Macy's Taps IBM, Satisfi for In-Store Shopping Companion

Macy's has introduced 'Macy's On Call,' a new in-store shopping companion fueled by IBM's cognitive computing technology, in 10 stores nationwide.

engineering pay

Retail brand Macy's has tapped IBM and Satisfi to deliver a new in-store personalized shopping companion for customers.

The new shopping companion, known as "Macy's On Call," is a mobile Web tool Macy's is piloting that enables customers to interact with Watson. Watson is IBM's cognitive computing system that interacts with users via natural language and continues to learn and reason with each use.

The Macy's On Call program combines Satisfi's intelligent engagement platform with Watson's cognitive system to help provide customized shopping experiences. The program is being piloted at 10 locations nationwide and will be extended to other locations later on.

The system provides customers with information about the individual stores' products, services and facilities to help them navigate the store and find items.

'The 10 pilot stores represent a cross-section of not only products but also geographies. IBM said five of the locations will serve as the base learning stores, where customers will use the companion in a self-service mode. At the other five stores, customers will be able to ask for help from a human Macy's sales associate.

"Macy's is a good company for a pilot like this. The company has stores in loads of locations and serves an upscale clientele who are likely to be familiar and comfortable with mobile apps," said Charles King, principal analyst at Pund-IT.

Moreover, Watson is capable of understanding and answering numerous complex questions asked in natural language so it's a good fit for retail environments, especially those like Macy's, where stores are highly individual, King argued.

"In this circumstance, IBM and Satisfi are leveraging Watson as the brains behind a virtual, easily available, storewide information booth that isn't affected by lines of waiting customers or closed for lunch," King said.

Macy's has been trying out new ideas and approaches to enhance its service to customers through technology, said Peter Sachse, Macy's chief growth officer.

"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," in a statement.

IBM's Watson has empowered online shopping assistants as well as automated hotel concierge systems. For instance, last year, The North Face, maker of outdoor apparel, equipment and footwear, launched a new interactive online shopping experience powered by IBM's Watson.

In keeping with The North Face's mission of applying technology to the retail experience, customers can use natural conversation as they shop online via an intuitive, dialog-based recommendation engine powered by the Watson-based Fluid XPS system and receive outerwear recommendations that are tailored to their needs.

Developed in partnership with Fluid, a digital commerce technology agency and software solutions provider, and powered by IBM's Watson cognitive computing technology, The North Face experience harnesses Fluid's Expert Personal Shopper (XPS) software to create a more engaging, personalized shopping experience.

IBM's Watson has increased momentum in the last few months. IBM struck a deal with Cisco Systems, partnering to deliver a cognitive-infused collaboration stack consisting of both companies' collaboration and social business tools. In addition, IBM teamed with the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center to form an independent supply chain company, Pensiamo, with Watson at the core of it.

Also, in April, IBM and the American Cancer Society announced a partnership to develop a Watson-based adviser for people fighting cancer. And Denmark-based facilities management company ISS is using Watson IoT to help manage more than 25,000 buildings around the world. Plus, last month Local Motors, a vehicle technology integrator and maker of 3D-printed cars, introduced a self-driving vehicle, Olli, using IBM's Watson technology.

"I believe we're seeing the results of IBM's continuing efforts among developers and partners," King said. "The company has been proactive about investing in new capabilities and related software developer kits for Watson, and it looks like those investments are paying off."

King said he believes IBM's Watson-based partnerships and solutions will continue building momentum over the next 12 to 24 months.