IBM Watson Wants to Be Your New Salesperson at Macy’s

Shoppers At Macy's Flagship Store
Pedestrians walk past Macy's Inc. flagship store in New York, U.S., on Thursday, Nov. 29, 2013. Terry Lundgren, president and chief executive officer of Macy's Inc., said 15,000 shoppers waited to enter its Herald Square store in New York at 8 p.m. last night, up from 11,000 at midnight a year earlier. Photographer: Peter Foley/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Photograph by Peter Foley — Bloomberg via Getty Images

Artificial intelligence is popping up everywhere these days, whether it be diagnosing diseases or even creating new recipes. The next frontier may be stores.

Shoppers will soon be able to start talking to an artificial intelligence-powered digital assistant while strolling around Macy’s, courtesy of IBM Watson, the centerpiece of IBM’s artificial intelligence push. According to IBM, 70% of U.S. shoppers now use their iPhones or Android phones while shopping in-store.

With that in mind, IBM and Macy’s debuted “Macy’s On Call,” on Wednesday, powered by IBM Watson’s machine learning and cognitive computing technology. The specific new feature essentially serves as a customer service representative while a consumer is in the store.

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Customers can type in questions, and Macy’s On Call will return the top answer for that question along with location-specific details. For example, a customer could type, “Where are the ladies shoes?” or ask to find a specific brand of a dress, and the assistant will inform the shopper as to where the shoes are located in the store and where the exact dress is located.

Macy’s on Call is also available in Spanish.

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This is the first time that IBM Watson has been integrated in a retail store. Currently, Macy’s On Call is being tested in ten stores, and will be expanded more broadly depending on how the pilot goes.

IBM has been working on integrating Watson into more real-life scenarios where consumers are interacting with the technology.

David Kenny, the former chief executive of The Weather Company and now general manager of IBM’s Watson business recently told Fortune, “IBM has the lead in cognitive computing, and they want it to become more product-ized and repeatable.”

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