In the last decade alone, we’ve witnessed many remarkable advancements in AI technology, from the smartphones we carry to the Internet of Things (IoT) currently being rolled out.
In fact, everywhere we go, we’re now interacting with some form of AI, often without giving it a second thought. When we use the self-service checkouts at supermarkets or self-check-in points inside airports, we’re enabling AI to perform tasks humans would normally carry out.
When it comes to the online world of retail, AI-based technologies have the capacity to transform the way businesses operate by reducing overheads, improving customer experience, and ultimately increasing revenue.
So, let’s dive in and explore 10 ways in which AI is impacting every corner of the eCommerce industry.
1. Customer-centric Search Engines
Let’s face it, none of us want to spend too long scrolling through irrelevant search results or to have to re-enter search phrases. Text-based searches are limited in their capabilities, which can ultimately drive customers away from your site.
Innovations in AI are making it possible to get more accurate search results via a visual search process. Through image or video recognition, AI algorithms can utilize machine learning to identify, organize, and tag elements of a photo or video. This gives every eCommerce business an edge over competitors to dive deeper into finding what their customers actually want.
A good example of this technology is Pinterest’s Chrome extension, where users can highlight an area of a photo and perform a search to find similar looking items.
2. Chatbots That Offer Customer Support
Chatbots and digital assistants can operate 24×7, which removes the need to hire human assistants to provide customer support. They’re also the fastest and more convenient way for customers to get their questions answered instead of using contact forms or emailing support.
AI is capable of natural language processing (NLP), which means customers can verbally communicate with AI. The more we interact with AI, the smarter it becomes. With repetitive interaction, AI can learn more about customers needs and overall consumer behavior on your site to deliver a more personalized experience
Today, AI chatbots are already sophisticated and intuitive enough that it’s hard even to identify whether we’re communicating with a real human assistant or not.
3. Customers Interacting with Virtual Assistants
AI is shaping the future of consumerism as we speak. Many consumers have already adopted AI-based virtual assistants in their homes, such as Alexa, Google Now, and Siri, on their smartphones.
When using Alexa on Amazon’s Echo device, consumers can book a ride on Uber and order a take-out using the JustEat app. Therefore, many eCommerce platforms should prepare to integrate their eCommerce system with virtual assistants and open new possibilities for customers to interact and purchase products.
4. Enhanced Product Recommendations
Providing relevant, personalized product recommendations for your customers can increase conversion rates and improve customer retention.
AI-based product recommendation applications work by harvesting ‘big data’ to deliver more personalized suggestions. Information relating to customers’ purchase history, product searches, and browsing habits can empower AI algorithms to provide relevant recommendations.
5. Managing Inventory More Intelligently
With a rapid increase of customers turning to online shopping, the pressure is surely on for online retailers to maintain adequate stock levels and achieve faster turnaround times.
AI technology can take inventory management to a whole new level by monitoring customer behavior and identifying issues that may arise with suppliers. AI can automate the entire process through machine learning algorithms that will make swift decisions, meaningless overstocked, or understocked products.
Is it possible to predict exactly what will sell in the future? By using AI, sales forecasting is becoming a reality. Knowing more about customer behavior is empowering retailers to ensure sufficient stock levels are maintained and reduce unnecessary expenditure on items that are predicted to have less demand.
6. Combatting Fake Reviews
No online businesses are immune to the damage caused by fake reviews. Research has shown that 86 percent of customers read reviews before making a purchase, yet there’s no way of validating each review’s authenticity.
However, AI appears to be leading the charge in the fight against fake reviews, and various companies
are offering their machine learning services to help spot the signs of disingenuous reviews.
AI can compare reviews of every product across multiple vendors and can learn the typical language of customers. AI bots have the ability to analyze different writing styles and formatting of text but can interpret expressions and tone of voice to identify anomalies. From there, reviews can be flagged for manual inspection or even be automatically removed from the site.
7. Create A More Personalized Experience Across All Devices
It’s every retailer’s dream to provide a smooth, personalized, and engaging shopping experience. Building a rapport with customers is crucial to ensuring they stay loyal to your brand and shop frequently.
As machine learning and AI evolves, eCommerce platforms will find it easier to create a profile of each customer, enabling them to target customers individually and send the right message at the right time.
All of this is made possible by harvesting big data collected from every interaction point – from website visits to mobile app usage.
For example, when a customer browses your store, push notifications could be automatically sent to their phone to alert them of offers or other related products that are likely to be of interest. Even email campaigns can be formulated to target your consumer base’s sub-sections, offering discounts that are tailored to their wants and needs.
8. Enhance Cybersecurity
Securing your online business from hackers, snoopers, accidental data loss, or malware infections is not to be taken lightly. The ramifications of data falling into the wrong hands can result in a loss of trust from customers, damage your brand reputation, and even incur hefty fines from data regulators.
However, maintaining strong cyber defenses is easily attainable, especially with AI-powered solutions.
Many antivirus companies offer what’s known as Next Generation Anti-Virus (NGAV) software, which incorporates AI and machine learning. Such features as behavioral analytics can perform real-time monitoring of computer networks and its users to flag up unusual behavior, indicating an intrusion.
Your website, databases, and entire IT network can also be protected with an AI-empowered firewall, which helps regulate internet traffic flow and even prevent phishing attempts via email or SMS. Again, behavioral analytics can help spot malicious actors from infiltrating your database or prevent them from launching devastating DDoS attacks.
9. Identifying Counterfeit Products
The process of identifying counterfeit products is similar to that of finding fake reviews. It can be almost impossible for customers to tell the difference between genuine and fake products online. However, when machine learning algorithms are deployed, fighting this battle becomes achievable.
New programs are being developed that draw upon data from marketplaces such as eBay or Amazon. The AI can scan user accounts, track their activities, identify items they’re selling, and even whether fake reviews present, which can reveal potential counterfeit goods.
10. Keep Track Of Competitors
Many online businesses are using of AI as an assortment intelligence tool, to monitor their competitors’ price fluctuations and product changes. This information can allow a business to modify their pricing and product visibility to compete in their market.
AI technology is clearly redefining how the entire eCommerce industry operates. The advantages that AI gives in the form of personalized shopping, and maintaining customer relations, means it’s becoming almost compulsory for retailers to adopt some form of AI if they wish to stay competitive.