Watson And The Future Of Marketing
by Chuck Densinger and Mason Thelen
We all know that IBM’s Watson computer plays an awesome game of “Jeopardy.” But the technology behind Watson could soon help retailers increase both sales and customer satisfaction.
By competing against humans at the highest levels, IBM’s Watson is something completely new — a computing system that can analyze human language and answer complex questions extremely fast. On “Jeopardy,” Watson correctly responded to the kind of complex clues that the show is famous for. An example, from a “Jeopardy” category called “Dialing for Dialects”:
Host Alex Trebek: While Maltese borrows many words from Italian, it developed from a dialect of this Semitic language.
Watson: What is Arabic? [Correct]
Watson represents a tremendous breakthrough in the ability of computers to understand natural language — which humans use to capture and communicate knowledge — as opposed to specially designed or encoded language just for computers. It can evaluate the equivalent of hundreds of millions of pages of material — books, reports, articles and so on — in three seconds or less. It is not stymied by intricate wordplay.
This kind of amazing question-answering capability could help retailers solve one of their most difficult customer service problems, which we call the perpetual stranger dilemma. Today, the typical large retailer has many thousands of loyal customers who regularly patronize the store, Web site, mobile application or catalog, spending lots of money. But still, they’re strangers. By this we mean the retailer doesn’t really know these customers or even have a basic understanding of their individual needs, tastes or what they might want to buy next.
Chuck Densinger helps lead the Advanced Customer Analytics practice in IBM’s Global Business
Mason Thelen helps lead the Advanced Customer Analytics practice in IBM’s Global Business Services unit