The IBM Acquisition of Our Expert Personal Shopper Division

by / Tuesday, 01 November 2016 / Published in Blog, Conversational Commerce, E-Commerce, Latest posts
By Kent Deverell, CEO, Fluid

Three years ago we took a deep look at the future of ecommerce and made the decision to explore the potential of artificial intelligence in retail–mainly because brands and retailers had not yet cracked the code on what is now known as “conversational commerce.” Although ecommerce continued to grow exponentially, companies hadn’t changed much about the actual online shopping experience for decades, leaving shoppers at the mercy of traditional navigation trees, keyword searches and filtering to find the right product for them.   

When the IBM Watson team invited us to be an original member of their new partner ecosystem, the challenge was deceptively simple: how could we solve this problem?

How could artificial intelligence and cognitive computing help consumers better find the right products to meet their needs?

And so, with that as our direction, we went to work.

Understanding that Watson and other AI technologies could mimic human thinking and decision making, we focused on where the most human retail experience was–and that was in a physical store. We knew that shoppers in-store could receive expert assistance in discovering products for their specific needs, which was much more labor-intensive when the shopping happened online.  

Working with The North Face, we conducted in-store shopper studies, shadowed store associates and tested some initial digital concepts. We found that shoppers really wanted to be helped and that they need help to understand the differences, nuances and attributes among products to make the best choice. In order to truly personalize a shopping experience we needed to bring that in-store, expert conversation online.

We built Fluid XPS (Expert Personal Shopper), a dialog-driven product recommendation system powered by IBM Watson. The result is a two-way, real time conversation where shoppers can express their needs in their own words and get expert help and recommendations that best fit those needs.

We are proud that The North Face was our first partner for Fluid XPS, and the industry’s first brand to bring this level of personalization to their customers.


Today, with this technology expanding across The North Face product line and being used in ever more sophisticated ways at 1-800-Flowers, we realize the significant and broad market applicability for Fluid XPS. It made sense for IBM to acquire the technology so it can be enhanced and deepened and taken to the next level for brands around the globe.

We see this as a strong validation of our vision–which is to listen to consumers, find new and innovative ways to meet their needs and to take risks with new customer experiences and technology. We believe this is what the agencies of tomorrow will look like–uniting technology, vision and execution to deliver real world solutions for retailers and brands.

At Fluid, we’ve been innovating in ecommerce for 18 years and look forward to keeping pace with the next generation of consumers.

SEE ALSO: How Conversational Is Your Commerce?