business news in context, analysis with attitude

by Kevin Coupe

The Associated Press reports that "Macy's is testing a mobile tool using artificial intelligence that lets shoppers get answers customized to the store they're in — like where a particular brand is located or what's in stock — that they would normally ask a sales associate face-to-face."

The A.I. system - developed by IBM Watson - can be accessed through a mobile application, "uses natural language and offers feedback in seconds."

The test is being conducted in 10 markets, and the company hopes that it will be part of its effort to improve customer service and build sales.

It is an interesting move ... though at some level, I cannot help but think that Macy's is confusing strategy with tactics. I think that A.I. can be an effective tool, but it would be a mistake to believe that such technology can turn around a retailer's fortunes all by itself. It can supplement people, not replace them ... it can add to the experience, but can't be the experience ... and while it can help direct the shopper to merchandise, the retailer still has to have relevant merchandise.

It has the potential to be an Eye-Opener ... but it has to be part of something bigger.
KC's View: