Sounds familiar? In the vast majority of online stores, you can’t even find a salesperson to ask for advice. But what if the salesperson behaved as in the example below? Would you make a purchase?
Salesperson: Well hello, nice to see you again. Are you happy with the bag you bought last time you were here?
Customer: Yes, I am actually. It’s just the right size. Compact, but I still have room for all my stuff.
Salesperson: Glad to hear it. By the way, did you know that you’re now on the list of our top 20 per cent most active customers? We’d like to show our appreciation by giving you a 20 per cent discount on your next purchase.
Customer: Wow – that’s great! So what have you got that’s new?
Salesperson: Well we have a sale on now and you can get all of our spring items at lower prices. And we already have our first samples in beautiful fall colors. Would you like to have a look?
Customer: Maybe next time. I’m actually looking for something a little bit special for a date.
Salesperson: Exciting! Is it a first date?
Customer: As a matter of fact it is. (Blushes)
Salesperson: Then you need to make an unforgettable first impression. You’ve bought classic pieces before in earthy Nordic colors. But what about trying something in red – like this Prada dress?
Customer: I’m not sure, although it is gorgeous. But that bright red might be a bit too bold for me. Isn’t it a bit too much? Do you have the same dress in black?
Salesperson: Of course we do! But I’d still recommend the red one. According to a paper by British researcher Sarah E. Johnson, men like the color red in particular because they find it exciting – but not for the reasons you might think. Johnson’s research shows that the color red arouses men’s competitive spirit and the desire to win over a woman. I also discovered that in the last three years women have shopped online for mostly black and red dresses for first dates. But the buyers of red dresses in particular have been very satisfied with their choices – their satisfaction rate was over 85 per cent! So they clearly made the right choice.
Customer: Is that really so? Well that’s that then! But then I’d need…
Salesperson: Of course, shoes! I know just the pair of red high heels that would go with that dress! Here you are! This is one size smaller than what you usually buy, but other customers have said that these shoe sizes are larger than normal, so this should be just right for you.
Customer: You’re incredible!
Salesperson: Oh, that was nothing more than competence and information. When’s your date, by the way?
Customer: Saturday, why?
Salesperson: There’ll be heavy downpours Saturday. You’d probably want to take this red and black umbrella. It’s small enough for that purse you bought last time. And by the way, that bag would be perfect with this outfit.
Customer: You’re right! I’ll take everything. Thank you so much Watson!
Salesperson: You’re welcome! Don’t forget to use that discount coupon – and good luck on your date!
You’d probably buy, right? This scenario would hardly play out today, even in a brick-and-mortar store, but in a few years it will become a commonplace experience, at least online. But why not also in brick-and-mortar outlets that are poised to adopt modern forms of commerce?
In the future, the merchant himself will either be the “computer” or will increasingly resort to computer-aided methods.
Major technology players are taking cognitive information processing into different business areas – including commerce. The goal is to develop computers that think like humans, in other words, combine different information sources and understand what is relevant or irrelevant information, what constitutes irony, and so on.
At the beginning of the year tech giant IBM disclosed that it had made the largest ever private investment in technological development: it devoted more than one billion dollars and 2,000 workers to a cognitive technological development project known as the Watson Group. By then Watson had already emerged as the winner of the well-known US television quiz show Jeopardy after defeating two previous Jeopardy champions.
Watson is now being put to work in the first online stores. In the next few years we will be seeing a lot of this new kind of intelligence everywhere, because IBM has been gradually making Watson’s services available to solution developers.
I’m especially looking forward to those innovative new solutions and user interfaces that will completely transform the way we make use of the mass of online data.
There will be a revolution in the way we shop. We will transition from selection-, catalog- and search engine-based browsing to situation- and sentiment-based recommendations.