IBM Watson Tackles Customer Engagement

The Internet of Things ultimately is about engagement.

The whole point of connecting billions and billions of things to the Internet is to make life easier if not better, dramatically increase efficiencies and, in the end, create better customer engagement models.

After since it gained fame by winning at Jeopardy, IBM’s Watson has been on an extensive learning curve, essentially working to figure out ways to improve customer engagements for brands.

At its annual Amplify 2017 conference in Las Vegas Monday, IBM showcased several major brands that have tapped into Watson for new customer engagement activities.

In the case of the Harry and David brand of 1-800-Flowers, finding the correct gift was the target objective, which led to the creation of a Watson-powered gift concierge that sorts through 7,000 products to find the most appropriate gift.

“As a gift-giving company, we like to engage, to connect,” said Arnie Leap, CIO of

The focus of the three-day event was cognitive and artificial intelligence for customer engagement.

“Cognitive means I have to lean more to the emotional side and the connection piece,” said Leap. “It’s technical in a lot of ways and we sometimes get in the weeds on that. How do we personally connect? It’s that connection point that matters.”

Leap told me that the gift selection process has been dramatically improved, most notably by providing many fewer, but better, recommendations for customers.

Other brands highlighted as using such capabilities were Titan, India’s leading watch maker, Charlotte Russe, the women’s clothing retailer, and Performance Bicycle, the independent bicycle retailer with more than 100 U.S locations.

IBM tends to view Watson as a critical element of its Internet of Things strategy.

“In essence, pretty much everything has become connected, whether it’s a contact lens or a hospital bed, so there is a huge data steam,” said Harriet Green, IBM general manager, Watson Internet of Things. “It’s just connecting people to things and things to people. I don’t think we would have an Internet of Things business without Watson.”

A short video of customer testimonials well stated the move to cognitive engagements, saying basically: “We used to say we should treat our customers the way we would want to be treated. Now, it’s treat our customers the way they want to be treated.”



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