Artificial intelligence (AI) technologies, which are already widely used in industries such as finance and healthcare, offer enormous potential for the retail sector. Previous Total Retail articles have referenced the power of AI to revolutionize the way people shop online, but instead of dreaming of the future potential, let's focus on three practical applications of AI that are currently available for e-commerce sites.
Shoppers increasingly look for consumer opinions and reviews to guide them to the best products. However, e-commerce sites face two challenges: They either don’t have enough reviews, resulting in potential shoppers deserting them for other sites, or there are too many reviews, causing text fatigue.
Sites like Shop.com are applying AI technology to help it both collect consumer opinions from across the web but also to help it display reviews neatly on its site. Natural language processing can make sense of large amounts of text, allowing shoppers to quickly understand opinions relating to the specific products they're looking for:
Now that you've applied AI to the large number of consumer opinions available, you can use the review information to power the search bar on your e-commerce site. This is vital for retailers, as up to 30 percent of users will use the search box to find a product. There have been huge advances in the technology that underpins searches, and the ability to type in text based on intent rather than product specification is finally here. Take a look at these examples:
- ‘’Strollers that are good for beach walking’’
- ‘’Kitchen gadgets that are easy on sore wrists’’
- ‘’Good vegetarian restaurants for a first date’’
These are some intent-based search examples demonstrating how consumers can now look for products. AI’s ability to include user-generated content to power these results means that shoppers will not only find products more relevant to them, but also trust crowd wisdom, as opposed to the descriptions that brands give their own products.
A chatbot is computer program that uses data and text analysis to converse in natural language to perform automated tasks.
Chatbots are a hot topic currently, as retailers have started experimenting with mixed success. 1-800-Flowers.com is using chatbots to great effect: 70 percent of customers ordering through its chatbot are new customers.
Powered by AI, bots can perform numerous tasks, including customer service, retention and sales. Furthermore, the growing popularity of messenger apps (Whatsapp, Facebook Messenger, Sina Weibo) and voice-activated search assistants (Siri and Cortana) means that retailers can communicate with shoppers on the platforms that they're most comfortable using.
In July, Macy’s and IBM started testing a mobile web tool, “Macy’s On Call,” across 10 store locations. The web tool allows users to input natural language questions, as well as get customized information like store layout and stock availability specific to the store they’re located in.
Retailers that don’t keep pace with advances in consumer research and purchase channels will undoubtedly fall behind. However, the good news is that the technology is now available for retailers of all sizes to take advantage of.
Ezra Daya is the co-founder and CEO of Aspectiva. Based on artificial intelligence, Aspectiva analyzes the massive volumes of consumer reviews and opinions across the web, turning them into visualized, easy-to-read summaries and recommendations to help online shoppers make wise purchasing and booking decisions.