Digital Customer Service Gets Kicked Up a Notch

Allison Howen
by Allison Howen 14 Dec, 2015

The lines between online and brick-and-mortar shopping are blurring even more thanks to new technology from Fluid and IBM.

Fluid's expert personal shopper (XPS) software, which is powered by IBM's Watson, enables brands to provide an interactive online shopping experience to their customers. The North Face is currently leveraging the technology on its website in order to create a more engaging, personalized and relevant shopping experience for its customers. In fact, the service uses a dialog-based recommendation engine to help customers find the right products via natural conversations.

"Digital retail continues to transform the way we shop, and embedding cognitive technologies is the next major step in engaging customers," said Kent Deverell, CEO of Fluid. "By tapping into Watson, XPS aims to provide The North Face shoppers helpful, relevant and intuitive product recommendations. We believe this kind of engaging, personalized interactive experience will become the norm for online shoppers in years to come."

Currently, the XPS service provides consumers with outerwear recommendations that are tailored to their needs. Shoppers simply need to answer a series of questions, such as factors like who the jacket is for, as well as where and when they want to wear the jacket. This conversation enables XPS to refine its recommendations are deliver an accurate result. For example, a customer can tell the service that they are looking for a woman's jacket to wear in January in Estes Park, Colorado. The service then generates a variety of products based on that information.

"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."

It is important to note that XPS is currently in beta and has been in a month-long pilot test on The North Face brand's ecommerce site, which is delivered via IBM's ecommerce solution. What's more, XPS recommendations improve with use and the pilot has garnered positive results. For instance, customer engagement averaged two minutes in length, the platform saw a 60 percent click-through rate to try product recommendations and the majority of users said they would leverage the feature again.

"The retail industry, like many others, is awash in structured and unstructured data -- from social media to text messages to customer reviews. By tapping into Watson, retailers now have the power to turn this data into meaningful insights that can make the shopping experience more intuitive, informed and enjoyable," said Stephen Gold, IBM Watson VP business development & partner program. "Market leaders like The North Face and Fluid are demonstrating how cognitive technologies can redefine how brands connect and engage customers."