Macy’s and IBM Watson create a mobile tool to make in-store shopping even easier

Macy’s, the US department store has developed an interactive shopping tool in partnership with IBM Watson, to make their in-store experience easier for consumers.

Using artificial intelligence, the “Macy’s On Call,” mobile web tool makes it easier for in-store shoppers to find where a particular brand is located or what’s in stock.

The tool, which Macy’s calls a “mobile companion,” can be accessed for now through a browser and will accept questions in 10 US locations about products, services and facilities. It uses natural language and offers feedback in seconds. You can ask it everything from ‘where is the women’s shoe department?’ to ‘where are the nearest toilets?’


“We want to improve the shopping experience,” Serena Potter, group VP of digital media strategy, told The Associated Press. “We want the customers to shop at Macy’s and come back,” she added noting the goal is to boost sales while freeing up employees to focus on more complicated customer requests.

Since the pilot was quietly launched last month, the number of queries ballooned to the low thousands per store. In addition to the benefits for the consumer; the technology includes a “cognitive computing” service designed to help the store learn more about its customers.

Five Macy’s locations are currently focusing on the self-serve initiative while five others will have a feature that lets customers summon a sales associate. Two Miami locations will also have the service in Spanish.

“Bringing Watson into a retail store setting presents an opportunity to engage with the consumer on a variety of levels. This particular use case takes Watson beyond helping consumers evaluate purchasing decisions, and influences another, equally important aspect of the in-store experience – ease of use in locating products, facilities and services,” said David Kenny, general manager of IBM Watson.

Customers can click on macys.com/storehelp on their mobile device, and there are plans in place for an app version of the web tool.

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