IBM Watson Group Invests in Fluid to Transform Online Shopping

With the investment from IBM's $100M fund, Fluid can accelerate development of its Expert Personal Shopper (XPS) app.

IBM’s Watson Group announced that it has invested in retail application provider Fluid Inc. to empower online shoppers with Watson’s expertise and personalized advice.

Fluid was among the early partners IBM trotted out to showcase how Watson had become available to developers to build apps around. IBM and Fluid are working to accelerate development of Fluid’s Expert Personal Shopper (XPS) app, which is described by the companies as the ultimate shopping advisor, made by Watson and poised to transform the consumer shopping experience.

Fluid is creating its cognitive technology in the Watson Developer Cloud, which provides a toolkit and sandbox for building cognitive apps, as well as access to Watson's Application Programming Interface (API).

Together, IBM and Fluid are working to redefine the e-commerce experience by evolving it beyond the traditional criteria of price, convenience and selection, and adding a transformational new factor: the expertise and personalized advice of an in-store sales representative.

The investment is drawn from the $100 million IBM set aside for investments in Watson-based businesses and applications. Earlier this year, the IBM Watson Group made its first investment in Welltok, developers of Watson-based the CaféWell Health Optimization Platform.

IBM officials said consumer shopping is a key opportunity for cognitive computing. A recent study from the IBM Institute for Business Value of more than 30,000 global consumers shows that 40 percent of shoppers use social, location and mobile technologies for information gathering, and yet are not likely to use them to purchase products.

Moreover, online and mobile shopping is often time-consuming and inefficient as consumers comb through websites for information, link by link, or enter keywords into search engines and hope for the best. Today, 50 percent of consumers spend 75 percent or more of their total shopping time conducting online research, according to data from the e-tailing group and PowerReviews.

“By tapping into IBM Watson’s cognitive intelligence, Fluid is infusing the personalized, interactive feel of an in-store conversation into every digital shopping interaction,” said Mike Rhodin, senior vice president of the IBM Watson Group, in a statement. “This is what positive market disruption looks like, and it’s a key example of how a new era of cognitive applications will revolutionize how decisions are made by consumers and businesses alike.”

Fluid’s application provides personalized, digital experiences with a personal shopping concierge that understands and advises its users on key purchase decisions. IBM and Fluid's collaboration aims to remove the pain points of digital commerce, and replace them with the best of what in-store retail shopping has always offered. The app gives consumers the power to ask the app highly specific questions, as they would a sales associate in a store, and receive personalized advice.