IBM buys Watson-based personal shopper platform XPS from Fluid

XPS uses machine learning and AI to create natural human interactions that mimic the kind of expertise and advice provided by a store sales rep.

IBM said Tuesday that it's acquiring Expert Personal Shopper (XPS), a dialogue-based product-recommendation platform that runs on IBM Watson. The platform was originally developed by digital commerce firm Fluid, which IBM backed via an undisclosed investment in 2014.

XPS uses machine learning and AI to create natural human interactions that mimic the kind of expertise and advice provided by a store sales rep. Ideally, the platform helps consumers cut down on online research time before making a purchase.

The XPS cloud application absorbs brand data, reviews and online content to answer questions on the fly, give product details, and make recommendations. Marketers can also plug into the app to interact with consumers.

With this acquisition, IBM says it wants to expand XPS to any industry that requires a selection process, such as travel, insurance and automotive. The platform will be offered as part of IBM's SaaS portfolio within the IBM Interactive Experience division and several key members of the XPS team are slated become part of IBM iX. In addition, two key XPS accounts, The North Face and 1-800-Flowers, will become IBM clients.

"We look to incorporate the Expert Personal Shopper platform into the customer engagement and commerce solutions that we create for our retail clients," said Paul Papas, global leader of IBM iX, in a statement. "By adding XPS into digital experiences, IBM iX aims to make online discovery simpler, smarter and more personalized for consumers. In addition to retail, we believe, XPS can be leveraged and applied to the digital properties for brands across a variety of industries."

For IBM, the platform acquisition makes a lot of sense, considering how closely the tech giant worked with Fluid over the years as part of its development. Beyond financial support, IBM gave Fluid access to Watson's technology, experts and intellectual property, and was heavily involved in the XPS prototype designed for The North Face brand.

Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.

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