Staples hopes that its new software systems will allow business customers to order supplies with the touch of a button — then automatically identify recommendations for future purchases.
B2B E-Commerce World reports that the office supply giant's Staples Business Advantage website relies on machine learning, including artificial intelligence through IBM's Watson, along with custom algorithms to anticipate preferences for B2B customers.
Staples' Easy System, which debuted early last year, allows businesses to order products via an online app or an actual, Wi-Fi-enabled red "easy button" from the chain's ad campaigns.
Customers that interact with the system are either assisted by Watson interactive software or, if a request is too complex, by a human operator. Staples officials, however, said that the software would gradually improve its understanding and be able to accommodate more and more customer requests in the future.
Algorithms, meanwhile, help the system anticipate demands from individual businesses and make appropriate recommendations for new orders.
The changes come as Amazon and other online sellers look to capitalize on the B2B market.
“Machine learning-driven engagement across our channels is a top priority,” Staples' Zubair Murtaza told the website.
The system is also designed to help Staples internally by giving data regarding customer preferences to customer service and sales staff — who could then make their own recommendations with help from the same algorithms.
“We have always been investing in how we use machine learning to become more personalized and target the customer,” Murtaza added.