By Sachin Dev DuggalFrom intelligent customer service chatbots to virtual assistants, artificial intelligence (AI) has embedded itself into all aspects of our lives. Of all industries to adopt the use of AI, e-commerce is certainly where its influence may be the most ingrained for consumers. Do you recall searching for a handbag and then seeing recommendations for similar bags, or notifications popping up from a retailer whose page you’ve spent a lot of time on recently?
These features are made possible by AI’s ability to gather and analyse information in real-time, helping brands identify consumer behaviour patterns and ensuring their strategies are dynamic enough to engage users and generate high conversion rates. Unsurprisingly, consumers have become so used to these features that they are accepted as part and parcel of the digital shopping experience, which goes to show how seamless the integration of AI into e-commerce has been.
For retailers looking to elevate their reach there are many powerful ways AI can help drive the future of e-commerce, including:
Personalisation: The more in tune with customer preferences an e-commerce site is, the easier it will be to decrease transaction time and increase customer engagement and conversion rates, even across multiple channels. This can be an invaluable advantage in a fiercely competitive industry, and using AI to personalise the experience to the customer via rapid data analysis helps brands appear deeply attuned to their target market.
The algorithms on e-commerce sites collect and analyse information, history, third-party data, content data and other information to display the most relevant search results to the users. The beauty of AI, however, lies in its ability to go one step further to recommend other products and services for customers to discover based on their interests and browsing habits. This is most noticeable in the ‘you may also like this’ feature common on e-commerce sites.
Retargeting: AI isn’t just useful for active customers. It can also identify customers who have dropped off at any stage of the purchase journey, thus helping brands devise retargeting strategies to bring their product or brand back to the customer’s attention. Think about the phone or email notifications that you have received about ‘something left in your cart’. Sounds familiar?
Some retail players are even using AI to connect the online and offline worlds. Facial recognition is being used to capture customer dwell times and what they’re looking at. If a customer spends a notable amount of time looking at a specific product, that information will be stored for their next visit. As AI continues to develop, we anticipate the addition of special offers on selected products appearing on customer device screens based on their real-world browsing habits.
Visual searches: Visual search technology will revolutionise the shopping experience. Advances in machine learning enable customers to take a photo of an item or a place using a specialised app, which will then try to find the closest match – and more importantly, where and how to get it. Some social media platforms like Snapchat and Instagram connect users directly to the item’s sale page on e-commerce platforms.
Currently, Google Lens reportedly recognises over a billion products and also works with regular image searches. This will be particularly useful for fashion-conscious customers looking to shop a certain kind of outfit, but it also has immense potential for associated industries. For instance, a picture of a popular holiday destination could yield results for local handicrafts or souvenirs.
Sales processes: Smart software development solutions can revolutionise sales by taking over the repetitive tasks of finding and sorting sales leads, monitoring orders and communicating with both existing and prospective customers. Some businesses are even using AI to conduct surveys on customer preferences and identifying high quality leads.
Advanced customer relationship management (CRM) tools inspired by Cogito and CallMiner can handle all those functions simultaneously. This makes the lead generation process much less laborious and frees up valuable headcounts to concentrate on lead conversion or be deployed in other critical areas of business.
Chatbots and virtual assistants: Not everyone wants the shop assistant following them around as they shop, but they want to know that help is instantly available when they need it. That’s exactly what AI-powered chatbots and virtual assistants can do for the world of ecommerce – provide unobtrusive yet dedicated service on demand, which makes them another sales-generating touchpoint.
Companies such as Sephora and H&M are seeing sales boosted by their chatbots, which can conduct customer surveys, offer personalised recommendations (often with images), answer frequently asked questions about products and services, and alert customers to discounts and offers. Some chatbots can even help you place orders and organise your expenses.
Filtering fake reviews: With 97% of consumers reading reviews before deciding to buy something, the influence that reviews have over the decision-making process is obvious. That is why fake or malicious reviews, especially those that affect star ratings, can have a devastating impact on the popularity of a product or service.
A university study found that AI was able to identify fake reviews better than humans. This usually involves analysing the review to detect unusual patterns of text, writing style and formatting. It can then alert a human team to investigate suspicious results. While this algorithm may require time to fine-tune its effectiveness, it will eventually be sophisticated enough to separate the wheat from the chaff.
Cybersecurity: The most obvious use of AI in cybersecurity for e-commerce largely concentrates around transactions and payments. Machine learning can be used to detect irregular buying patterns, such as purchasing from strange devices or buying in abnormally large quantities and sound the alarm in real time to help stop fraud in its tracks.
To conclude, even though the term ‘artificial’ can often imply ‘dehumanised’, in truth, artificial intelligence is here to help businesses offer a more personalised experience for their customers. In the age of rapidly decreasing attention span and an ever-increasing competition in the digital space, it is fair to say that the concept of AI-driven ecommerce success sure is encouraging.
(The writer, Sachin Dev Duggal, is CEO & co-Founder, Builder.ai. Views expressed are that of the writer and not of economictimes.com)