Poorly trained salespeople take heart. If you’ve ever had to evade a customer’s question about your merchandise, help is on the way. Red Ant, who won the IBM Watson Challenge, is creating an app, RetailOS, that provides product information on the spot.

A survey showed that out of 1,000 retail workers aged 18–55 plus, 50 percent admitted to lacking product knowledge. Worse yet, 43 percent admitted that they lied to customers at least weekly because they didn’t have a good answer to a question. A few said they hid in the bathroom to avoid an inquisitive customer. Red Ant is stepping in to save the day – and the sales. Sixty-three percent of the respondents thought having a tablet on the sales floor with them to refer to could increase their sales by 10-30 percent. An even larger number, 74 percent, claimed that having mobile technology to depend on would have a positive effect on their morale and productivity.

This writer is among many who declare: “I knew more about the product than the person selling it.” Red Ant strives to correct that by supplying the clerk with product information, local pricing, tech specs, and customer reviews to arm them with accurate ammunition to close the sale. Beyond product information, the Red Ant app, RetailOS, provides information about the customer to help the salesperson direct them to a desirable item. It stores their demographics which indicate buying preferences, shows their actual purchase history, and lets the salesperson know what the customer has on their wish list. The clerk can view the information on a handheld screen or have the information whispered in their ear via text-to-speech through an earpiece.

 

Red Ant Winners

Alex Sbardella, Head of Product; Stephen Keep, Lead Developer; Dan Hartveld, Technical Director, accept a 2014 IBM Watson Mobile Developer Challenge Award from Steve Gold, Vice President, IBM Watson Group (Photo Credit: Visually Attractive, Inc.)

Red Ant combined their RetailOS in store mobility platform with IBM’s Watson to come up with a customized retail helper for beleaguered, undertrained retail sales staff. The company was one of three that won recognition and assistance from IBM to implement their prototype. Steve Gold, VP of the IBM Watson Group said: “Red Ant has discovered an innovative way to apply Watson that can deliver demonstrable business benefits.”

See Alex Sbardella, Head of Product Development, talk about Red Ant’s RetailOS in this video: