Artificial intelligence (AI) is being applied in security, banking, healthcare, manufacturing, and many other areas. In ecommerce, it’s being used to improve customer experience and increase sales. While it’s still in its nascence, the technology holds huge promise in the sector.
Gartner predicts that up to 85 percent of online consumer interactions will be done through AI technology by 2020. Savvy online retailers are already ahead of the predictions and using AI to boost their businesses.
What does AI mean to online sellers?
Did you know that Pinterest lets you search for products using images? Of course you did, that feature has been available for more than two years now. Using the tool, users are able to select specific items in a photograph and run a search on the platform to reveal matching images.
The convenience of searching for products without having to put it into words is one of the best applications of AI in the consumer space. To online sellers, the easier consumers can find their offerings the more sales they can potentially make.
By definition, artificial intelligence is the ability of a computer program to learn and understand as a human would. Machine learning algorithms are injected into computers giving them the ability to make decisions and act objectively.
This has opened up a whole new field of options for the ecommerce industry. Tasks that were impossible before can now be performed automatically with little to no need for human intervention. More specifically, AI has enabled online retail in such ways as:
- Data acquisition and interpretation
- Better customer experience
- Evolution of search
Easily gather, interpret, and act on consumer data
Boosting your ecommerce sales comes down to how well you know your market and what you do with that which you know. Do you understand your customers’ needs, demands, preferences, and expectations? Unless you really did, you couldn’t make them an offer.
The good news is that this information is available to you through their online behavior and direct interaction with your brand. The challenge, until now, has been how to sift through the mounds of unstructured data to glean the essence of it.
Using AI marketing tools, you can not only gather structured data easily but also analyze it at a much deeper level than you could a few years back. The insights allow you to better anticipate customer needs and in turn you create a more relevant buyer journey and experience.
A rich consumer data repository can also help you with retargeting. Chances are that you’re not able to follow up on all your leads. According to Conversica, sales teams fail to follow up on more than 33 percent of the marketing leads. These are pre-qualified potential buyers and money on the table. AI makes use of your treasure trove of data to not only help you follow up on all potential leads but also show you unrecognized opportunity.
Offer a personalized shopping experience
In a highly competitive industry like ecommerce, personalization is key. It is a step further in improving customer experience.
While it’s hardly the norm in 2019, the explosion of AI could easily lead to sellers learning how to, and incorporating the technology into their processes. According to research done by Boston Consulting, retailers who apply personalization in their websites report a sales increase of between 6 and 10 percent in half or a third of the time taken by others.
Stitch Fix sends customers up to 12 pieces of hand-selected clothing by the company’s stylists. They like to call this service they’re ‘fix’. Using a few bits of information, the company says it’s able to match you with one of their expert stylists who will hand-pick clothing and ship it to you with complete confidence that you’ll like it.
MM.LaFleur is another example of a company that offers a curated shopping experience. Tending to professional women, the company selects the most suitable merchandise and ships it to the customer instead of having them sort through an endless list of options.
This is a great indication of how deep AI can penetrate into the online shopping culture, not to mention how well consumer data can be used to improve user experience. Additionally, AI can improve user engagement urging consumers to explore more inside the store and offering personalized recommendations.
The Echo Look, Amazon’s Alexa-powered hands-free camera helps users pick outfits by voice command, offers reviews, and makes personalized recommendations.
It’s another great example of an AI personal stylist.
Improve product searchability using Visual AI
Visual AI incorporates artificial intelligence into computer vision software for image processing, intelligently extracting useful information from photos.
Although fairly new compared to other AI technologies, such as machine learning and natural language recognition, visual AI has already shown its worth and big retailers like eBay and Amazon have been using it to make shopping more convenient for customers.
You can apply it in your store to make searches easier and more relevant. Instead of entering keywords, the user can easily take a photo of an object they like and use it to find what they need, be it clothing, accessories, utensils, appliances, fittings or furniture.
You can also use it to improve text search by accurately and automatically tagging your product images. This allows you to sell more efficiently both inside your store and on platforms like eBay.
According to research reports, early adopters of visual AI technology can expect to see a 30 percent increase in revenue by 2021. Not too shabby!