The way online retailers convert browsers into buyers is changing rapidly. Gone are the days when simply having an online presence was enough to drive meaningful sales. Success today means being on the cutting edge. And one exciting innovation you need to be aware of is the use of Artificial Intelligence (AI) in ecommerce. In fact: According to research by Tractica, global revenue from AI will catapult from $643.7 million in 2016 to $36.8 billion by 2025. A gravy train you definitely want to be on. But using AI in ecommerce isn’t as daunting as it may sound. So we decided to take a look at how some ecommerce brands are already using AI to boost engagement, conversions and sales. And spark some ideas for how you can do the same.
Wait, what exactly is AI?
AI stands for “Artificial Intelligence” - the idea of ‘machine learning’ and computers basically ‘thinking like a human’. In other words: Machines being able to learn, reason, plan and understand language. In practice, you may have seen this with things like Amazon’s Alexa, Apple’s Siri or website ‘chatbots’. Where you ask or type in a question and get an automatic answer - without any human interference. But it's also being used in areas like procurement and warehouse management too.
What’s so special about AI in ecommerce?
Customers have questions about your products. And they want answers - fast. But having enough staff on hand around the clock to provide this customer support and follow up to ensure a sale is just not feasible for most retailers. This is where automation and AI in ecommerce can be so powerful. It’s like having a real-time personal shopper for every single person who visits your site. Still need convincing? Just take a look at some data from a recent Ubisend report:
- One in five consumers are willing to purchase goods from a chatbot.
- And these would be willing to spend up to an average of £314.74.
- 40% of consumers are actively looking for offers and deals through chatbots.
And the fact that Google recently invested £400 million acquiring AI company DeepMind shows how serious a player it’s becoming.
Ecommerce brands using AI
AI in ecommerce is still most definitely in its infancy. But there are already some brands ahead of the game. And using various forms of AI to keep their customers super engaged (and buying more product). Here’s a look at five brands we picked out to spark some ideas:
1) CR7.com reducing cart abandonment
Cristiano Ronaldo is a decent footballer. And he also has a pretty big online store selling items under his CR7 fashion brand. But this doesn’t exclude him from a problem most retailers face: Cart abandonment. And the brand is now using AI to create a quality customer experience and get people coming back to complete their unfinished purchases. Here’s how: Land on a product page and you’ll be offered a discount code for signing up to the CR7 Facebook Messenger list: You can then go on about your business on the site - browsing and adding products to your cart (with the 15% discount). But if you don’t complete the purchase, CR7 follow up with an automatic prompt back to your discounted cart via Facebook Messenger:
They’ll even get in touch offering advice and help with picking out the right items for you. Prompting engagement and providing high quality customer support:
A great use of AI technology to help keep customers engaged and prevent cart abandonment.
2) North Face helping you choose the right product
The North Face is a pretty large retail brand selling winter clothing and equipment. But they had a problem: Their product catalogue is quite large. And it was difficult for some customers to find exactly what they were looking for. The solution? Using AI to develop a new tool that walks customers through the process and picks out the perfect products for them. They even gave their ‘Snowbot’ a name: All you do as the consumer is answer a series of questions covering aspects that may influence your buying decision. Such as style: And the functions and features you can’t do without: Once all the information has been entered, the Snowbot automatically picks out a list of personalised product suggestions: And the best part is that this seems to be working amazingly well for The North Face. According to the brand’s VP of Digital Commerce, the tool has had a positive impact on both conversions and average order value.
3) Starbucks using online to boost in-store sales
Starbucks is a huge brand with more spending power than average retail businesses. But their new ‘virtual barista’ is a fantastic (and simple) idea for generating in-store sales via an online app. And with 54% of consumers liking the idea of buy online and pick up in-store, it’s something to think about for a lot of other retailers. It’s pretty simple: Give your coffee order into the Starbucks app and they’ll take payment and have it ready for you to pick up at your nearest store. All providing a seamless and super convenient customer experience. Take a look at it in action here:
4) SnapTravel giving customised search results in Messenger
SnapTravel is doing more than just dabbling in Artificial Intelligence. Their whole business is built on using AI in ecommerce. They compare hotel deals around the world to give customers the best prices - entirely via either Facebook Messenger or SMS chatbot. Just open up a conversation with SnapTravel in Facebook Messenger and enter your dates and destination:
Answer all the questions and enter all your details:
And the chatbot will come up with some bespoke search results with the best deals:
Using technology like this is particularly great if you have a large product catalogue. Many customers don’t want to sift through everything you sell. And love being able to ask questions and get instant, personalised advice on what’s best suited for their needs.
5) H&M using Kik for crazy engagement
Fashion retailer H&M are among several brands to take advantage of Kik (a popular messaging app - especially among the younger generation). They’ve developed an interactive bot that chats to you about fashion and then recommends products based on your preferences:
You go through a series of “either or” questions. Being given pictures of two different outfits with you being able to choose your favourite:
And the bot will use machine learning to build a ‘custom style profile’ - now able to recommend products based on what you like. You can even go on to build your own outfits and see creations from other users:
The best thing about this (from a retailer point of view) is that you keep the customer engaged in what almost becomes a game. And at the same time collect user data for each individual’s fashion preferences. Meaning product recommendations are super personalised. And the more specific you can be with recommendations, the more likely they are to buy - a perfect example of using AI in ecommerce.
Using AI in ecommerce can be a phenomenal way for brands to access their target audience, provide a quality customer experience and drive sales. And it's even got huge potential for use in warehouses and inventory management too. Ultimately, the AI solution for your business is going to be specific to your customer needs and behaviours. But use the examples from the five brands mentioned in this post to spark some ideas on how best to move forward. Are you planning on using Artificial Intelligence in your ecommerce operation any time soon? Let us know your ideas in the comments below.