watsonpixnwqEarlier this year The Semantic Web Blog covered the launch of the IBM Watson Group, a new business unit to create an ecosystem around Watson Cloud-delivered cognitive apps and services. One of the partners announced at that time was Fluid Inc., which is developing a personal shopper for ecommerce that leverages Watson. Today, the Watson Group is pushing that partnership forward by drawing from the $100 million that IBM has earmarked for direct investments in cognitive apps in order to invest in Fluid and in helping deliver what it says will be “the first-ever cognitive assistant for online shoppers into the marketplace.”

At the previous event in January, Fluid CEO Kent Deverell discussed and demonstrated the Expert Personal Shopper, now known as the Fluid Expert Shopper (XPS). Still in development, it takes advantage of Watson’s ability to understand the context of consumers’ questions in natural language, draw upon what it learns from users via its interactions with them, and match that against insights uncovered from huge amounts of data around a product or category – including a brand’s product information, user reviews and online expert publications — to deliver a personalized e-commerce shopping experience via desktops, tablets and smartphones.

The first Fluid XPS prototype is being developed for customer outdoor apparel and equipment retailer, The North Face, which Deverell showcased at the previous event.

At the IBM event in January, Deverell painted a picture of the difference between the experience consumers have with a great sales person vs. traditional ecommerce. Good salespeople, he said, “are personal, proactive conversational,” whereas e-commerce is data-driven. He told the audience at the event that Fluid wants to combine the best of both worlds. “A great sales associate makes you feel good about your purchase,” he said, and he envisions Fluid XPS doing the same through natural conversation, the ability to learn about the users’ needs, “to go as deep as you need to and resurface and provide relevant recommendations.”

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