The FINANCIAL — On July 21, Macy’s announced the pilot of “Macy’s On Call,” a mobile web tool that allows customers to interact with an AI-powered platform, via their mobile devices. “Macy’s On Call” taps IBM Watson, via Satisfi, an intelligent engagement platform, to deliver a first-of-its-kind solution that will enhance the customer 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 ladies shoes?” or type a combination of brand and product inquiry such as “INC dress,” and they will receive the relevant response and location of that product in the store, according to IBM.
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. This is already evident in the popular searches category, which highlights the most asked questions, responses to which can be accessed at the click of the appropriate button.
As part of the pilot, Macy’s is also incorporating a Spanish language feature to serve a broader sub-set of its customer base in select stores.
“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. With an eye towards innovation, we are moving fast to test and scale up pilot programs that help enhance their experience with us,” 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.”
“Bringing Watson into a retail store setting presents an opportunity to engage with the consumer on a variety of levels. 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,” said David Kenny, general manager of IBM Watson. “As more developers like Satisfi continue to build with the technology, we see Watson more frequently being delivered into the hands of consumers, and we’re looking forward to learning more from this pilot with Macy’s and Satisfi.”
“The entire Satisfi team is delighted to be working with such an iconic brand as Macy’s to leverage the power of IBM Watson on this exciting project. The combination of Satisfi’s location-based, intelligent engagement software, with the cognitive learning capabilities of IBM’s Watson, has helped us build a powerful and comprehensive tool to enhance the in-store shopping environment,” said Don White, Satisfi’s Chief Revenue Officer. “Macy’s has been a great partner for this project because of their commitment to exploring new technology that can elevate one-on-one interactions with customers, creating a more relevant and personal experience for them.”
Accessed via macys.com/storehelp, the pilot of “Macy’s On Call” answers store navigation details provided by department, brand and product category, as well as provides insight into the unique in-store services available at each test location – from myStylist personal shoppers to Buy Online, Pick Up in-store counters, and store facilities including restrooms. The engagement is conducted through a simple question and answer interface leveraging Watson’s Natural Language Classifier, that is helping Macy’s learn more about the features and services that most resonate with shoppers. Additionally, at select locations, the interface is available for customers in Spanish, via Watson Language Translation, as Macy’s tests language capabilities, functionality and consumer interest in engagement via preferred languages.
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 additional feature that allows customers to request assistance through a 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.
At all 10 test locations customers are encouraged to visit macys.com/storehelp on their mobile browser to engage with the in-store companion. The first phase of Macy’s On Call recently launched and is expected to run through late fall of 2016.