Oracle has announced the integration of its Oracle Retail solutions with its recently-announced Oracle Digital Assistant to allow employees of retailer organizations to use voice and text to access applications and information from across their enterprises, according to an Oracle press release.
The voice and text-driven digital assistant, which was announced at last month's Oracle OpenWorld 2018, uses artificial intelligence for natural language processing, natural language understanding and machine learning to understand context and intent, and learn user behaviors and patterns to "automate routine tasks proactively on behalf of the user," the company stated.
Oracle said that by integrating its new enterprise assistant technology with Oracle Retail Offer Optimization Cloud Service, users become more productive by speeding up location-specific sales forecasting, promotional deployment and performance, approval automation and target prioritization, according to the press release.
It turns out that virtual assistants aren't just for answering consumers' questions, playing music from their digital content libraries or shopping searches and online orders. They can be used in all kinds of enterprise markets and vertical industries as well — even in the retailer organizations that also happen to benefit the most when consumers use them to shop.
Oracle may seem like a latecomer to the digital assistant game, with Amazon's Alexa, Google Assistant, Apple's Siri and many other types of text-driven, AI-enabled chatbots already well-established at the center of growing ecosystems, and supporting an increasing number of apps. They can be used in a number of domains and contexts, too — home, office, via smart speaker, mobile smartphone and other devices.
However, Oracle's strategy for its assistant technology appears focused on trying to improve how operations and the people in them work, their productivity, and how quickly users in an organization can gain access to valuable data and the insights culled from that data. This could be especially helpful in retail, where Oracle already has established itself as a cloud enabler for retailers with its Retail Cloud Platform, a platform it has continued to augment with new tools like the store inventory tracking service it launched a few months ago.
"Most retailers think about conversational AI in the context of the store or e-commerce, however, retailers can now apply conversational AI to their core operations, via voice or text, to accelerate productivity and optimize processes," Mike Webster, senior vice president and general manager at Oracle Retail, said in the company's announcement.
The world is moving quickly toward voice navigation on several fronts, thanks to AI. As these AI-based assistants become more of a factor in the customer-facing aspects of retail, making it easier for consumers to search and shop, it is also becoming clear that they increasingly could populate the operational side of retail, bringing new meaning to the phrase "conversational commerce."