Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock, you’ve heard of Artificial Intelligence (AI).
Yes, it might conjure up images of sci-fi landscapes and malfunctioning metal robots, but it’s actually much more nuanced than that – and ten times more sophisticated than the AI described in science fiction stories. But what can it possibly mean for eCommerce, one of the most human things in the world?
To put it simply, it means easier processes for both parties. On one side, AI will help shoppers find the best deals and receive speedy, stellar customer service. And, on the other side, it means brands will be able to analyze huge quantities of data and save money. It’s win-win, right?
According to a study by Gartner, 85% of customer interactions will be handled without a human by 2020. Even sooner than that, it’s expected that by the end of 2018, customer faces and voices will be recognizable to digital assistants. Sounds exciting?
It is, and big guns like Google and Microsoft are only too happy to throw their money at this new technology. Already, these giants have invested into AI initiatives, with Google purchasing AI startup DeepMind for GBP 400m. The technology focuses on analyzing algorithms and implementing machine learning for positive causes and is just one of the many, many acquisitions that shows AI is around for the long haul.
So what can you look forward to as an online digital seller? What will the emergence of AI mean for you and your business?
How AI Will Impact Online Stores
1. Chatbots to Take Over Customer Service
In an increasingly digital world, people want things and they want things now. With improved technology, no one needs to wait around for anything anymore, which is why the notion of chatbots is so successful. These digital customer service reps definitely don’t emulate speaking to a real human, but they allow consumers the chance to get answers fast and to get in touch with a company quickly on a one-to-one basis. In fact, since their emergence, chatbots have received a metaphorical standing ovation.
Have you noticed the influx of message boxes on websites?
You’re browsing a site and then, bam! In the bottom left corner a chatbox pops up and a faceless name asks “is there anything I can help you with?” This is a prime example of chatbots in action, but it gets better.
Facebook Messenger’s big redo in 2016 saw it bring chatbots to the masses. Through the channel’s popular messaging system, brands can connect with their audience via automated messages. It might seem daunting, the idea that “robots” are taking over front-of-house, but consumers are ready.
In fact, 48% of shoppers would rather connect via live chat than any other means of contact and, if that wasn’t clear enough, 40% don’t care whether a chatbot or a human helps them, as long as they’re getting the help they need.
Take Trim, a fintech startup, as an example. They’ve recently launched a super-simple chatbot on Facebook Messenger that lets users scan their bills for recurring subscription charges, cancel any redundant ones, and even renegotiate monthly bills. To interact, users simply have to message them saying “cancel gym” or “cancel Dropbox”, and Trim does the rest, taking a cut of the money saved.
2. Personalization to Power Sales
And because the world is becoming increasingly digital, consumers are craving individual stories. They want personal recommendations, like the good old days of traditional word-of-mouth marketing (which, by the way, is still one of the most successful forms of marketing, even in its digital form).
AI can easily recreate this to deliver personal messages and content to each and every user. Think Netflix, and its personalized recommendations to subscribers based on their previous streaming habits. This is one of the biggest examples at the moment, but there are plenty of other digital brands taking the initiative and using past behaviors to fuel future marketing.
Take Getty Images, for example. They use a new AI technology to identify potential clients through websites featuring images from their competitors. The sales team can then better target prospects based on the types of images they’ve used before, and can scale the results to the sales team across millions of potential customer records.
Source: Microsoft Enterprise
3. Customer Relationship Management
The most amazing things about AI are how it can learn from its mistakes and its incredible predictive nature. In the past, brands would have to gather huge amounts of data and pass it across to a data analyst to whack into a spreadsheet and tackle by hand.
It could take weeks, months, or even years to create conclusions from the data provided, but with AI it can take a matter of minutes. Literally. You no longer need an Excel monkey to hack away at the data. Instead, all you need is AI that is programmed to consume, sift through, and spit out information about who is likely to buy from you, what exactly they’re going to buy, and how you can engage with them to boost conversions and sales.
4. Ease the Pain of the Payment Process
For many eCommerce sites, cart abandonment is at an all-time high. People pack their trolleys full of goodies and then disappear into the night with no explanation. According to one report, 26% of cart abandons are fuelled by a lack of security.
Makes sense, right?
Consumers don’t want to risk losing their hard-earned cash. Not even the most amazing product in the world is worth the risk. But with AI, security is about to get a whole lot tighter. Predictions show that in the next few years AI will increasingly provide prevention against fraud. In turn, this will lead to loyal customers and a decrease in cart abandonment.
That’s not all, though.
As well as battling fraud head-on, AI will make the payment process easier and more intuitive for customers. It can already help track precise behavioral patterns to make the checkout process faster by providing consumers with the chance to pay in their preferred currency via their preferred method. For example, the graph below shows that US consumers prefer to pay via credit card, but this might be different if your audience is in Europe or Asia.
Not only will AI help digital product sellers to tackle security issues, but it will also create a seamless buying process that puts the customer first. And, if you know anything about business, you know that putting the customer first leads to more sales and a loyal fan base.
What’s not to like?
So, Will Robots Take Over Your Online Store?
Scaremongering much? If you’ve got images of bots crawling all over your store like rabid predators, you’re probably not alone. But hear us out.
Like we said earlier, AI doesn’t just refer to sci-fi robots who want to take over the human race and, dun-dun-dun, the world. It can actually be leveraged as a powerful tool to put your head and shoulders above your competitors.
With new eCommerce businesses emerging every single day, it’s easy to feel like the industry is saturated beyond repair. But if you want to stand out and not get sucked into the noise, it’s vital to roll with the times and, today, that means tapping into the power of AI.
Without a doubt, this new, high-tech tool is changing the face of sales and eCommerce by intelligently improving the sales process. As a result, customers can be party to personalized recommendations and delve into a seamless shopping system. They’ll no longer receive solutions that aren’t tailored or appropriate which, let’s face it, will turn them away from you quicker than you can say “robots are taking over”.
Instead, when used alongside other key strategies, AI can improve customer service and allow shoppers the chance to buy in a way that suits them, right from the initial browsing stage, where personalized recommendations are made especially for them, through to the payment process, where they can choose their preferred payment method to ease the pain of handing over their hard-earned cash.
So no – robots won’t take over your eCommerce store.
Rather, the technology behind them will become a valuable tool you can leverage to save time and money while creating a customer journey that’s simple and effective. Even just implementing AI in one aspect of your business can help relieve stress, allowing you more time to focus on what really matters.
Ready to take your business to the next level? Make sure you have the basics in place by checking our free eBook: How to Build, Grow and Succeed with an eCommerce Business.
Maik Bodden, Marketing Manager @ G2A PAY