As e-commerce and online shopping becomes a bigger industry every year, an impatient consumer base hopes for a faster, personalized and more responsive way to shop and search. Enter artificial intelligence (AI), which has already established itself as a valuable tool to provide a more immersive and interactive shopping and internet experience.
Some of the more interesting future benefits of using AI in e-commerce are the personalization of the consumer shopping experience, the development of more intuitive and easier-to-use enhanced and visually-oriented search capabilities -- including using images as part of a simplified search engine criteria -- and the emergence of the AI-driven personal shopper.
Personalization and Visual Search
The utilization of product images in future search criteria and the inclusion of increasingly advanced technologies such as contextual understanding are inevitably destined to advance search capabilities to the next level, and overcome the current and ongoing problem of consumers needing to master the art of refined keyword searching in what is ultimately a flawed search environment.
AI-driven platforms using visual search capabilities allow for uploading an image in order to find products that are similar or are complementary in some way. Various image elements are used in order to find those products, such as brand, shape and color.
However, consumers do not even need to be shopping to make use of these enhanced visual search capabilities, with the technology capable of making purchase suggestions to the user at any time. Visual search will be an incredible important future element of retail, because the ultimate goal of any developing ecommerce search technology is to cut down the number of steps it takes a consumer to find and purchase a product. The power to be searchable and provide easy-to-find content essentially equals revenue.
The Rise of the Digital Assistant
In parallel with the evolution of increasingly powerful and intuitive search capabilities is the development and ongoing market introduction of both virtual personal shoppers and digital assistants. In the absence of an actual salesperson for each consumer’s retail web site visit, impossible even with the increased deployment of such customer service technologies as chatbots, stores are looking towards AI to assist customers find their desired products and provide usable product and market information that leads to a sale.
In addition to using a consumer’s purchase and search history, interactive shopping assistants can process freshly accumulated personal and relevant stored data much faster than their human counterparts, making recommendations based on their expansive in-store and market knowledge in virtually real-time.
While enhanced search capabilities are inevitably linked and ultimately integrated to numerous brands, and their unceasing quest to engage and understand consumer buying habits across multi-channels, that inevitably contains dangers for the very users they are trying to assist. For example, digital assistants such as Amazon’s Alexa and Google’s Assistant are being used increasingly in the early stages of ecommerce consumer research. Brands need to be aware that, inevitably, digital assistants point the consumer they are interacting with towards their own channels, such as Amazon products or Google search lists. In the future, we may see the evolution of brand-neutral digital assistants that are agnostic and can offer shoppers the best personalized recommendations.
While the shopping experience we’ll see over the next decade is ultimately anyone’s guess, the trend towards e-commerce personalization is further indication that we’ll continue to see an explosion and revolution in the way consumers shop, experience and obtain new products in the future.
By Smadar Landau - 04/03/2017