The promise of AI and its subsequent benefits have been teetering on the brink of the retail world for what seems like decades. But now, thanks to a surge in sci-fi technologies, it’s finally burst through in a big way.

A couple of years ago, big data came onto the scene and everyone thought that was it; that we were about to enter the future. But it flopped. It didn’t have the impact people had predicted, and so it slipped under the radar. Until now, when marketers and brands can actually use that data to improve the shopping experience and their customer relationships.

Goodbye Humans?

Advancements in AI are happening every single day. There’s probably a big breakthrough about to happen right this minute. We’re talking technologies like deep learning, where software can perform difficult tasks without the help of a human being. As you can imagine, this is set to Be huge for the online shopping industry.

But how exactly will it change the retail world?

Let’s take a quick look at one of the most recent experiments that merges AI and eCommerce to get an idea of what we can expect. Pinterest Lens announced its visual Shazam-style service where consumers can take pictures of real-life objects (like clothes and furniture) and use those images to find similar products online. Sounds completely unrealistic, right? But that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

“Five years from now, we’ll see AI take a bigger role in making decisions, creating pre-emptive solutions, and delivering insights,” says Antoine Blondeau, CEO of Sentient Technologies, the world’s most funded AI company. “Society will become much more efficient as a result. We’ll be able to leverage AI systems to help get things to where they need to go faster and cheaper, we’ll be able to enable people to see and buy things they weren’t even aware existed or even knew they wanted.”

According to research by Gartner, 85% of customer interactions will be handled without human intervention by 2020. This doesn’t mean that humans will be completely obsolete in the online world, it simply means that we’ll essentially be able to get more done in a shorter space of time.

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Personalized Shopping Experiences

One of the key trends to emerge from the advancement of AI in the eCommerce world is the ability for brands to generate a more personalized shopping experience for their customers. Using online learning, AI will help sites analyses click throughs and customer preferences to serve up relevant items and products. Each customer will essentially see a “different” shop that’s based around their own wants and needs.

How This Will Speed Up the Shopping Experience?

The answer here is simple. Today, search engines are pretty adept, but they could be better. They lack the finesse of understanding search queries with the added nuances of the human language – basically, they’re not human and it’s noticeable. This translates into online stores, too.

When customers search for a product, the site isn’t able to adjust to the contextual knowledge or summon the practical intelligence to understand unique language expressions that us humans use (and often take for granted). But all that could change.

By using the power of AI alongside natural language processing capabilities (NLP), shops can look forward to putting the “human” back into the digital, which is just as well, really, considering consumers still crave human connections – even if they do happen through a screen.

Chatbots Will Be in Charge of Customer Relationships

As an online business owner, you know that customer relationships are key. Keeping those who buy from you happy is your number one goal, but it can be tricky the bigger you get – there are only so many hours in a day and, with consumers wanting answers yesterday, it can be difficult to keep up. Which is where AI is set to swoop in like a knight in shining armor.

Over the past year or so, we’ve seen a huge increase in the number of companies implementing chatbots to run their customer service channels. And if you thought chatbots were everywhere now, you might be surprized to find out that chatbot interaction is expected to increase from 20% in 2017 to a whopping 93% in 2022. Yes, the bots are taking over. But implementing chatbots won’t just help companies talk to multiple customers at once; these in-the-moment question and answer machines are good for other things, too.

Audiences Are Ready For AI

If AI seems like something that’s still a few years away, think again. Consumers are ready for it right now. In fact, millennials are very open to brands using AI technologies to serve them more interesting products, while a further 72% believe that AI will soon be able to accurately predict what they want – and who doesn’t want that?

It’s safe to say the eCommerce world is shifting.  The emergence of chatbots, predictive analytics, and personalized messaging points towards a new digital experience – convergence. This means that online stores will increasingly home in on the customer experience and journey, providing unique experiences for every single consumer. Is this good or bad, though? Well, whichever way you look at it, it means that over time what has been a multi-channel focus will become more singular, where you can connect and converse with your customers from one key place.

AI isn’t as scary as it sounds. It is simply an aid for online businesses to provide a more seamless experience to their users and dig deeper into data that they don’t have the time to study. So, going back to the original question of how AI will affect your eCommerce store, we can predict that it will, eventually, save you time and money while building deeper connections with your customers.