Charlotte Russe IBM Watson

LAS VEGAS — While some may scoff at artificial intelligence in the context of what it’s done for personalization, the uses for the technology in other parts of business are no joke.

In fact, as Vegas is abuzz with all the latest and greatest in technology innovations for retailers and marketers with Shoptalk and Adobe Summit, IBM Amplify is a whole separate conference in town at the MGM Grand focused on cognitive computing. The more specific focus is on IBM Watson — the computing system that competed and won on the Jeopardy game show in 2011 — and its suite of solutions aimed at helping companies with their supply chains, marketing and commerce.

The company’s technology is expected to reach 1 billion people by the end of this year and could help improve profit margins by 3 to 5 percent, according to Harriet Green, IBM General Manager of Watson customer engagement, Internet of Things and education.

“With Watson by their side, supply disruptions are things of the past,” Green told reporters Monday at the MGM’s Grand Gardena Arena. “Retrieval time is slashed by 75 percent and mitigation time drops from two-and-a-half weeks to a day.”

The tech company released several case studies of companies that deployed its cognitive technology, including retailer Charlotte Russe, which tapped IBM Watson during a portion of the recent holiday selling period to help it prepare for and manage a projected increase in online sales.

“In retail, there’s a lot of information, a lot of data and one of the things that companies like us struggle with is the ability to process all of that,” said Diny Markose, chief digital officer of India-based watch company Titan Company Ltd.

Unstructured data in the form of feeds from social or store cameras, Markose said by way of examples, are difficult to process and that’s where Watson comes in.

Implementing cognitive technology is one thing, but it’s not just about processing the plethora of data that’s required to make things work, pointed out 1-800-Flowers.com Inc. chief information officer Arnie Leap. It’s also about coordinating other factors at retail such as the employees in stores and marketing campaigns.

“If it’s miscalculated, you wind up losing a lot of ground and a lot of momentum,” Leap said.

The 1-800-Flowers team became more aware of Watson about a year ago during the National Retail Federation trade show and reached out to IBM. Within about four months the solution was up and running in time to beta test it for Mother’s Day and Leap called the results promising since that time. The company’s Harry and David division last year released a service called GWYN, or Gifts When You Need, which is backed by Watson and helps customers decide on the right gift out of more than 7,000 options.

For More on IBM in WWD:

Mall of America, Fashion Island Launch AI-Powered Concierge With IBM

IBM Predicts Double-Digit Growth for Cyber Monday Sales

Macy’s and IBM Watson Bring Artificial Intelligence to Shoppers

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