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Macy’s Pilots IBM’s Watson for AI-Powered Personal Shopper

Macy’s has launched a new mobile web tool powered by IBM’s Watson which the company hopes will help entice shoppers into its stores.

“Macy’s On Call” will allow customers to interact with an AI-powered platform via mobile devices, recognizing that many shoppers now turn to their smartphones before a sales associate. The platform is powered by Satisfi, a development partner which utilizes IBM Watson for commercial applications.

Macy’s is testing the new technology at 10 of its stores. While Watson technology can power interactions in a number of ways, the first phase of this pilot program will test Watson’s natural language capabilities in a physical retail environment, to see if the computer can successfully point shoppers to each store’s unique products and services, as well as explain the store layout.

There are a number of ways that customers may request information. For example, a customer could type, “Where are the women’s shoes?” or type a combination of brand and product inquiry such as “I.N.C dress,” and they will receive the relevant response and location of that product in the store.

“At Macy’s, we remain focused on identifying, testing and supporting new ideas and approaches that will help elevate service to our customers through technology. With an eye towards innovation, we are moving fast to test and scale up pilot programs that help enhance their experience with us,” said Macy’s Chief Growth Officer Peter Sachse. “This program, in partnership with Satisfi and leveraging the power of IBM Watson, will help us explore new ways to engage one-on-one with customers in-store, providing them another level of service right at their fingertips.”

As part of the pilot, Macy’s is also incorporating a Spanish language feature to serve a broader subset of its customer base in select stores. Macy’s On Call will continue its pilot phase through late Fall 2016. As the program progresses, Macy’s aims to closely study and gauge other potential uses of the technology, with the goal of implementing Watson’s full cognitive dialog capabilities in future phases.

“Bringing Watson into a retail store setting presents an opportunity to engage with the consumer on a variety of levels. This particular use case takes Watson beyond helping consumers evaluate purchasing decisions, and influences another, equally important aspect of the in-store experience—ease of use in locating products, facilities and services,” said IBM Watson General Manager David Kenny.