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How IBM Watson is helping Indian retail players decode consumers' choices

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With a spurt in players selling products online and offline to woo millennials, and the Indian retail industry scouting for solutions to read consumer behaviour and personalise the shopping experience, IBM’s cognitive AI platform Watson is helping them reach out to the right audience.
Watson gathers insights of the latest trends, fuses all aspects of marketing and combines the elements, thus helping the brands improve profitability and drive efficiency in their businesses.
IBM deputes Watson to analyse data collected through various Internet of Things (IoT) sensors. Watson then gathers insights to predict, improve and track performance of machines and devices and enhance customer experience by providing tailor-made solution to its clients.
“We are now in a phase where, whether it’s marketing or supply chain or commerce, people want to be totally personalised to and with,” General Manager, Watson IoT, Customer Engagement and Education, IBM, Harriet Green told IANS.
“IBM has reshaped its entire portfolio around three major areas — supply chain, marketing and commerce. With the power of Watson, the decision support is not risky,” Green added.
With a market capitalisation of over US $136 billion, IBM, which traditionally has been manufacturing and selling computer hardware and software, has now forayed into areas like artificial intelligence (AI) and cognitive analytics.
It has made a $3-billion investment globally to bring AI capabilities to IoT, with a focus on capturing the Indian IoT market. IBM has doubled its growth in India for Watson IoT in the last one year.
“We just don’t look at the retail but at the whole experience of the channel from the minute you envision and create a product in your mind till you make it and get it out in the market,” Green noted.
According to a recent report in The New York Times, IBM employs 130,000 people in India — which is about one-third of its total workforce and more than its employee base in the US.
According to Business Unit Leader at IBM Watson Customer Engagement (India/South Asia), Nishant Kalra, the retail trends in India differ from other countries.
“India is slightly more complex as the country has online marketplaces like Myntra, Jabong and Flipkart as well as the online presence of the brands themselves,” Kalra told IANS.
“We are doing a lot of transformational work within India to make our clients get a full picture, ability to promise and eventually fulfil that promise. IBM is empowering Indian retailers to convert challenges into opportunities,” he added.
The list of Indian retail clients includes Tata Croma, Aditya Birla Online Fashion (abof), Titan Company and Metro Shoes that are using IBM Watson and Cloud solutions to gauge customers’ behaviour.
With Watson capabilities, IBM creates a 360-degree view of the customer by analysing his/her social behaviour. This enables the retailers make the interactions with consumers more meaningful and personalised.
In India, there is an omni-channel environment where different channels — online and offline — become multi-purpose themselves.
“Consumers are leading this change. Brands are doing retail planning keeping in mind the purchasing behaviour of its customers. People are shopping in different ways. They search for products online, shortlist some and then go to the stores to try and buy them,” Green commented.
For Kalra, Indian customers are tech-savvy and digitally-influenced shoppers, saying that 60 per cent of Indians search for products online before walking into the store.
“India has the fastest-growing middle class where the consumption is maximum. The expansion of services is still happening in Tier II and Tier III cities,” Kalra said.

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