Macy’s Aims To Pre-empt Users’ Mobile Queries With AI Response

Macy’s is testing its new ‘On Call’ platform in 10 U.S. stores, its latest effort to spike sales by bridging online and offline. But will it be enough?

Following lagging sales in Q2, Macy’s is attempting to think outside the box with its latest effort to bridge the online and offline shopping worlds: Macy’s On Call, currently being tested in 10 U.S. stores, will use AI to help improve the customer shopping experience.

Macy’s partnered with IBM and engagement platform Satisfi to power the initiative, U.S. News & World Report stated.

How does the technology work? Shoppers can interact with the platform via mobile at to request relevant information, such as “where are women’s swimsuits?” or to search for a particular product — something that can be problematic and time consuming in a department store as large as Macy’s. As for the AI component, the program will reportedly adjust as it gets to “know” each store and each search.

As part of the pilot, Macy’s is also incorporating a Spanish language feature to better serve a broader customer base in select stores.

Mobile And More

Macy’s news release states that the chain understands that “consumers increasingly prefer mobile platforms.”

The rise of mobile consumers — and the pattern of bringing a device in-store as a shopping companion — has been well documented. But what many “traditional” retailers have struggled with is making mobile a native and seamless part of the shopping experience, now matter where a customer may be.

In other words, it’s not enough to simply send out mobile alerts or post a few tweets promoting a sale. What Macy’s has struggled with — and hopes On Call can address — is the need to reach consumers where they are in a way that gives them information on mobile that they are already looking for. For example, most shoppers who use their devices in-store are searching for product information/location and price comparisons. If On Call can pre-empt this need by providing “smarter” location information, the hope is that customers will increasingly choose to shop Macy’s, both online and in traditional stores.

But if the initiative succeeds, will it be enough to create a “true” omnichannel experience that captures customer attention?

Quite likely not: We’ve written at length about the potential need for traditional brick-and-mortar retailers to shrink their footprint and to truly level the playing field between online and offline properties. But it certainly looks like a step in the right direction. And Macy’s has stated that On Call is just one of many digital initiatives aimed at appealing to mobile shoppers.

“At Macy’s, we remain focused on identifying, testing and supporting new ideas and approaches that will help elevate service to our customers through technology. With an eye towards innovation, we are moving fast to test and scale up pilot programs that help enhance their experience with us,” said Peter Sachse, Macy’s Chief Growth Officer, said in a statement. “This program, in partnership with Satisfi and leveraging the power of IBM Watson, will help us explore new ways to engage one-on-one with customers in-store, providing them another level of service right at their fingertips.”

About The Author
Lauryn Chamberlain Lauryn Chamberlain @laurynchamberla

Lauryn Chamberlain is the Associate Editor of A New York City based journalist, she specializes in stories related to retail, dining, hospitality, and travel.