The Soul of Shopping

by / Wednesday, 15 January 2014 / Published in E-Commerce, Fluid Retail, News, Online Retail / Interactive Merchandising

Despite recent advancements, e-commerce lacks the soul of that quintessential in-store shopping experience. It doesn’t have the same energy you find when you meet a knowledgeable sales associate who builds rapport and draws insights about your needs and preferences based on your conversation. In-store sales associates are able to show you exactly what you need and explain why – even if you don’t know the right questions to ask or exactly what you want when you walk in the store.

By contrast, the current state of online shopping relies on a combination of searches bound by standardized navigation, optimized keywords and limited data sources – all of which are devoid of the energy and emotion that are part of the DNA of in-store shopping.

As consumers, we fall prey to the linear paths to purchase laid out for us online where we game the system as expert “keyword jockeys” hoping we find the products we want without being able to ask the same questions we’d ask a store associate.

Fluid wants to change that. We teamed up with IBM® Watson® to build an expert personal shopping application. IBM’s announcement of the Watson Ecosystem, where Fluid is one of three inaugural partners, is the perfect place for Fluid to do what we do best: re-envision how consumers shop in the digital age, while leveraging what IBM does best: big data analytics and cognitive computing.

Why Watson?

Watson can consume tons of content, which means Fluid can pull sources like product catalogs, training materials, expert advice, user reviews and ratings from various sources, to name a few. Watson also quickly learns from each interaction and question asked so shopping experiences become more personalized and relevant. Shoppers will be able to ask the same question online that they would ask an in-store associate and the unique combination of Fluid and Watson will serve up that rich, relevant content so people can make smart, satisfying purchases.

Imagine the process of buying technical gear, like a tent, online today. You might start your search at your favorite retailer’s site, or like many, end up at a marketplace like Amazon. You would narrow your preferences like size, style and other pre-determined of features using filters. You might also be interested in reviews, lowest price and aggregated ratings. But these filters and preferences cannot be found all in one place or site today. At this point shoppers are probably toggling between multiple tabs, trying to sift through important information or compare features on more than one site. Wouldn’t it be easier to simply explain what you’re looking for by typing in the search engine: “I am taking my family camping in upstate NY in October and I need a tent, what should I consider?” Fluid’s application inspires consumers to ask this same question online and not only find the ideal tent but also unexpected items recommended for a successful family camping trip.

By empowering consumers to shop as they choose, Fluid aims to help retailers foster a more consumer led, non-linear, ubiquitous shopping experience that turns shoppers into buyers.

In other words, we add soul to the online shopping experience.