Macy's Pilots IBM Watson Technology for Personalized Shopping


Macy’s has begun piloting "Macy’s On Call,” which allows shoppers to interact with the AI-powered platform via their mobile devices. The mobile web tool taps IBM Watson, via Satisfi, an intelligent engagement platform, to enhance the in-store shopping experience at 10 test locations nationwide.

The mobile companion, accessed via a mobile browser, allows customers to input natural language questions regarding each participating store’s unique product assortment, services and facilities and receive a customized response to the inquiry. 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," said Peter Sachse, Macy’s chief growth officer. "With an eye towards innovation, we are moving fast to test and scale up pilot programs that help enhance their experience with us. 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."

Since each Macy’s store is different, and consumers increasingly prefer mobile platforms, "Macy’s On Call" is providing shoppers with a helpful tool to get information fast as they shop and navigate the store. The system will evolve as it learns more about each store’s customers. 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.

"Bringing Watson into a retail store setting presents an opportunity to engage with the consumer on a variety of levels," said David Kenny, general manager of IBM Watson. "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,”

Ten store locations were chosen representing a cross section of Macy’s store portfolio. Five of the locations serve as the base learning stores, with the Watson implementation deployed solely as a customer led self-serve initiative. The other five locations have an enhanced layer of associate support available to complement the virtual interactions. At these locations, customers can input a request for face-to-face engagement with a Macy’s specialist associate.

While Watson technology can power interactions in a number of ways, the first phase of this pilot program is applying Watson’s natural language capabilities in a physical retail environment, focused on three customer centric categories — each store’s unique products, services and layout. Satisfi accesses Watson’s technology from the cloud and this model is helping facilitate ongoing learnings and improvements to the solution. 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.

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