Watson: your cognitive fashionista

Two retailers create a more personalized shopping experience

It’s safe to say that many of us are fans of online shopping. The ease of use, convenience, and abundance of available products make it a preferred alternative to brick-and-mortar retail. But if you’re like me, scrolling through items, making comparisons, and reading lots of reviews, all that takes time. But what if there was a tool that provided a more engaging and intuitive shopping experience?

Retailers like The North Face in the US and Aditya Birla Online Fashion (abof) in India are tapping into the power of IBM Watson to create a more personalized shopping experience for their customers.

The North Face has both a mobile app and a Watson-powered shopping assistant on their website. The mobile app lets you to speak to it on your device, using Natural language processing (searching by voice) and advanced data analysis to assess your past purchases with the retailer, and place personalized context around responses to questions you ask.

A typical Interaction might go like this:

SHOPPER: “I’m going to Patagonia. What gear should I bring?”

After the initial question, Watson responds with follow-up questions to establish further context.

WATSON: “How many miles are you traveling per day? Are you bringing children?”

With deeper context, the resulting product suggestions are more refined than simply conducting a Google search for each separate question. The end product is as easy as speaking to a sales person.

The North Face Expert Personal Shopper (XPS) utilizes Watson’s natural language processing ability, XPS helps you discover and refine product selections based on your responses to a series of questions. For example, after you enter details on the desired jacket or outdoor activity, XPS will ask questions about factors like location, temperature, or gender to provide a recommendation that better meets your specific usage and climate needs. Unlike other product recommendation engines, this conversation with the shopper is what enables XPS to refine its recommendations and deliver a more accurate result. Here is the result of my search:

“At The North Face our mission is to inspire a global movement of outdoor exploration,” said Todd Spaletto, President, The North Face. “By tapping into the power of IBM’s Watson, we can ensure our customers get the best jacket for the activities they love, whether that’s ice climbing in Montana or skiing in Vermont. This not only improves their online shopping experience, it ultimately maximizes their outdoor experience.”

Abof, an Indian online fashion retailer from the Aditya Birla Group, sells apparel, footwear, and accessories targeted at Millenial men and women. Abof’s goal is to provide a highly convenient and distinctive customer experience, driven by a strong technology backbone, and 100% curated merchandise.

Abof customers can use natural language questions within abof’s enhanced eCommerce platform to receive greater personalization and product recommendations.

Shoppers ask natural language questions about abof’s unique product line, and then receive custom responses to their inquiries. For example, a customer could type, “where can I find a red floral dress?” or type a combination of price and product inquiry such as, “show me black shoes below INR 2000.” These questions are recognized and understood by the system accessed on abof’s website, and then used to recommend top matches to the shopper.

The customer is then asked a series of simple questions, and their answers leverages Watson’s Natural Language Classifier, as well as Retrieve and Rank delivered on the IBM Cloud. IBM Global Business Services and IBM Research worked with abof to introduce the service and help create a more engaging and intuitive shopping experience for customers.

“The business of fashion has experienced an extreme change in recent years,” said Prashant Gupta, President and Chief Executive Officer, abof.com. “Our aim is to create seamless and convenient shopping experiences for our customers in the digital world. This is a start of our cognitive journey, and we plan to implement more Watson-enabled solutions in the future to continue our momentum.”
“With IBM Watson, abof can make the customer shopping experience more personalized, informed, and enjoyable, similar to the engaging service shoppers could get in a physical store.” Said Steve Laughlin, General Manager, IBM Global Consumer Industries.

Cognitive fashion assistants like the ones offered by abof and The North Face can help create end-to-end personalized shopping experiences that cultivate unique buying moments, resulting in increased brand loyalty and conversions.