Intelligence is defined as “the ability to acquire and apply knowledge and skills.” Machines are doing the tasks of visual perception, speech recognition, decision-making, and situational translations now and we call this Artificial Intelligence, or A.I.. The purpose of applied A.I. is generally understood to help humans do what they do by machine-reviewing vast data and turning out decision-making in real time. Where this technology will help us the most is making sense of big data flows, seeing patterns, and helping us through intelligent application of solutions – just what we need, just when we need it.

Who is effectively harnessing the power of A.I. right now?
Retail companies are highly motivated right now to successfully integrate A.I. into the marriage of online with physical retail. On a small scale we’re already using A.I. in our everyday lives with platforms like Siri and Alexa. But how do we skillfully combine A.I. and retail together on a larger scale? The days of endless, dead-end online searchers are becoming a thing of the consumer past. Here we take a look at what’s currently working in the space of A.I., see which spaces seem to hold promise, and think about the implications.

The most powerful success stories with A.I. and retail are in the “personal shopping assistant” category, the concept of which is simple. The customer answers a few questions and A.I. offers them personal suggestions based on their preferences. These companies below are making the personal assistant A.I. category work extremely well and pushing it in different directions to discover where the technology can take them and their customers.


The Northface is using A.I. to give customers, especially new ones, a more intuitive and personal shopper experience. With the use of IBM’s Watson’s natural language, machine learning systems, and its software builder call Fluid, North Face has created the Expert Personal Shopper (XPS) software. The A.I. powered online shopping assistant asks numerous simple context questions about merchandise the customer may be looking for. Using these criteria the A.I. assistant instantly sorts through a huge North Face inventory and changing A.I. data-driven metrics to offer personalized insights and package suggestions for the customer to choose from. The more it is used, the smarter and more personal the process becomes.  This is the basis for many applications.


Pinterest uses LENS BETA to allow consumers to use their phone cameras to identify objects they like, and receive similar objects, ideas, and projects in return based mostly on visual patterns. But the LENS results aren’t just visually similar, these specific results can come from multiple source, some of which are only semantically applicable to the input image.  The result is a “patterning” personal image attraction and beauty that can start to anticipate likes in art, clothing, graphics, and any visual media.  This is moving into the emotive and subjective worlds of color, textures, and interpretation connected back to personalized positive responses.  An A.I. machine can now start to understand the emotional, subjective aspects of retail and mix it with other straight and cold data  patterns.


A former Saks on 5th Avenue executive has founded a new e-commerce purchase-prediction platform called Propulse. This platform goes much further than gathering information on a customer’s past purchases and browsing history to offer solutions based on the customer’s personal tastes, including color, and in-store recommendations with associated and analyzed product images while simultaneously considering 40,000 variables. These end results are personalized, predictive solutions based on look, fit, texture, pattern, pairings, personalized past, and aggregated ethnographic Big Data.


At HARBOR we believe the future belongs to mixing Human Intelligence with Artificial Intelligence. We predict that this will be an era of emotionally-rooted data enabled by compassionate retail and envisioned in our contemporary early stages through personalization. We believe that the Beneficial Intelligence technology of the future, married with the warmth and emotion of community, will enable fluid information exchanges and common understanding. Retail shall be there then as it is now – more open, warmer, and with humans more connected to other humans, art, beauty, and whole experiences built around uber personalization.

We are ready to envision this now. Understand processes, create experiences, design solutions, and build the pieces is what we do. We’re ready. Are you?

Come help us find out how.