The North Face brings AI to ecommerce

Digital personal shopper serves up tailored recommendations

The North Face tool 2Specialty outdoor retailer The North Face is using artificial intelligence to help online customers find the perfect jacket.

The California-based company has launched an online shopping tool that gives product recommendations based on a Q&A with customers. For example, after answering where and when they’ll be using the jacket, shoppers are asked about factors like weather conditions, as well as the colour and material they’d prefer.

The tool uses Expert Personal Shopper (XPS) software, which was developed by digital commerce and software company Fluid. The platform is powered by IBM’s Watson cognitive computing technology.

“[XPS] allows shoppers to have a conversation like they would naturally in a store [with an associate],” said Neil Patil, president of Fluid’s software group. “It has been built so that it can, through a dialogue, help shoppers find the right products specific to their needs and preferences.”

The virtual shopping assistant addresses a big pain point of online shopping: it’s hard for shoppers to find exactly what they’re looking for. Traditional tools such as keyword searches and filters “haven’t really changed in decades… and haven’t given the shopper the ability to express what they want,” said Patil.

“When they don’t find the perfect match, or they find that it’s time consuming or frustrating to find what they want through those traditional tools, they don’t always make the best [buying] decision or perhaps they don’t buy from a certain brand.”

XPS, currently in beta form, has been in a month-long pilot on The North Face’s ecommerce site. According to the company, results have been positive. Customer engagement averaged two minutes in length; the platform had a 60% click-through rate to try product recommendations; and the vast majority of users said they would use it again.

Patil said Fluid is also working with a global skincare products company on implementing XPS on its ecommerce site.

We’re just beginning the path to taking artificial intelligence into retail,” he said.

“Part of why we feel this is such a strong trend is that the paradigm of interaction is changing because of the rise of digital assistants like Siri, Cortana, Amazon Echo and Google Now… The future holds much of more of this personalized conversation.”

Add a comment

You must be to comment.

Brands Articles

Your Marketing newsletters are changing

The Marketing Morning Filter is ending, but other newsletters are set to return

The List: North Strategic’s very big year

Prior to being picked up by MSLGroup, the PR shop brought in 15 new client wins

The biggest stories in Canadian marketing: 2016

A look back at the most read and shared news items from MarketingMag.ca

Media Profile teams with global PR group

PRGN welcomes Toronto agency as first Canadian partner

Stereo+ unveils brand overhaul from Lg2boutique

How to to introduce a 35-year-old chain to younger shoppers

The List: Wattpad’s evolving influence

The first of our selections for the biggest newsmakers of 2016

Sears Canada takes a gamble on groceries

Losses more than double in Q3 report, but food markets set to arrive

Big opportunities await in the new age of CSR (column)

Overwhelmed consumers want to outsource their consciences, but it requires deep trust

Mintel predicts packaging trends for 2017

Research firm says intelligent, experiential packaging will lead consumer experiences