1800Flowers unwraps IBM Watson-powered mobile gift concierge, signaling AI’s rise
Gifts retailer 1800Flowers, which has recently made waves in artificial intelligence integration, is cementing its stronghold on mobile commerce with an IBM Watson-powered gift concierge that uses cognitive capabilities to tailor product suggestions for shoppers.
The gourmet foods and floral gifts retailer is rolling out the new platform prior to Mother’s Day in a bid to enhance its customer service and provide individuals with a new way to interact with its suite of brands. GWYN, which is an acronym for Gifts When You Need, leverages the Fluid Expert Personal Shopper platform from software company Fluid to intuitively guide shoppers throughout their experience and help them purchase the perfect gift for their occasion.
“Ingrained in 1800Flowers.com, Inc.’s cultural DNA is a willingness – even eagerness – to innovate and embrace new technologies that disrupt the status quo in the gifting industry,” said Jon Mandell, vice president of multi-brand customer marketing for 1800Flowers.com, Inc. “It is what has helped us grow from a single floral shop 40 years ago into the multi-brand gifting leader we are today.
“We see AI as the next wave of technology to assist us in providing our best product – our customer experience,” he said. “We view AI as another tool in our arsenal to provide ease and convenience for our customers to act on their thoughtfulness and deliver smiles to the important people in their lives.”
Personalized shopping at its finest
1800Flowers is the first ecommerce brand in the gifting sector to use IBM Watson’s personal shopper platform, underscoring its desire to be among the first to innovate within AI-powered shopping experiences.
GWYN is accessible for mobile and desktop users, and functions as a gifting concierge that helps guide individuals throughout the product-choosing and purchasing processes by pulling suggestions from 1800Flowers.com, Harry & David, The Popcorn Factory, Cheryl’s cookies, 1800Baskets.com and Fannie May chocolates.
GWYN taps into IBM Watson’s Questions Analysis API to interact with users via natural language. If a customer informs GWYN that he is looking for a gift for his mother, for instance, the AI-powered platform will interpret the inquiry and follow up with a series of qualifying questions – such as type of occasion and sentiment – to ensure the right product suggestion is given.
This allows GWYN to tailor responses to each customer, consequently mimicking the in-store shopping experience by offering personalized feedback and help to each individual.
As consumers continue using GWYN, she will learn more about their needs thanks to her underlying cognitive capabilities, enabling her to refine the shopping experience over time.
To use GWYN, consumers can visit 1800Flowers’ mobile or desktop site and scroll to the bottom of the homepage, where they will see a banner advertising the virtual gift concierge’s services.
Once they click on the banner, 1800Flowers will bring them to a separate page where GWYN introduces herself and informs users that she is still in beta. Individuals may then click the “Let’s Start” button.
This will prompt GWYN to ask for the recipient’s ZIP code, type of residence – such as office building, apartment or school – and the gift’s date of delivery. Once that information has been entered, shoppers must identify who the present is for, and what type of gift they would like to send.
The answers must be typed in manually, although GWYN offers suggestions for each question. For example, if a customer tells her he would like to send flowers to his mother for her birthday, GWYN will ask if she needs to consider a specific type of flower. She will also provide examples below the answer bar, such as “lilies,” “roses” and “not carnations.”
Consumers can skip a question or restart the process at any time.
Once GWYN has received enough feedback, she will display a list of ideal gifts, which can be purchased via 1800Flowers’ mobile or desktop site. The entire experience takes only a few minutes.
AI on the rise
1800Flowers’ use of artificial intelligence foreshadows the inevitable onslaught of marketers that will opt to leverage AI platforms to drive sales and provide additional customization throughout customers’ shopping experiences. It also suggests that more shopping will continue to take place on mobile platforms instead of in-store.
“Mobile shoppers are likely to be reminded or remember to buy a gift for someone while they are on-the-go,” said Neil Patil, president of Fluid Software. “Rather than making a phone call, they’ll now be able to quickly and accurately find the perfect gift using their Web browser to answer a few questions and simultaneously see a ranked, short list of personalized recommendations.
“This experience increases shoppers’ confidence and in return the likelihood to purchase either one or more of the recommended gifts.”
Artificial intelligence is perhaps best-suited to on-the-go mobile platforms. If consumers are shopping for a specific type of item on mobile and need a question answered before they make a purchase, they can consult an AI service in just a few keystrokes instead of having to call a customer service representative and be placed on hold for long periods of time.
1800Flowers has been heavily innovating within the artificial intelligence space, and was among the first brands to reach out directly to Facebook Messenger’s large audience as part of a chatbot push announced several weeks ago at an annual meeting Facebook holds for its developers (see story).
However, it is not the only retailer using IBM Watson’s capabilities to drum up mobile sales.
Bear Naked is bringing a new spin to finding the right granola flavor via a mobile-optimized site that leverages IBM Watson to customize flavor suggestions based on users’ responses, offering the closest match for their tastes (see story).
“Buying a gift for a person is a deeply personal activity and it is very important to find the right gift for the right person at the right time,” 1800Flowers’ Mr. Mandell said. “GWYN helps you do that and pick the one that is perfect from across our entire family of brands.”