Guest Blogger

Author: Mali Cohen Denzinger, Personali

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is already transforming many industries from the inside out. Retail ecommerce is no different. And, the implications for the technology in the future are just as revolutionary.

As an ecommerce executive, striving to differentiate your business by creating highly curated online shopping experiences is a must. Especially, when you are competing with the feel and convenience of in-store shopping. To do this, AI technology will be able to take on much of the burden that was once carried on your shoulders.

Embrace AI and look forward to the next series of revolutionary applications:

Visual search will replace textual SEO

For the last decade, retailers have fought the SEO battle in order to move up to the top of Google search results. With AI, traditional textual searches online will be swapped for visual searches. This means, instead of typing into Google that you’re looking for “red strappy high heels”, you’ll be able to take a picture of the shoes you saw your friend wearing and automatically find similar options for you to buy online.

What this entails for ecommerce executives is that, instead of focusing countless hours on keyword optimization for SEO, you will need to shift to visual search optimisation. That is how consumers will be searching in the future.  Companies like Neiman Marcus are already beginning to invest heavily in visual search.

Their efforts allow consumers to take pictures of what they want and search for similar products in the Neiman Marcus catalog.

Hire less customer service reps: AI in the form of personal shoppers

AI will soon be commonly utilised to power what we call virtual personal shoppers. Online retailers can leverage AI technology to recommend and curate items a shopper would like, without having to have employees manually dig into the well of shopping behaviour data that exists.

The investment in AI for virtual personal shoppers can be offset not only by increased sales, but also by reducing the recruitment of customer service representatives. Plus, personalisation can significantly improve ROI. AI can be used to tap into data to create personal connections with customers and recommend personalised solutions for them.

…just like a customer service representative would.

Examples of these AI-driven personal shopper experiences include Mona, a personal mobile retail shopping assistant.

Mona’s goal is to create a mobile shopping experience that is similar to an in-store conversation between a customer and a personal shopping assistant. As of now, the technology simplifies mobile search, discovery and purchases; but, eventually, it will be able to do returns and reorders, too.

Another example of a virtual personal shopper powered by AI is IBM’s Watson. Fashion brand, The North Face, utilises this technology to better get to know their customers and offer tailored solutions to each one.

The goal is to help online shoppers find the perfect jacket. How? By asking customers questions using voice input AI technology, such as where and when they will be using the jacket. Watson then scans through over 350 products to find the ones that best fit the situation based on customer input and its own research – for instance, chances of precipitation or harsh weather conditions in the area.

Focus less on making sense of data, and more on campaign optimisation

AI neural network technology, the same technology used in Tesla’s self-driving vehicles, can “recreate” how the brain works. The potential applications are unlimited. And, it will soon be harnessed in ecommerce to take the data received based on ad performance and understand why certain ads work and others don’t.

AI neural networks can learn from experience, recognise patterns and predict trends. They can tell what tactics people responded to in a marketing campaign, and what should be scrapped and re-thought.

This will enable executives to be much more accurate and effective when they design marketing campaigns. And, they’ll no longer have to do the work of figuring out why a certain campaign was or wasn’t effective.

For example, Microsoft used BrainMaker, a neural network software, to maximise returns on a marketing campaign. By using the AI-based technology, they were able to increase direct mailing open rate from 4.9% to 8.2%.

Will AI replace retail executives?

It’s safe to say that with the progress of AI, your job as an ecommerce executive will change. The biggest difference will be on focus areas. Instead of digging into the details of customer data, executives will shift the nature of their work to focus more on overall strategy and expansion.

Don’t ignore the endless possibilities. Embrace AI to continuously improve your customers’ shopping experience while boosting your profits.

Future AI applications will help online businesses automate tasks that are considered low-hanging fruit. The human brain can never rival the speed and scale of AI when it comes to automated tasks. However, where human intuition is still crucial is in making strategic decisions based on the information AI provides you. By leveraging the power of behavioral economics, executives will have more tools at their disposal to make highly informed strategic decisions.

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