Possibly usurping the role of well-trained retail sales staffs, The North Face is set to launch a mobile app next month that lets users engage with Watson, the powerful artificial intelligence computer owned by IBM, to help find the right item for them. It represents the first mobile app experience to put “the world’s smartest computer” to use in a retail environment, according to several news reports.
The app reportedly will allow users to speak to into their phones, where the Watson-powered shopping assistant will engage them in a question-and-answer conversation, such as how and where a garment will be used, to help figure out the best fit for that customer.
The North Face started testing the technology in November, mainly through a desktop version.
Experimenting on the mobile site was tougher because of the phone’s tiny real estate. It’s difficult to show multiple products in a row on a single screen, and product images can weigh a page down and slow rendering time, said Cal Bouchard, senior director of ecommerce at The North Face, in an interview with VentureBeat.
The company generated encouraging results from its two-month testing. About 50,000 people used it, engaging for an average engagement of two minutes. Users who provided feedback rated the experience a 2.5 out of 3, and 75 percent said they’d use it again, said Cal Bouchard, senior director of ecommerce at The North Face, in an interview with VentureBeat. The technology generated a 60 percent clickthrough rate to try product recommendations.
While the official trial period is over, The North Face has kept a link open for people to try out the technology: www.thenorthface/xps.
The North Face partnered with Oakland design agency Fluid to build the experience. Fluid developed and hosts the software running the site. Fluid, by the way, is the firm IBM chose to showcase how Watson’s artificial intelligence can work in ecommerce.