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Cognitive Computing: A new way to serve consumers

You’re probably aware of the simulation game, Minecraft. It’s a multiplatform game that enables players to build fantasy worlds out of textured cubes in a 3D space and has been a family favourite since its 2011 debut.

However, you've probably not heard of Gameband, the first-ever Minecraft wearable. It allows the user to transport their treasured worlds with them and play Minecraft anywhere at any time – on any computer. Gameband is driving a new surge of interest in Minecraft.

This is just one of the surprising insights surfaced by a new mobile app and web service launched recently – IBM Watson Trend. The purpose is to put the power of Watson’s cognitive computing in the hands of shoppers everywhere.

Watson Trend offers visitors an up-to-the-minute ranking of the top trending products or categories in retailing. Consumers can browse trends by categories and save and share their favourites. The exciting thing here is that the app not only tells shoppers which products are trending, but also explains why, for whom and what is being said. That’s how it surfaced the story behind Minecraft’s resurgence.

Watson Trend is starting off this year by focusing on consumer electronics, toys and health – but 2016 will see even more categories introduced. Consumers now have at their fingertips the results of searching through millions of conversations on social media, blogs, forums, ratings and reviews. We can then use Watson’s ability to understand natural language and reason to identify, measure and predict trends.

How does this work?

  1. Watson identifies individual web conversations related to purchase intent and purchase experience, aggregates these conversations into trends, and measures the sentiment surrounding each trend.
  1. Watson creates a Social Trend Forecast. This measures the impact and momentum of each trend and uses that analysis to calculate a trend score and ranking for each day. We run the historical trend scores through hundreds of predictive models and use cognitive technology to select the best model(s) for each trend. Then, we forecast the trend score over the next three weeks.
  1. Watson examines share-of-voice and cohort data to provide additional analysis – ‘the story behind the trend’. We present app users with snippets and quotes that help to capture the spirit of conversations about each trend.

What does this mean for retailers? Well, although it is initially designed for consumer use, in the future, organisations can use this data to analyse market trends, develop contextual merchandising and marketing campaigns, and plan future products and services. This is where cognitive computing in commerce comes in, and why the Watson Trend app presents such an exciting step in customer engagement. Now, retailers are able to deliver products to consumers at the best prices and at the right time, providing the platform to engineer moments and build customer loyalty on a new level.

In a digital, customer-centric world and along increasingly convoluted journeys to purchase, consumers are seeking instant gratification. To succeed, a company needs to make one commitment: to deliver exceptional experiences to customers, delivering the perfect deal in context and timed to perfection.

In a period of increasing consumer autonomy, cognitive commerce allows companies to gain insight into a vast collection of information and possibilities, to understand what individuals really want, to see patterns, and to make unlikely connections in order to deliver experiences at the right time.

In the retail industry, making full use of this data insight is becoming the key differentiator. Where targeted communications are no longer relevant in a demographic context, personalisation scaled to a customer segment of one serves to be the minimum expectation. By understanding consumers on a new level, we can learn about their behaviour, personalities and emotions, as well as what resonates best in brand messaging. Businesses can design and engineer interactions that establish deeper levels of personalised customer engagement.

Consider a traditional online shopping experience where a shopper is unfamiliar with which product may be best for their needs – a family tent on a camping trip, for example. A platform enhanced with cognitive commerce capabilities allows that consumer to pose questions about the products – not only about the right size of tent, but also by its appropriateness for a certain region/climate – not to mention how easy (or not!) it is to assemble. This equips consumers with the confidence to reach the right product decision – and identify any unexpected product requirements along the way, too.

What’s exciting is how cognitive computing is bringing its capabilities into the hands of the shopping consumer. It can now provide consumers with insight to inform their buying decisions, whilst retailers are presented with the opportunity to engineer perfect moments and step up in creating a base of loyal customers.

Natalie Lamb, IBM UK Director for Commerce

Image source: Shutterstock/Jirsak