Today’s Buzz Word, Tomorrow’s Game Changer
BY JOE SKORUPA
One approach retailers can take toward
artificial intelligence (AI) is to chalk it up as
hype. Another approach is to joke about how
heveryone knows natural stupidity beats artificial intelligence every time. But joking aside,
the best approach is to pay close attention to
AI’s rapid evolution and how competitors are
rolling it out.
A short list of retailers who have current AI
projects in development includes Nordstrom,
Macy’s, Sears, Staples and Amazon, which is
one of AI’s strongest proponents.
At the recent 2017 NRF Big Show, AI had
one of the highest profiles of any technology
on display. One reason is that there is an arms
race taking place between tech giants making
massive bets on the future of AI. A short list
of these tech giants includes Uber, Micro-soft, Facebook, Google, Amazon, Apple, IBM,
Salesforce, Baidu and Tesla.
For retailers, the arms race means there
are new opportunities to experiment with applications, solutions and services built on an
AI platform. However, this raises the question
of what is an AI platform and why is
than sophisticated supercomputing?
According to Greg Girard of IDC R
Insight, AI is different because it can
derstand varied content, reason thro
conclusions and recommendations,
knowledge workers and customers,
attributes of AI (natural language co
itself) are just as critical as the rest,
AI can learn to view the world as
ing intent, tone, personality and com
cannot be done mathematically. The
sume “all kinds of content about wea
and then reason in a human way usin
Girard, who is program director, wor
analytics strategies for IDC.
Retailers are starting to experime
supports decision-making with more
before. This ability improves the acc
line-of-business operations at headq
mendations for consumers.
AI is still in the midst of growing p
some natural-language misfires post
but AI-fueled chatbots and the Amaz
real deal and there is much more to
AI in the Field
• The North Face created an interactive online experience for desktop shoppers using IBM Watson
to power an intuitive recommendation engine.
• 1-800-Flowers became the first third-party
retailer to leverage the Amazon Alexa voice-activated AI platform.
• Macy’s is using IBM Watson to enable
shoppers to interact with a shopping assistant
while in the store through a mobile app.
• Staples is using IBM Watson to power an Easy
Button that interacts with B2B consumers in natural language to answer questions and
• Starbucks’ My Starbucks Barista app allows
customers to interact in natural language and
place orders via voice command.
• Sears has launched an app powered by IBM
Watson that enables automotive tire shoppers
via voice command to identify the right tires
and purchase them.