Furnishings retailer West Elm taps AI technology

US furnishings retailer West Elm has introduced an online tool that uses artificial intelligence to help customers turn their style inspirations into products they can buy at the brand’s stores and online.

Its West Elm Pinterest Style Finder is an extension of the brand’s design consultation program Style + Service, which offers customers design, installation and registry services at its stores. The finder uses image-recognition technology to analyse Pinterest boards to determine a user’s personal preferences.

“Our free design consultations often start with customers sharing their Pinterest board to best illustrate their vision in terms of colours and style,” says West Elm VP of innovation Luke Chatelain. “Pinterest boards are an efficient tool to quickly get us on the same page, and understand what inspires our customers visually.

“Our goal was to automate the process and provide our customers with a seamless experience when seeking design guidance, as well as to streamline the process of searching for home products that best express their personal style.”

West Elm’s finder is powered by Clarifai’s image and video recognition technology. “The style finder is not a typical recommendation engine, as it does not rely on a user’s buying or browsing history,” says Clarifai founder/CEO Matt Zeiler.

“As personal style can change over time, the tool recognises some categorisation of a customer’s preference and can start learning a style from a single photograph. It can develop a real sense of a customer’s style in a matter of seconds.”

The tool uses Pinterest board images to define a user’s style and colour preferences. then filters products from West Elm’s online catalogue of nearly 5000 items. It suggests three options from each product category, including furniture, rugs, curtains, mirrors and decorative accessories.

Headquartered in Brooklyn, New York, since 2002, West Elm has 100 retail stores in four countries, plus franchise outlets in the Philippines .

Clarifai is an artificial intelligence company founded by Matthew Zeiler, an expert in machine learning, in New York City in 2013. Its clients include Buzzfeed, Trivago, 500PX and StyleMePretty.

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