The North Face Uses IBM's Watson to Make Online Shopping Smarter

Aiming to solve one of e-commerce's challenges of not offering personalized service, VF Corp's (VFC) The North Face on Monday launched a new online shopping tool using IBM's  (IBM) Watson artificial intelligence system.

The tool, which is powered by Fluid and called XPS, guides a consumer through the online store to better find what he or she is looking for.

E-commerce today doesn't generally give the personal attention a consumer might get when he walks into a store and is greeted by a human being. This new tool seeks to address that challenge.

"In this day and age, customers demand that e-commerce platforms be intuitive, flexible and responsive," said Cal Bouchard, The North Face e-commerce director. "The XPS system is an entirely new way of shopping that makes online and mobile shopping easier and more satisfying for the customers."

So when a customer goes to the site, she will be asked a few different questions about what she's looking for, and then she'll be presented with a selection of appropriate coats. The questions ask for information like the person's gender, the climate in which she needs the coat, and the thickness she's looking for.

The North Face is aiming to help guide a consumer online so that he or she isn't overwhelmed by the vast selection on the site. With XPS, customers will get personalized recommendations that save them the time and effort of searching through the whole site on their own. For now, XPS only works if the customer is looking for outerwear. 

IBM is currently in talks with several retailers to integrate a similar technology on their sites.

"Artificial intelligence and cognitive computing systems like IBM Watson can help retailers make sense of massive amounts of data to improve and personalize the online shopping customer experience," said Lauri Saft, vice president of IBM Watson ecosystem and partner programs. "Using Watson, retailers can gain insights from consumers' unstructured data such as from social media, and also from retail structured content such as purchasing information and inventory management."

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