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Brief Published: 2 Aug 2016

Macy’s x IBM: Artificial Intelligence Shop Assistant

Macy's and IBM

Embracing the blossoming value of conversational artificial intelligence (AI) for retail, Macy’s has collaborated with IBM Watson – IBM’s cognitive technology division – to pilot an AI-based shopping assistant.

It’s accessed via the US department store’s mobile browser, Macy’s On Call. Users pose questions via a simple pop-up dialogue box, supported by Watson’s Natural Language Classifier – a machine learning tool that recognises reappearing phrases such as ‘Where can I find the new perfume by Dior?’ or product enquiries such as ‘I.N.C shoes?’ The more the tool is used, the smarter it gets.

Shoppers receive store-specific answers (it’s currently being trialled in 10 outlets across the US), with location-based software Satisfi helping it to ape real-life store assistants. Users are directed according to where they are at that given moment, with responses such as ‘Head to the Buy Online, Pickup counter on Floor 1’.

It can even detect when a customer is frustrated or hurried by noting when they’ve used an emotionally sensitive phrase – presenting them with a new box reading ‘Connect with a sales associate’. This alerts a member of staff via a notification on their mobile dashboard to find the user and offer extra in-store assistance within one minute (see also Rapid Retail).

The conversations held on the platform also provide Macy’s with rich insights to fuel its key services – including personal shopping and click-and-collect. The programme is available in English and Spanish.

For more on the power of AI in retail, including chatbots, see Personalising E-Tail and Concierge Commerce.