Staples Turns To Machine Learning For B2B Sales


Staples Business Advantage, the B2B eCommerce unit of the office supplies company, is ramping up its attention to machine learning in an effort to boost performance.

Reports this week said Staples is tapping into machine learning to more quickly engage with potential business buyers and linking sales representatives to those prospects. Staples Business Advantage is exploring machine learning and artificial intelligence to aggregate information about corporate buyers’ preferences and predict their shopping needs.

Zubair Murtaza, vice president of eCommerce product management and customer experience, told B2B E-Commerce World that Staples already has these technologies in place and is developing these use cases.

“We have things that are very machine learning-intensive, such as self-service on the website, triggers for savings and tools for reps powered by the same algorithms used on the website,” the executive said. “The new frontier features bot-driven artificial intelligence with IBM’s Watson.”

The result is an interface for corporate buyers to more seamlessly procure what they need. Staples is also using IBM’s Watson in conjunction with its own internal personalization APIs to be able to assess buyers’ habits over time and to predict their order preferences and quantiles.

Already, Staples has integrated this technology into its Easy Button, allowing shoppers to speak into the button and have a bot identify what that customer needs. That bot learns based on continuing conversations with customers, according to Murtaza, and over time can improve its responses.

“We have always been investing in how we use machine learning to become more personalized and target the customer,” Murtaza told the outlet. He added that machine learning is now a “dominant part” of Staples’ eCommerce strategy. “Machine learning-driven engagement across our channels is a top priority.”