Friday, July 22, 2016

Who needs a human when there's Watson?

Macy's is partnering with IBM to use Watson to answer customer questions in the store.  So the next time you visit you can just ask your smart phone - where is the ladies restroom?  And if you are in Miami, you can ask in Spanish. 

Meanwhile Lowe's is experimenting with OSHbots that roam the store and North Face is using the technology to generate a list of shopping suggestions based on customer responses to a series of questions. (Mahoney, 2016)

So what do you think?  Are you ready for more in-store technology?  Will it enhance your experience?  Will you start shopping in department stores again?  Will anyone else?

Mahoney, S. (2016, July 20)  Macy's, Watson Offering AI In Stores.  Retrieved July 20, 2016, from


  1. I’m not offended by in-store shop-bots. Who hasn’t needed a bathroom in Macy’s before? An app would be really helpful for that. And if you can’t flag down one of those elusive blue-vested chaps in Lowe’s, I’d really appreciate an app that tells me where the shower curtain rods are hiding.

    I think millions of people like me who despise shopping could be encouraged just enough by these bots to coax us back into stores. If we think we’ll be in and out in a flash, maybe we could stomach the experience for the benefit of seeing/holding products before purchase, a luxury you can’t achieve online, as much as they try. It’s the aimless wandering and battling crowds without a direct purpose that stunts us. If we had a personal, EASY TO USE guide on our phone, that might help. It couldn’t hurt (unless it’s not easy to use, then that’s DOUBLY frustrating).

  2. Nowadays, more and more technology is replacing service related tasks, formerly done by humans. The Royal Caribbean cruise ships have now robot bartenders aboard, in Japan we have complete hotels running for 80% by robots, and now we have in-store apps that guide us and anwser our questions. I think it is an efficient way of working, especially in big department stores as Macy's. A place where also a lot of tourists come and visit for the first time (and probably have a lot of questions). Though, I think it should never, completely, replace all human contact, since a technical tool can never work without any bugs – it's programmed. Moreover, in my opinion, despite the efficiency, people also want human contact. It is also an element that creates and makes the ambiance in a store or shop. Though, I don't believe the presence of an app will attract more people to Macy's, but I do think the majority finds it convenient while shopping there. Then again, when I look at my parents, I am not sure if they will even make the effort of downloading the app and understanding it, if they visit Macy's during a trip to New York. In other words: I believe there is a chance that it might be only appealing to a certain age group?