Smart, Social Shopping
Artificial Intelligence is profoundly reshaping society and is without a doubt one of the most significant technological breakthroughs in recent years. When asked to share my vision of a new shopping experience for Macy’s that was seamless and personally engaging I was certain that I wanted to see how to bring AI into the picture. Macy’s and I were in discussion to work together and this work was produced to show my thinking. Additionally, I was directed to create an experience that assisted customers in product discovery and encouraged repeat visits to macys.com. This set me on a path of thinking how best to leverage computing to achieve this goal. The fun part of this assignment was that it was a vision exercise and allowed me to explore what was possible.
My approach was to draw on image recognition, which is AI technology that is quite mature and highly accurate. My research found a success rate in the 90-percentile range. Specifically, my insight and recommendation was to utilize Reverse Image Search. Someone would first identify a product that they are interested in purchasing and then upload a corresponding image to the site. The site’s image recognition engine would in turn process that image and return corresponding product matches from the Macy’s product catalog, simplifying product identification.
Given the ubiquity of smart phones and digital cameras, the consumer is well-positioned to take a photo of an outfit that they like. Imagine a few friends are out for the day. They take photos of each other. How cool would it be if they could upload those to find a look that they want to buy. Of course, it doesn’t have to be a friend. We are surrounded by images all day. Celebrities, fashion influencers and images we find online all inspire us.
The cool part comes when someone is given the option of making those images public. Needless to say, we all love sharing images with others. Social networks prove this point extremely well. What if you had the option of checking a box to allow your uploads to Macy’s to be shared with others, and you could create a feed of not only fashion that inspires you but of your looks that inspire others. Think of it as a cool mix of Instagram and Pinterest taking place within the context of a retailer's site. Add in the features that we’ve come to love from those platforms—follow, like, direct message, etc. plus the ability with AI to identify merchandise and directly purchase those items.
As part of my research I spent some time researching the phenomena of influencers and the power they have through their reach to drive sales. Brands and retailers work directly with influencers these days as an important channel in their sales and marketing. My proposal creates another platform for influencers, both established and up-and-coming ones, to extend their reach. In turn, a site such as Macy’s could leverage their influence to drive sales. In addition to posting on Instagram and other sites, this constituency could increase their exposure by using macys.com and simultaneously drive traffic to the site with their existing base of followers.
My vision is to create a social networks dedicated to fashion. Brands and retailers would certainly play a key role as well by sharing their own images and content. What I think is really cool about this idea is that everyday people, you and I, would work in partnership with brands and retailers to inspire other’s to find and purchase the products they love. In turn, our purchases would be driven by people that we can easily identify with. Finally, by allowing customers to generate content they become invested and the challenge of driving repeat visits/traffic is accounted for.