I am sure by now, most of you have heard of Watson, even if you are not a jeopardy fan. Despite who you were cheering for, man or machine, people all over the world were stunned after the machine conquered the human minds of jeopardy champions. While jeopardy was an efficient way for the technology to gain attention, IBM has big plans outside the game show for Watson.
After attending a webinar by IBM, “Watson: Today, Tomorrow, and the future of retail,” I jumped on the opportunity to share IBM’s exciting plans for the retail landscape. In all honesty, before the webinar; I had little knowledge on this new technology from IBM. Yet, as the seminar progressed, I found myself digging deeper into the details and the potential for how Watson could revolutionize the retail industry.
Regardless of the application, the technology is incredible. The machine not only procures answers to obscure, unclearly worded questions, but it learns from mistakes and will never answer the same question wrong again, much like the brightest of human minds. IBM is planning to utilize the machines astounding capabilities in a variety of industries. Aside from a retail application, IBM is looking into potential business applications ranging from healthcare/life science, Tech Support (help desk), Enterprise Knowledge Management and Business Intelligence, and Government.
While these other application purposes are fascinating, in the retail industry, we have one thing on our mind, how is this going to increase our ROI and boost revenue in the stores?
In the webinar, the speakers gave a number of different scenarios where Watson would drive profitability. For example, Watson would be able to respond with high accuracy to customer queries about specific products and combinations. A question of merchandising, such as “what kind of accessories would go best with this outfit,” or “I need to buy a present for my 50 year-old mother, she likes to knit and bake, what would be a good gift?” Furthermore, Watson could be programmed with specific store information and analytics to allow the machine to answer complex questions about upselling or leading consumers to the appropriate items.
To complement the retail initiative, Craig Silverman from IBM also spoke during the Webinar about the “Smarter Consumer.” Retailers need to acknowledge an “instrumented, interconnected, and intelligent consumer.” According to a 2010 survey, no matter the age group, 36% of consumers are willing to use two or more technologies for purchasing products (ex. Kiosk and mobile phone). Expecting this trend to increase, consumers would welcome Watson’s technological expertise coupled with its efficient and simplistic usability. IBM is currently discussing with retailers the best way for Watson to assist with customer needs, by taking a retail or customer initiative and implementing that feedback into their product. Mainly, the responses are that Watson could help a store clerk determine the next best action to take with a customer and help a customer quickly receive information to solve a specific question.
So, what is next?? I assume retailers can expect to hear more about Watson in the near future. As IBM hones in on the best way to modify the machine for a retail environment, I can imagine this technology will only blossom. I expect to see great things in the retail industry and beyond! What do you think?
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