Artificial intelligence is the key to smarter e-commerce
Statista reports that this year, the value of the global e-commerce sector will peak at R52 trillion and will make up 13.7% of all retail sales with two billion digital buyers. The consumer market is becoming increasingly digital and more people are choosing to buy online. The growth of the e-commerce market has opened up the space for an infusion of innovation and cutting-edge technology to improve customer experience (CX). One such technology is artificial intelligence (AI).
It seems that the world is discovering new applications for AI every day. The technology that used to terrify many has proved to be a game changer for data contextualisation, predictive analysis and personalised digital experiences. So what can the tech that keeps on giving deliver to the world of e-commerce?
Impactful customer services
Customer service is a foundational driver of CX in the digital age. Consumers not only expect efficient customer service from their brands, they expect it 24/7 across all channels and they want it to be personalised. This places undue pressure on the human resources in customer service teams and can have costly implications for a business when it comes to payroll. Technology is the only way out.
Chatbots are a brilliant tool for optimising customer service and enhancing a brand’s overall CX. Chatbots use AI to harness vast amounts of data to provide consistently personalised experiences at multiple touchpoints. They can resolve simple support queries faster while easing pressure on your customer service team. Beyond customer service, chatbots can also be used to sell products through engaging online retail experiences such as Nike’s massively successful Nike StyleBot on Facebook Messenger.
The search functionality of an e-commerce site can make or break its customer retention and conversion rate. Frequently, customers have a general idea of what they’re looking for but can be a little unsure, and AI-powered suggestive selling can nudge them a bit closer. Auto-complete and autocorrect can help users who are not familiar with the spelling of specific products or those who aren’t fluent in English.
Pinterest takes it a step further with its visual search functionality for shopping. Its AI, Lens, allows users to zoom into specific elements in pinned photos (for example, a chunky throw in a pinned photo for a winter interior décor idea) and Pinterest will show you where to buy it. You can even click through to the retailer’s online store and buy it in the Pinterest app. Pinterest doesn’t sell any of the products but benefits from offering its users an omnichannel user experience.
Insightful sales forecasting
Predictive modelling is a key component of what makes most AI systems tick. It crawls through data, identifies patterns and makes hyper-calculated guesses based on the latter. What area of e-commerce could benefit more from predictive modelling than sales forecasting? What can often be an inaccurate exercise for many businesses can now be sharpened and perfected through AI.
AI can take the risky guesswork out of sales forecasting and provide you with actionable insights into your business’s sales trends. An AI system can analyse inventory, sales data, geolocation variations and social media sentiment in a fraction of the time it would take a dedicated team of sales forecasters. This has the potential of dramatically streamlining ordering, staffing and timing of promotions. Reliable sales forecasts also have the potential to deepen customer engagement by adding more predictability into your data for hyper-personalised CX.
To innovation and beyond
These are just some of the ways in which artificial intelligence is pushing the limits of e-commerce solutions. Online retailers have already started to experiment with using AI dynamic pricing, automated ad purchasing, fraud risk management and omnicommerce. The future of AI in e-commerce is a fertile ground for innovation and it’s safe to say that any investment in AI-powered e-commerce is a smart bet.