Staples ‘Easy Button’ brings conversational buying to the office

Businesses can order directly from a cross-platform chatbot

One of the promises of cognitive systems is to streamline the layer between businesses and their customers, particularly around the sales process. Staples, the office and technology supply store has turned to IBM Watson’s conversational capabilities to power it’s ‘Easy Button’ — which takes physical form as a large red button with a 2-way speaker you can use for ordering supplies. The same functionality is also available via Facebook Messenger, Slack, text, email and their mobile app.

Need to order some new paper? Talk directly into Facebook Messenger as you would an assistant in the shop. The bot will confirm it has the order right, and then promptly place the order. No more spending time fiddling with online forms. And unlike traditional forms, the system gets smarter over time as it learns the preferences of individual businesses so it can create an even more personalized conversational experience.

The solution is aimed at Staples existing customer base of small and mid-sized businesses:

“Staples and IBM have combined the power of Watson technology with Staples’ expertise in helping small and medium businesses to transform how companies shop for everything they need for their office,” said Faisal Masud, executive vice president, eCommerce and customer experience, Staples. “With the Easy System, administrators will have greater overall management of their organizations’ procurement processes, ultimately saving them time they can instead spend on running their office. It’s the assistant’s assistant.”

As points out, chatbot interfaces are expected to be common form of user interface within a few years:

According to the latest research by Gartner, “by 2020, at least 80 percent of new enterprise applications will make strong use of chatbots.” That same research indicates that, “by 2021, ‘conversational AI-first’ will be adopted by the majority of enterprise IT organizations as the most important new platform paradigm. The ‘conversational AI-first’ meme will supersede ‘cloud first, mobile first’ by 2021.”

The Staples Easy Button is originally being rolled out in the Austin, Texas area but is expected to hit further locations by year-end.

To understand more about the Watson technology in the Staples solution, check out the IBM Watson Conversation service.

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