IBM backs Watson as a fashionista

With the Christmas period fast approaching everyone needs a bit of help with present ideas, and who better to help you buy presents for your nearest and dearest than the highly stylish IBM software engineers.

IBM has announced its acquired the Expert Personal Shopper (XPS) division of Fluid, an e-commerce experiences and software company, to bring Watson into the world of personal shopping. The acquisition should not necessarily come as a huge surprise as the company is a strategic partner of Big Blue, and the Expert Personal Shopper (XPS) offering was built specifically for the Watson platform.

The XPS solution, a dialogue-based product recommendation platform (a bot), as well as several members of the team will become part of IBM iX (Interactive Experience) business. The acquisition takes Watson and IBM’s artificial intelligence ambitions into a new world, having previously focused on more business orientated applications. The estimated $2 billion acquisition of the Weather Company earlier this year is a slight contrast.

“We look to incorporate the Expert Personal Shopper platform into the customer engagement and commerce solutions that we create for our retail clients,” said Paul Papas, Global Leader for IBM iX. “By adding XPS into digital experiences, IBM iX aims to make online discovery simpler, smarter and more personalized for consumers.

“In addition to retail, we believe, XPS can be leveraged and applied to the digital properties for brands across a variety of industries.”

AI applications for the consumer retail world are not necessarily a new idea, though the effectiveness of the technology has been called into question. E-commerce platforms have long used simplistic recommendation tools, and Facebook’s early steps into the world of bots received mixed reviews.

Watson is arguably the most advanced cognitive computing technology in the industry which does put the team in a strong position to make the move a success, though correcting stumbled attempts at commercializing bots may be a tough ask. The opinions of consumers will have to be changed, though Watson could be considered one of the strongest contenders to make a success of the idea.

The move also adds a bit more pressure on Amazon which has already been taking on new challenges from peer-to-peer e-commerce platforms such as Gumtree and more recently Facebook. Amazon would still be recognized as one of the global leaders in the e-commerce game, though challengers are racking up fast as digital shopping becomes more and more normalized.

The Watson platform, on which IBM execs have backed the company’s return to fortunes, is proving to be a flexible proposition, though how effectively it makes the transition from anoraks to handbags could go some way in defining Big Blue’s role in the consumer world.

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