IBM Is Unveiling Watson As a Personal Shopper

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- IBM (IBM) revealed on Tuesday a new Watson supercomputer-created, cloud-delivered personal shopper the company says will revolutionize the currently, often tedious online and mobile shopping experience.

IBM's Institute for Business Value recently found after a study of more than 30,000 global consumers that 40% of shoppers are using mobile, social and location technologies for information gathering, and yet are unlikely to use these channels to purchase products. What's hindering shoppers from making purchase decisions from these devices is, to start, the time-consuming process of online and mobile shopping in their current state. Consumers have to enter keywords into websites and hope for the best. Or, worse, they have to comb through a site for details buried under a sea of categories and subpages. In fact, according to PowerReviews, 50% of consumers spend 75% or more of their total shopping time conducting online research.

The studies indicate that what customers are looking for from today's online and mobile experience is the thoughtful help of a knowledgeable and relatable sales representative who's instantly ready to advise on important purchase decisions.

Enter Watson.

Drawing from the $100 million that IBM has earmarked to fuel new cognitive apps, IBM is collaborating with digital commerce company Fluid to create the Fluid Expert Shopper made with IBM Watson. The XPS app will give consumers one-on-one interaction with Watson on desktops, tablets and smartphones for the first time and the power to ask the app highly specific questions on key purchase decisions, as they would a sales associate in a store.

For instance, if you're a North Face customer, you could ask Watson for advice on what outdoor gear would be best-suited for a five-day, June hiking adventure in Phoenix. Fluid XPS then uses Watson's understanding of natural language to identify clues from the question, suggesting particular needs around weather, terrain and trail conditions. The app then combs through massive amounts of data, including product details, expert reviews, blogs and travel maps to find the right products for the customer's trip.

The North Face is currently one of the various consumer brands the XPS app is being customized for.

Stephen Gold, vice president at IBM Watson Ecosystem, tells TheStreet that as the Watson-made personal shopper becomes smarter and smarter with each human interaction, its ability to interact with customers in an intellectually-challenging way will only grow stronger and stronger.

Here's TheStreet's interview with Gold...

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