Could Artifical Intelligence be the saving grace eCommerce brands have been searching for?

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Not too long ago, it was considered the norm that a busy professional, after a long day’s work, would wander the stores.

They would refer to their handwritten shopping list as they gazed at the overwhelming shelves of products, all the while thinking about the million and one things they had yet to complete before bed. A solution was needed and fast. Step in Artifical Intelligence (AI).

This routine is becoming a distant memory for the early adopters of AI. As it becomes more sophisticated, AI is spearheading a slow death to the schedule we have all been far too familiar with.

 

And why not? After all, People are tired and busy. They want their goods delivered to them with little to no effort and they want it done fast.

Voice intelligence software such as Google Assistant, Cortana and Siri were to introduced to cater to the needs of their owner be it shopping, memo building or even life advice.

Consequently, they have been received with open arms by the masses and now can be found on most desktops, mobile phones, laptops and in even bought as standalone devices.

Some companies have even taken things a step further. Voice shopping using tools like Alexa can order goods on your behalf via the Amazon store as well as other retailers by utilising simple voice commands.

This has completely removed the arduous task of hauling heavy shopping bags home from the ‘to do’ lists of people worldwide.

Furthermore, apps such as Out of Milk, a shopping list app that can generate your entire grocery list by voice command alone. This invention means even the prep work for your weekly shop can now be automated.

This app also allows users to make alterations to their list such changes to quantity and removal of items and just like Alexa, it is impressively all done using just the person’s voice. A win for the AI savvy consumers.

 

It only takes a quick glance around your train carriage during your commute to see the rapid adoption of technology. Most often, everyone is plugged into some form of electronic device.

It’s no surprise then that consumers are becoming increasingly tech-savvy and are using their proficiency to boost their productivity. This has led to unchartered territories being unveiled which present huge opportunities for eTailers to establish themselves in specialised fields.

These have not gone unnoticed. In recent years, tech giants have been churning out cutting-edge advancements in the artificial intelligence sector and at an astounding rate.

 

The approach has largely been to attack fast and heavy to obliterate the market share of their opponents. And who can blame them? The pressure to impress is undoubtedly on and their fears of losing market share not unwarranted.

With tightening budgets, increased competition from the ever-expanding global market and precarious economic conditions, companies need to find ways to remain at the forefront of their customer’s minds to just stay in the game.

Just last year, eMarketer predicted that Amazon Echo would dominate the voice intelligence sector and hold 70.6% of the market with Google Home lagging behind with just 23.8%.

However, according to Strategy Analytics, it seems 2018 has brought more favourable results for Google who shipped 2.4 million Google Home products in the first quarter compared to Amazon’s 4 million Amazon Echo products shipped.

 

Although Google and Amazon are both making significant headway in the voice assistance space, it’s clear the pair will continue to battle it out to become the consumer’s go-to device for voice assistance.

Google has its work cut out for itself as the ball is still very much in Amazon’s park. Google’s partnership with Home Depot and Walmart could be viewed as an acknowledgment of this and an enthusiastic attempt to cawl back market share from Amazon.

It is clear businesses are beginning to realise that innovation is only half of the battle. To thrive in such tumultuous times, companies need to stand out as the undisputed authority in their niche and become more efficient in the process.

 

Some eCommerce brands have turned to AI themselves, to help them reach these goals, using it to deep dive into their customer’s behavioural patterns to establish their wants and needs.

This information is then used to predict the customer’s buying plans, so the company knows what the customer wants before they even know themselves and can prepare their business accordingly.

For instance, North Face, a very popular eCommerce brand in the Fashion space, enlisted the help of IBM’s Watson AI technology to help customers find the perfect jacket.

Watson combines the customer’s real-time data inputs with its own insights such as the location of the client to determine the best jacket option.

 

Delving further into the use of AI in eCommerce, the use of chatbot is also proving to be a popular trend.

eCommerce brands of all sizes are using them to respond to frequently asked questions and troubleshoot issues. This saves them from having to cover labour costs associated with hiring and training employees.

 

But perhaps the best example of AI meeting customer demands and driving efficiency is Amazon’s cashless and checkout-free store, Amazon Go.

From start to finish the entire shopping experience is controlled by highly advanced algorithms and sensors which can detect a myriad of actions such as when an item is added to or removed from a cart and when a customer leaves the store.

The transactions are charged automatically to the customer’s account upon exit, providing a quick, seamless, and relatively stress-free shop.

Despite the initial investment, such technology has the potential to strengthen the bottom line of forward-thinking brands in the long term.

As the reduction in costs experienced by shifting from employee-led to AI-managed customer service is realised by these trailblazing eCommerce brands, we may see its adoption expand into a wider pool of tasks and industries.

 

Some may question, the true benefit of AI aside from scraping a few takes from a person’s plate. Well, the use of AI by businesses is arguably helping both sides of the table.

Customers have a user experience optimised to their tastes and suffer less frustration and overwhelm whilst shopping due to this. Companies also benefit as they can identify, convert and retain their ideal clients with greater accuracy and speed.

This prevents companies from targeting the wrong prospects and avoids the need for any guesswork in product development and marketing, wasting less company resources in the process. This is highlighted by Mintigo, a predictive marketing company that helps companies secure more qualified leads through the use of AI.

The automation aspect AI also provides significant time savings as companies no longer have to sift through large data sets on CMO’s and can now redirect these funds in other projects. Meaning,  companies that are able to harness the time-saving powers of AI can use their funnel their new found time into other projects to fuel their growth.

 

It has long been established that algorithms are able to outperform humans in speed and accuracy.

As they become more sophisticated, stronger capabilities in the analysis of data and prediction of outcomes their use could be a goldmine for businesses that are able to harness the power of AI. Whether this is through collaborations with tech giants or creation of their own AI technology, the opportunities appear fruitful.

In a climate where there is no room for error or building a flaky customer base, embracing technological advancements is no longer optional but rather a necessity. AI might just prove to be the saving grace eCommerce brands need.

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