Gone are the days when people were sceptical about e-commerce, when they were wary of making purchases online. Today, e-commerce exceeds $2 trillion in sales across the globe and is expected to make up 16% of all retail sales by 2021 at $4.479 trillion (source – Emarketer). The sector has grown in leaps and bounds thanks to the convenience it offers and all the technical advancements that have enabled it. So, it’s no surprise that the e-commerce sector is one of the early adopters of AI. So much so, that by 2020, it is expected that 85% of customer interactions will be managed by bots (Source: Business Insider).
Here’s how leading e-commerce businesses are leveraging AI:
Contextualized customer-centric searches: Irrelevant search results often result in customers abandoning their e-commerce experiences. AI tools utilise machine learning and natural language processing to narrow down, contextualise and ultimately improve search results for customers. AI enabled visual search is also gaining popularity – empowering businesses to develop a customer-centric experience through advanced image and video recognition. Images and video are tagged, organized, and used to visually search for similar content. A logo, a product, a style — any visual element can be analysed by AI to personalize recommendations to consumers. Pinterest has used this image recognition software in its most recent update of Chrome extension. Through this, customers can surface images from across the web that look similar to their choice of product.
Personalized customer experience: AI allows e-commerce portals to personalize customer experiences. By rapidly analysing vast amounts of data, these tools can identify patterns –recommend products and offers that are uniquely tailored to each customer. According to a study by Boston Consulting Group (BCG), retailers that have implemented personalization strategies see 6-10% increase in sales, a rate two to three times faster than other retailers. Using AI to personalize customer experience could be a huge value-add to e-commerce firms. A classic example for this is the American beauty retailer Kiehl’s which saw a 11.59% lift in revenue per visit to its website after it combined its visitor segmentation and on-site behaviour to create a targeted personalized experience.
More efficient sales process: Remember how sales functioned in earlier days? Sales people depended on Yellow Pages to cold-call clients or turned up on their doorsteps unannounced with products their customers never had a need for. Thankfully, sales techniques have moved on beyond these time-consuming methods. Consumers too moved on from just print media and Television to social and digital platforms. In order to reach their customers at right time and on the right platform, today, sales teams need the right tools – not just a CRM system but an AI integrated CRM system which is intelligent enough to answer customer queries, solve problems and even identify new opportunities for sales.
With the help of integrated AI tools, Getty Images can identify leads based on the data it captures on which businesses use images from their competition. This information enables Getty’s sales team with the edge it needs to better target prospects and win new businesses.
Retarget potential customers: Huge volumes of data e-commerce generates poses both a challenge as well as opportunity for them. These volumes make it extremely challenging for sales and marketing teams to track potential leads. In fact a study by Conversica. two-thirds of companies fail to effectively follow up on inbound sales leads. E-commerce companies are turning to AI help resolve this problem. AI systems can track consumer micro moments by monitoring the dwell-time both in-store (using facial recognition software) and online and target customers with offers that is most likely to interest them. With these systems, e-commerce companies can respond to the customers cues impulses in real time.
Smarter logistics and warehouse automation: Improving delivery efficiency, decreasing shipping costs and automating warehousing operations are key areas of concerns in the e-commerce sector. Machine learning algorithms are being applied to data to help automate warehouse operations. Large e-commerce players like Amazon, Alibaba, eBay, JD.com and Walmart are increasing using to AI, Machine Learning and Robotics/Automation Technologies. In 2018, JD.com also plans to debut its first unmanned warehouse where AI and robots will be responsible for handling jobs related to parcel sorting, packaging and categorization. These technologies will indeed help improve the speed and efficiency of product sorting and delivery in warehouses, thereby cutting costs and ultimately increasing revenue.
AI will undoubtedly influence the e-commerce sector in a big way. It is being applied across multiple areas including processing customer service inquires, warehousing and delivery, and internal operations. AI will transform the way businesses and customers interact in the future – it will change the way the customers buy, how they buy, where they buy etc.