The COVID-19 outbreak has changed the way people perceive eCommerce. It is now their first choice when it comes to acquiring goods. As picky customers continue to browse through these online shops, the only platforms that offer the best customer experience will retain them and earn profit in the long haul. So, artificial intelligence will assume the role of their knight in a shining armour if they want to deliver a seamless shopping experience.
Retail and eCommerce brands are today utilizing artificial intelligence to bring in better and superior customer engagement. Ultimately, this AI-driven approach lends an intuitive shopping experience to consumers at large and not just the tech-savvy people. The focus is towards – quick, intuitive, and a simple process – a successful checkout.
The global E-commerce sales are projected to touch $4.8 billion by the year 2021, Gartner predicts that around 80% of all customer interactions will be managed by AI technologies (without any human agent) by the year 2020.
Intelligent eCommerce is now a reality
The use of AI in the eCommerce industry is helping predict shopping behaviour based on ‘what’ and ‘when’ of a product. For instance, if an online shopper buys a particular brand of rice every week, then the e-tailer could send a personalized offer to the shopper for the product. Machine Learning recommendations, on the other hand, can help in cross-selling by also suggesting a product that goes well with the rice dishes.
Digital native eCommerce companies are taking the lead leveraging AI to predict trends, optimize warehousing and logistics, set prices, and personalize promotions. Some AI-enabled digital assistants such as Google Duplex tool are developing capabilities like creating grocery lists and even placing online shopping orders for them. IoT solutions such as Amazon Dash Button ease everyday purchases with automated reordering service.
Areas where artificial intelligence is augmenting eCommerce customer experience
This new wave of eCommerce is changing the way brand-customer engagement takes place as brands continue to refine and innovate their digital strategies. E-com is the fastest growing and evolving channel and hence needs a machine not just to derive insights but also provide recommendations on-an ongoing basis. Here’s how AI is disrupting various aspects of customer experience by unifying data, providing insights in real-time, and incorporating critical business contexts.
Customer Service Undergoes a Gigantic Makeover
Undoubtedly, AI’s biggest impact is making customer service automated, swift, and hassle-free. It is now possible for businesses to pre-empt customer expectations by understanding past behaviours and offering quick resolutions to enhance the overall service experience.
Conversational-AI is being used in multiple customer engagement scenarios. They are engineered to simulate human-like interactions and give immediate, personalized responses 24*7. This has reduced the turnaround time and errors in handling customer complaints. Virtual Assistants use Conversational AI to obey commands or answer questions. For instance, Spring was one of the first online retailers to use Facebook Messenger Bot store for offering a personal shopping assistant. It simplifies a shopper’s journey by helping them find what they are looking for. The ingenuity of the assistant is that it does so by engaging them in a casual conversation. Similarly, WhatsApp-Chatbot integration is gaining heat amongst etailers.
Predictive Personalization – Going From One to Zero Clicks
Artificial intelligence is helping businesses emulate experiences that naturally integrate with customer’s everyday lives. Smart predictions and customizations make users feel as if every product or brand experience was tailored just for them.
eCommerce companies/etailers can easily assess the shopper inventories and consumer patterns to forecast and automatically deliver goods. Instant shopping converts any page into a checkout zone, thereby expediting the purchase process for an inspired customer. This is possible as AI enables brands to make shopping a seamless one-click experience with an instant checkout button. AI can then also adapt this checkout preference and turn new customers into loyal ones, irrespective of their devices.
Using Analytics to Discover High-Impact Customer Insights
Optimal customer experience is achievable only if businesses remember their customers and treat them with consideration throughout their shopping journey. The AI-enabled analytics has the power to sift through large datasets containing such minute and complex details to uncover business opportunities — even those which you would’ve not taken seriously otherwise. As a result, you can spend your time prioritizing these insights instead of doing away with this crucial data.
AI-led analytics look for every meaningful data that exists and can predict the likelihood of future behaviours with high-accuracy while simultaneously finding the drivers and inhibitors of the customer experience. It mines a vast amount of data for actionable insights. For example, a leading retail bank uses predictive analytics to visualize high-impact journeys that lead to a decrease in saving account deposits, reduction in the app activity, and so on.
Forecasting Customer Demand — even before the customers
AI could help forecast and automate retailers’ decision making in real-time. By identifying and learning from the patterns from large datasets across different sources — previous transactions, weather forecast, social media trends, online viewing history, facial expression analysis, seasonal patterns, etc. — AI can help companies adjust and have a grip on an ever-evolving market environment. By improving forecasting accuracy, ML and computer vision can help better anticipate consumer expectations while optimizing and automating supplier negotiations.
Better Inventory Management
Efficient inventory management is all about maintaining the optimal stock that can fulfil market demand by neither going understock nor adding to SKU wastage. Though the traditional form of inventory management revolved only around current stock levels, AI-enabled predictive analytics is enabling far better control based on data related to:
- Historical data over consumption
- Projected or anticipated changes in product demands
- Potential supply-related issues such as logistics that could impact inventory levels
Apart from this, AI is also enabling automated warehouse management with the emergence of robots.
AI can be used to decide prices dynamically. This means it reduces the cost to bring in more sales when needed and work the opposite when the demands are high. Intelligent AI-algorithms take care of optimal sales and revenue on their own. Amazon has opened checkout-free physical stores in some US cities which have AI-enabled sensors and cameras. The technology deployed can tell exactly which items a customer has picked from the shelves and will automatically charge them as they walk out of the store using the Amazon Go app.
A New Era For Customer Engagement
The eCommerce industry will be purely driven by exceptional customer experiences. Besides, it will also see a notable rise in shopping recommendations and personalization options.
Do the businesses need to answer how can they make the customer experience the priority with the increasing impact of commerce digitalization? How insights can be used to create extraordinary customer experiences? How can businesses integrate omnichannel customer support and social media customer service?
To ensure smooth sailing in the New Normal, businesses must deliver unmatched customer service backed with technological advances at the same time.
By Imran Saeed, Director, Analytics at Absolutdata