As more and more people turn to shopping online than in traditional retail, it is increasingly becoming imperative to build intelligence or AI into an eCommerce website for various reasons such as customer engagement, fraud detection, retention or to increase conversions.
We wanted to bring our eCommerce entrepreneur readers more insights about how Artificial Intelligence can be used for a better customer shopping experience. And so we asked 6 experts on the most effective use of AI in eCommerce websites.
#1 Align a merchant’s offerings with a consumer’s needs
The psychology of selling is about aligning a merchant’s offerings with a consumer’s needs and reducing the risks and obstacles to purchase. The more time a consumer invests with a product and its attributes — the more likely they are to purchase.
Web sites try to achieve this by providing product details, reviews/testimonials, incentives and FAQs. This requires significant self-service engagement on the part o the consumer. Many online merchants have implemented forms of “conversational commerce” with live-chat services to hasten this process, but this has proven to be expensive because it requires a real human for every conversation.
Today, we have technologies that can automate significant parts of “conversation commerce” via natural language processing, a branch of AI that enables a machine/computer to understand human input, coupled with deep learning algorithms that can enable a machine/computer to appropriately respond to human input. This allows a consumer to focus on the few key risks to purchase instead of pouring over pages and pages of static content.
The dynamic nature of these interactions also trigger a human response in reciprocity – where we feel compelled to respond positively if our needs are being addressed. The end-result is a more personalized and successful commerce experience. Moreover, these interactions create a rich data pool for both machines and humans to learn and highlight points of friction (e.g. question of shipping weight, that cannot be answered — impeding the purchase process) which can be corrected to improve success rates.
Additionally, eCommerce sites can drive consumers to engage in a CHATBOT experience, on top of popular social messaging applications like Facebook Messenger or WeChat, so that the company can re-engage the consumer, to survey their purchase experience and even engage in future commerce. These AI technologies will fundamentally change the way we engage in online commerce.
#2 Communication of customers using different languages
One of the most promising AI technology for eCommerce websites is the introduction of shopping bots as virtual personal assistants.
They would be able to communicate with customers using different languages and – enhanced by Natural Language Processing engines – to interact through different channels, such as written text via chat or email, audio/voice or even video conferencing.
It implies scalability, as software agents could manage, in a personal tailored manner, thousands of users who would decide to access simultaneously a virtual store.
Last but not least, AI can process a wide amount of data (i.e. stored in the company CRM or derived from big-data driven predictions on customers habits) and use it to involve and guide users efficiently in many processes, from marketing notifications to buy or to get post-selling services; for instance helping users to browse a website, to find goods from a real-time picture, to figure out the best fit characteristics of a product, to decide on a purchase by comparing prices, and so on.
#3 eCommerce need more ‘humans’ than machines
Today the AI is becoming fashionable, the car, the refrigerator, the house, .. but an e-commerce? The e-commerce of today, the visitor or potential customer is crying out for someone, human or AI, on the other side to help him buy the necessary product 24 hours a day, but a human comes out very expensive then that open door, cheap, that is the AI.
An AI does not complain, does not sleep, does not get sick, and we can “fight” him 24 hours a day. An AI in an e-commerce will help us, according to its programming, to make that qualitative leap that eCommerce needs. Today’s eCommerce is cold, bland, we need eCommerce to be more “human”, active, able to interact with the store and that function is made by AI.
The AI technology gives businesses a competitive edge and is available to developers or businesses of any size or budget.
Leveraging machine learning, the AI software automatically tags, organises and visually searches content by labelling features of the image or video.
As well as finding matching products, AI is enabling shoppers to discover complementary products whether it is size, colour, shape, fabric or even brand. The visual capabilities of such software are truly outstanding. By first obtaining visual cues from the uploaded imagery, the software can successfully assist the customer in finding the product they desire.
Many e-commerce retailers are already becoming more sophisticated with their AI capabilities in capturing attention, and one approach widely developing is known as ‘conversational commerce’. In the eCommerce world, this is the confluence of visual, vocal, written and predictive capabilities.
Consumer needs are rapidly evolving to the point that retailers struggle to keep up. If brands wish to survive then this is one of the priority business strategies that must be executed. The use of artificial intelligence through the application of ‘chatbots’ is just one way to drive the conversation in this next era of conversational commerce.
AI is already boldly walking and talking among us and in the age of Facebook, Twitter , … and the rapidly decreasing attention spans of the digital age, there is evidence to suggest that new AI-driven platforms will be essential to eCommerce success.
#4 Improve this algorithm for better recommendation and fraud detection
AI, Predictive machine-learning – Automated product exposure
This is a challenging concept for many retailers; the in-store visual merchandiser employs artistic flair with a degree in science, and some organisations are ordained with demi-god status.
However, with the infinite possibilities online brings, conventional wisdom breaks down. The only way to deal with the mammoth task and heavy lifting is through machine learning, described variously as giving “computers the ability to learn without being explicitly programmed [rules]”, “producing reliable, repeatable decisions and results” and able to uncover “hidden insights”.
AI is not science fiction anymore. What we will see in future will be the most expected of outcomes. E-commerce companies have come up with best recommendation of products based on customer preferences and search history. What they could do is to improve this algorithm for better recommendation and fraud detection.
A Chabot or a virtual personal shopping consultant on a retail website could ask customer color or design preferences so as to filter out the best possible advice. An image recognition algorithm that identifies images of products sent by people which they might have seen anywhere and clicked via their phone.
#5 Look out for the gaps that can be automated
There is a huge scope of AI in an eCommerce website. Some of the complex tasks can be easily solved by AI and Machine learning (ML) such as product recommendation, payment fraud detection, customer support, moderating product images etc.
I think integrating AI in an eCommerce website depends on two things – data complexity and work complexity. When both the work and data complexity is high, involves unstructured data and requires judgment it becomes essential to integrate AI. For example designing a recommendation engine for the website based on many attributes such customer preference, feedback, latest trends.
AI technology is still nascent and not widely adopted due to high cost, the requirement of enormous amount of data and existing legacy infrastructure. Thus businesses looking to integrate AI in their eCommerce website should start with minor augmentations. Look out for gaps in the systems which can be automated.
They can start with automating their customer support using intelligent chatbots. Next, they can integrated machine learning based product recommendation engine for customer satisfaction. They can use cognitive services platforms such as IBM Watson and Google Cognitive services. Recently we (at Maruti Techlabs) have integrated Google Vision API in our client’s eCommerce website to analyse product images and moderate offensive content.
#6 Feed the system with all interactions in a unified way
First of all, AI is not about sprinkling some cool features on your existing site. If you really would like to benefit from having AI in your eCommerce platform, you often need to rethink the entire data structure and how you are doing online merchandising. AI can be integrated, but for it to be really successful, you need to feed the system with all interactions in a unified system and then be ready to hand over the control to the AI-solution, letting it do the heavy lifting by serving the visitor a relevant experience.