- Staples is testing how to let customers use its popular Easy Button tchotchke as a mechanism for placing product orders, obtaining order information and communicating with customer service reps, Internet Retailer reports.
- Staples has been testing how to use the Easy Button to communicate with customer service for some time already, but more recently has tooled it up with new technologies including wireless connectivity, voice language processing and machine learning.
- Staples also is testing chatbots in its mobile applications to manage in-app customer interactions. The office supplies retailer also is developing bots to respond to voice-based requests.
Is this a case of life imitating marketing art? The Easy Button's talents traditionally have been limited to that of a moderately amusing office stress toy, but one can easily imagine the head-slapping "duh" moment that occurred when someone in the organization first came up with this modest leap in logic.
The new Easy Button—assuming Staples moves beyond testing to commercialize this concept on a broader scale—is reminiscent of what Amazon is doing with Alexa in the form of its Echo or Tap products, and what other retailers are beginning to explore in a variety of formats.
Whether you call them bots, artificial intelligence, virtual assistants or something else, they are all representations of how retailers are looking to combine a number of advanced technologies to make the shopping experience as easy as possible for their customers. Staples has been investing more money in new technology recently, and said it now gets more than half its revenue via e-commerce. In addition, 80% of its sales via mobile are business-to-business purchases.
There is much still to be learned about how tools like the Easy Button will perform in the market, and how many different form factors they may ultimately take on, but Staples may be a little bit ahead of some of them. It already has its own device on the market that everyone knows about, and it already has a name for it that can't possibly be improved upon. That was easy.