From Game Show Hero to Retail Innovator
One of the more interesting developments to come out of the IBM Smarter Commerce Global Summit in Nashville this week, from which I've just returned, is the launch of IBM Watson Engagement Advisor. The "super computer," named after IBM founder Thomas J. Watson, was designed as a computing system that could rival the human brain's ability to respond to questions posed in natural language with speed, accuracy and confidence.
Watson rose to fame following a 2011 appearance on "Jeopardy!," in which it defeated two of the more celebrated players to ever appear on the long-running quiz show. Now Watson is trying to make headlines in the retail industry. The cognitive computing system — IBM made it clear that Watson isn't a search engine or a personal assistant like Siri — is being sold on its ability to enable brands to crunch big data in record time to better engage customers and prospects in key functions such as customer service, marketing and sales.
The future of Watson in retail appears to be in customer service. The idea is to have Watson serve a role similar to customer service reps (CSRs). The service will empower a brand's CSRs to provide fast, data-driven answers, as well as interface directly with customers. Potential benefits to retailers include cost savings from labor reductions in the call center, improved customer satisfaction scores, increased average order values and higher lifetime customer value — the theory being the superior customer experience offered by Watson will result in more customers being satisfied with their experience and thus more likely to return to purchase again.
The IBM Watson Engagement Advisor "Ask Watson" feature will help to service customers in multiple channels, including website chat windows, mobile push alerts and over the phone. The cognitive computing system continuously learns from interactions with customers, providing fast and more accurate personalized interactions.