The North Face, the world’s premier supplier of authentic, innovative and technically advanced outdoor apparel, equipment and footwear, announced today the launch of a new interactive online shopping experience powered by IBM’s Watson. In keeping with The North Face brand’s mission of applying technology to transform the retail experience customers can now use natural conversation as they shop online via an intuitive, dialog-based recommendation engine powered by Fluid XPS and receive outerwear recommendations that are tailored to their needs.
Developed in partnership with digital commerce technology agency and software solutions provider Fluid and powered by IBM’s Watson cognitive computing technology, The North Face experience harnesses Fluid’s Expert Personal Shopper (XPS) software to create a more engaging, personalized and relevant shopping experience. XPS is available to the public at https://www.thenorthface.com/XPS.
Utilizing Watson’s natural language processing ability, XPS helps consumers discover and refine product selections based on their responses to a series of questions. For example, after a shopper enters details on a desired jacket or outdoor activity, XPS will ask questions about factors like location, temperature or gender to provide a recommendation that seeks to meet the shopper’s specific usage and climate needs. Unlike other product recommendation engines, this conversation with the shopper is what enables XPS to refine its recommendations and deliver a more accurate result.
“At The North Face our mission is to inspire a global movement of outdoor exploration,” said Todd Spaletto, President, The North Face. “By tapping into the power of IBM’s Watson, we can ensure our customers get the best jacket for the activities they love, whether that’s ice climbing in Montana or skiing in Vermont. This not only improves their online shopping experience, it ultimately maximizes their outdoor experience.”
XPS, currently in beta form, has been in a month-long pilot test on The North Face brand’s e-commerce site, delivered via IBM’s eCommerce solution. XPS recommendations improve with use and the pilot has yielded positive feedback and results. Customer engagement averaged two minutes in length; the platform had a 60 percent click-through rate to try product recommendations; and the vast majority of users said they would use it again. As more customers use XPS, the platform will refine and improve recommendations, making it easier for customers to identify outerwear products appropriate for their individual needs.
“Digital retail continues to transform the way we shop, and embedding cognitive technologies is the next major step in engaging customers,” said Kent Deverell, CEO of Fluid. “By tapping into Watson, XPS aims to provide The North Face shoppers helpful, relevant and intuitive product recommendations. We believe this kind of engaging, personalized interactive experience will become the norm for online shoppers in years to come.”
“The retail industry, like many others, is awash in structured and unstructured data — from social media to text messages to customer reviews. By tapping into Watson, retailers now have the power to turn this data into meaningful insights that can make the shopping experience more intuitive, informed and enjoyable,” said Stephen Gold, IBM Watson VP Business Development & Partner Program. “Market leaders like The North Face and Fluid are demonstrating how cognitive technologies can redefine how brands connect and engage customers.”