The Future of Ecommerce: How Artificial Intelligence is Changing the Way We Shop

Marketing Strategy

This is a guest post from Enlightened Digital.Thanks to today’s technology, many consumers have begun to prefer shopping online to shopping in-person. In a matter of minutes, consumers can spot a “must-have” item, find it online and make a purchase. Artificial intelligence (AI)  is transforming the way consumers shop online and will likely reshape habits throughout the purchasing process. From product discovery to placing an order, AI has become an integral part of moving customers through the purchasing funnel.Consumers drive demand for automated features when shopping online. This makes it necessary for ecommerce businesses to integrate AI into their e-tailing operations. Today’s consumers expect a seamless experience across all sales channels, from the time they start searching, through purchasing a product, all the way to returns. Retail businesses utilize AI to personalize the customer journey. AI-driven ecommerce transactions enhance the entire experience for both buyer and seller.AI has become part of the entire shopping experience, but this is only the beginning. In fact, Gartner predicts that 85 percent of interactions between customers and retailers will occur “without [customers] interacting with a human” by 2020. As online shopping becomes increasingly streamlined, the technology powering our decisions often goes unnoticed. AI is making waves in almost every step of the online shopping process.

Product discovery

AI has found its way into the earliest stages of the customer purchasing process. With AI technology, consumers now have the power to spot an item on the street, scan it into their mobile device and instantly be directed to its ecommerce page. For example, Pinterest’s newly-released feature called Pinterest Lens brings AI to the forefront of new product discovery. Lens uses computer vision to help users identify, buy or create things they see online or in the physical world. Users can photograph a meal at a restaurant or snap a clothing item they see on TV. The app will find them pins with recipes or links to buy the item online. Ecommerce sites also integrate AI into their marketing techniques to recommend products to customers. When viewing a shopping page, it’s common to see sections like “Customers Who Bought This Also Bought.” The deep learning capabilities of AI can collect data on customers’ previous purchases, returns and other buying habits. It can also suggest similar goods based on these preferences. This method is fast and easy. It allows customers to find items of interest without spending time and effort searching for them. More importantly to e-tailers, the suggestions are relevant because AI intelligently identifies what the individual wants. The advantages of personalized recommendations are why 70% of internet users prefer content that’s personalized to them, and why nearly half of all shoppers spend more when offered a personalized customer experience. Personalized content encourages customer loyalty and optimizes the experience for consumers.

Product research

AI-powered chatbots can guide the research phase of the customer purchasing process, acting as virtual assistants for online consumers. Chatbots, which are designed to simulate conversation with human users over the internet, can actively take on some of the responsibilities of running an ecommerce site, especially when it comes to customer service. When online shoppers have an inquiry concerning product details or shipping information, for example, chatbots can provide an instantaneous response. The top two channels for product research are online reviews and company websites, so it’s no surprise that chatbots are ideal for gathering pre-purchase information. Chatbots are available 24/7 and can emulate a typical human salesperson or customer support representative.Chatbots are today’s customer care executives. They satisfy the queries of each individual customer to the best of their abilities while saving time for both customers and vendors.

Making the Purchase

The power of voice technology has rapidly infiltrated many consumer markets, and ecommerce is no exception. eMarketer predicts that 57 million US adults will use a smart speaker such as Amazon’s Echo or Google Home at least once a month this year. Furthermore, consumers spending via voice assistants is predicted to jump to $40 billion by 2022, suggesting that this new channel could be a major disruptive force in retail. Smart speakers have become an essential tool in households worldwide and have provided one of the most seamless methods of online shopping. Companies including 1-800-FLOWERS and Domino’s have already partnered with Amazon to allow consumers to order goods through their Alexas.Ecommerce sites that allow users to shop through voice-enabled features provide a new level of convenience to consumers. This provides consumers with opportunities to order essential or last-minute goods with as little effort as possible. It’s no wonder so many people expect voice technology to change purchasing habits in the future. Household items can be ordered in an instant thanks to voice-enabled ordering.

A Personal Touch

Though artificial, AI can create some of the most personal connections between consumers and e-commerce retailers. Artificial intelligence makes it possible for customers to move quickly and efficiently from one stage of the sales funnel to the next. It’s becoming an essential part of online shopping today. With AI technology only expected to expand in the coming years, it will be interesting to observe how it changes the habits of today’s consumer.