- eCommerce, Fulfillment, Privacy

Using AI to Automate eCommerce Tools

Artificial intelligence is unpacking new ways to transform advanced technology, and eCommerce is one of its biggest beneficiaries.

A few years ago, who would ever have thought that the UK-based Ocado warehouse will be known for anything other than groceries, toys, and flowers?

However, fast forward to today, the company is perhaps the world’s largest online-only supermarket. Their distribution center embraced robotic technology that manned the logistics aspect of their business.

Ocado is but one of the thousands of companies that AI has transformed since its introduction to eCommerce.

In fact, over the years, AI has made it a lot easier for retail businesses to leverage new and existing technologies, thereby optimizing their operating processes.

In the case of Ocado, processed tomatoes and meats are being sorted out by these robots, thereby making it easier and faster to deliver to customers.

This only highlights one in several ways eCommerce giants are using AI to automate their commercial processes.

Little wonder these companies are investing heavily in AI-related technologies.

Ocado committed over £200 million for its automated systems in 2018. Even though such investment flattened the company’s profit for the short term, it appears that they are playing the long-term game.

It is the same trend as most of the other eCommerce giants. Big names like Amazon and Alibaba are heavily invested in AI innovations that will enable them to continue to dominate the industry.

This article will share seven ways eCommerce giants are using AI to automate their commercial tools. 

1. Chatbots

You cannot talk about the impact of AI in eCommerce without talking about chatbots.

Since their introduction, these smart bots have entirely transformed the way online retailers interact with their customers.

You will find them on the landing page of any serious business, and they have been optimized to attend to clients’ inquiries and queries in the most fashionable ways.

Chatbots in eCommerce are being modified to help buyers find products, compare them with their substitutes, and ultimately buy them.

They have become quite popular with eCommerce outfits because they provide wholesome experiences without much human intervention.

A massive plus for eCommerce companies is that customers embrace chatbots, making it easy for companies to obtain crucial data about customers’ behavior.

Felix Liu, the Head of Customer experience at Alibaba, revealed that chatbots had helped his company gather massive consumer data, which has been crucial to improving their inquiry channels.

Chatbots are mostly why these eCommerce giants can offer 24/7 customer services, and considering that they have customers scattered across different time zones, customers must have access to immediate responses. 

2. Supply chain optimization

It’s not only Ocado that has successfully utilized robotics to optimize a portion of its process. Other big names like Amazon have as well.

Amazon had already created a new subsidiary, Amazon robotics, before Ocado even began implementing its robot stuffing system.

This Amazon subsidiary was tasked with developing robotic technologies using AI and machine learning to optimize operations in their fulfillment centers.

At these fulfillment centers, humans and robots work side-by-side to ensure that products are delivered on time, inventory is maximized, and prices remain reasonable.

In their almost 200 fulfillment centers across the globe, you will find robots assisting humans in sorting, picking, and transport items to where they belong.

It has not only made the life of staffers easier by performing the more tedious tasks, but it has also improved the overall efficiency of the supply chain process.

If you have ever visited any of the fulfillment centers of one of the big names in eCommerce, you will find that it is always jam-packed with lots of movements and heavy packages flying around.

These companies are using AI-powered robots to move packages to different fulfillment centers and drive units from where they will be delivered to their next destinations on time. 

3. Personalization and privacy

Before AI, personalization and privacy were often a tradeoff, but AI has managed to bridge the gap.

With the advancement of technology, the conversation about privacy now holds more importance than ever, and customers are wary of brands that cannot guarantee their data safety.

Big eCommerce brands are using artificial intelligence to provide security without abandoning personalization.

For example, if you give Amazon’s Alexa access, it will sync your account with your daily routine and provide a magical experience for as long as you use it.

However, there’s still a lot that could be done here, which underlines the call for AI-powered eCommerce to embrace Blockchain

Blockchain is often regarded as the next solution to technology, and decentralized eCommerce backed by cryptographic value could be the next big thing. 

4. Product recommendations

All the eCommerce giants use product recommendations to identify and subtly segment customers based on their interest groups in using their platform.

This is possible with AI algorithms that run on search engines and capture the product’s footprints that are searched for.

The search engines then generate recommendations for the user’s browser that shows on their dashboard, thereby rapidly displaying reference products.

Although in most cases, this recommendation system does not yet deliver 100% prediction accuracy (at least according to a team of Toronto University Professors), its introduction boosted Amazon’s earnings uniquely since it was integrated into every aspect of its purchasing actions.

These eCommerce giants are still working to better the prediction system, and there’s no telling what it will be capable of in the future.

In the case of Amazon, the same team of professors predicts that with additional data, the system can grow to ship items that customers will need even before they order for them.

5. Voice commerce

Who still makes use of Google searches to compare product features in the course of shopping?

Nowadays, with Alexa and Siri’s likes, online shoppers find it a lot more convenient to search for their favorite products via voice commands.

All they have to do is say, “Alexa, buy me the latest…” and bam, Alexa obeys.

This technology did not emerge from thin air. Like chatbots, voice assistants are powered by AI to allow users to communicate with the web service by only using their voice.

It represents a growing market as a report shows that commercial usage has increased over the years.

Aside from its convenience, it also leverages predictive analysis technology to recommend products that users may be interested in, making it the perfect sales agent. 

6. Combating fake reviews

Fake reviews have always been a thorn in the flesh of eCommerce companies.

Trivial as they may seem for the big-name retailers, reviews play an essential part in a buyer’s decision.

According to Search Engine Land, 88% of customers trust the reviews they see online as much as they trust personal recommendations.

This means that reviews can make or mar any eCommerce business, and more often than not, some brands deploy fake reviews against their competitors.

This has prompted the eCommerce giants to use AI to fight against these fake reviews.

A typical example is Amazon’s machine learning algorithm that it released to battle “crowdturfing.” 

7. Customer retargeting

According to Conversica, 33% of leads are not followed up by marketers

However, eCommerce companies are using AI to close the gap. This is targeted at customers who spend some time on a particular product and suddenly exit without making a purchase.

AI uses this information to make better recommendations for the prospect when next they visit the site.

The bottom line

These eCommerce giants are not resting on their laurels. 

As artificial intelligence is evolving, so is their quest for superior technology and innovations that will keep them on top. 

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