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Staples integrates IBM Watson intelligence into mobile ordering flow

Staples is attempting make mobile commerce easily accessible from any device thanks its integration of IBM’s Watson technology to introduce fast, easy ordering of office supplies from a variety of devices.

The new integration is a part of Staples’ Easy System, a suite of features and programs that makes ordering things from the company as quick and smooth as possible. The new integration with IBM means consumers can make their purchases from Staples even quicker than before and from a variety of places and devices.

“The Staples Easy System brings the ‘on-demand’ world to businesses, allowing customers to order anytime, anywhere, from any device they prefer, including by text message and through the Staples app, which is downloadable on a user’s mobile phone,” said Ryan Bartley, director of mobile and applied innovation at Staples. “The app will be powered by IBM Watson using bots to answer quick questions users may ask, such as ‘I need to return something.’

“The app will also use IBM Watson’s speech-to-text capabilities so that someone can speak their order or question to their phone. Additionally, the Easy System includes the ‘Scan My List’ functionality, which allows customers to scan their lists – by taking a picture with their phone – and generate a order.”

That was easy
The Staples Easy System, named for the brand’s iconic “That was Easy” button, aims to make it possible for consumers to order products from the company whenever and from wherever they want.

Currently, Staples consumers can make purchases through text, email, from the brand’s mobile application, chatbots and through its Easy Button, a device that users can set to auto-order certain items when they are running low by pressing a single button.

Now, with the integration of IBM’s Watson technology, which makes use of artificial intelligence, Staples is able to connect consumers across all the various methods of ordering, making transitioning of that order between the Easy Button, chatbots and the Staples mobile app.

Using Watson, Staples now makes it easier for consumers to order items, track orders, give feedback or ask questions by unifying all of the Staples Easy System platforms into one system.

Staples has also recently added voice recognition to its Easy Button and mobile apps, letting consumers quickly ask the brand vocally for what products they want and having it ordered automatically.

Staples also makes use of chatbots, housed on a number of chat platforms including Facebook Messenger and Slack, to simplify the customer service process. Staples shoppers can ask the chatbot standard questions and get immediate feedback, freeing up the human staff to answer more complicated questions and giving consumers the answers they need immediately.

Omnichannel support
Today’s consumers no longer see silos between the various channels that they interact with brands on. The days where a retailer can have separate strategies when it comes to desktop, mobile and in-store marketing are gone.

To survive in today’s mobile marketplace, it is vital for marketers and brands to unify all of the various channels they send their message out through. Consumers expect the brand experience to be consistent across mobile, desktop, apps, messaging and in-store.

Staples is meeting that challenge head on by making use of IBM’s powerful Watson AI technology to handle bringing all of those various channels together.

For example, earlier this month, Staples adopted Apple Pay for use on the Web after it had seen success using it in-app (see story). Consumers that use Apple Pay in the Staples app expect to be able to use Apple Pay in every part of their interactions with Staples and this feature was designed to communicate that.

Staples is taking a big step forward when it comes to omnichannel commerce, and making it easier for consumers to order from it – whether that is through mobile or messaging.

“Programs like the Easy System, using IBM Watson, AI and bots help our customers place orders and get information as quickly as possible,” Mr. Bartley said. “This frees up our chat and customer service representatives to work on other critical issues.

“Additionally, cognitive capabilities built into the system and powered by a combination of Watson Knowledge Studio and Staples’ own internal personalization APIs will help the Staples Easy System learn more about each businesses’ preferences over time, including their preferred products and quantities. Eventually, the system will be able to make product and services recommendations based on the customer’s current needs.”