerwear brand The North Face teamed up with computing giant IBM's tech platform Watson and US software provider Fluid to create an e-commerce experience powered by artificial intelligence.
Installed on The North Face website, Fluid's Expert Personal Shopper (XPS) tool connects browsers with a dialogue-based recommendation engine that enables them to discover products in a more intuitive way, similar to how they would talk to a sales associate in-store. After answering a series of questions about their needs and preferences – such as 'Where and when will you be using this jacket?' and 'How much precipitation do you expect?' – consumers are presented with a selection of products that best match their requirements.
During a month-long pilot test, the platform generated a 60% click-through rate on product recommendations, with the vast majority of users saying they would use it again, according to the brand. As yet, no results have been released regarding converting the click-through rates into sales.
The concept echoes comments made by Paul Kendrick, marketing director at UK-based lifestyle e-tailer JD Williams, which is also investing heavily in personalising its site. Speaking at Retail Week Live 2015, he said: "In the digital era, nobody wants to see endless aisles – personalisation is really just CRM [customer relationship management] in the new world."
For more on personalised search tools, see Harness The Hunt: Retail's New Search Strategies and Reactive Retail: Dynamic Data Builds Brand Traction. For more on North Face's brand strategy, see Seizing the Outdoor Sports Boom and The North Face: Lifestyle Playspace.