The Staples “Easy Button,” with the help of modern-day artificial intelligence software, is poised to soon become the office-supply equivalent of Apple Siri, Google Home, and Amazon Alexa. What does this mean for the average distributor and your ability to leverage this technology?
The “Easy Button” began life as an ad campaign / gimmick promoting the idea of how simple and uncomplicated it is to shop at a Staples store.
Jumping ahead a decade to 2016, the Easy Button entered the world of A.I., teaming up with IBM and their Watson artificial intelligence technology to bring order-placing into the 21st century and propel themselves forward.
So much so that, soon to come, the Easy Button will be more than simply a novelty item. Right now it is being re-designed to be an actual tool to help Staples customers get what they need faster. The primary purpose is for it to act as a facilitator for supply re-ordering.
The product is still in Beta testing, but the basic idea is this: the next-generation Easy Button has voice recognition technology that allows the customer to place an order or ask a question, which is then sent to Staples’ customer service software for fulfillment or response. In other words, the full array of customer service options normally available via a “point-and-click” traditional website (searching for products, placing orders, tracking shipments, etc.) can now all be accomplished via voice.
Benefits for Customers and Staples
The benefit for customers is, of course, reduced time managing commonly re-ordered inventory (like many of the basic office supplies Staples is known for). The A.I. component of the Easy Button means it will remember and learn; for example, it will recall the exact brand and quantity of copy/printer paper you asked for last time and will be able to purchase more when you need it, simply by asking it to “order more paper.”
The benefit for Staples, besides having a new unique technology tied to their brand, is the ability to better utilize their customer service staff, with the new Easy Button carrying the burden of less complicated jobs.
Chris Cancialosi, writing for Forbes, explains:
“Staples taught IBM’s Watson how to handle the top 15-20 most common support tasks for assistants. Internally, Staples is then able to relieve their customer support reps from having to respond to many of those transactional inquiries, freeing them up to provide higher-level support more complex needs and requests.”
In the case of Staples, they are using a physical button to tie in with their branding’s past, but they also offer the same technology in a forthcoming revision of the Staples smartphone app. This is where a broader implication for Distribution Businesses comes in: if similar voice and A.I. technology is successfully implemented in other apps, a new paradigm of e-commerce emerges.
Benefits for Distributors
What does this mean to your company? It means this technology is also available to you. My young and talented tech team are VERY confident they can build it, and they’re chomping at the bit to begin. If you’re interested in participating in the process, let me know. We’re actively looking for candidates for the initial roll-out and beta testing.
You can watch Staples’ official demo/promo video here:
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