The artificial intelligence world has been growing by leaps and bounds in recent years — and it’s showing no signs of slowing down either. Recently estimated in the $2 to $3 billion range, the value of the AI market is expected to explode into the tens of billions of dollars within the next 5 years.
While AI is having an impact on verticals everywhere, from running cash registers to writing music, there’s one area that we’re going to focus on here: e-commerce. Much like AI, the online retail world has already seen explosive and sustained growth in the last few years. This was testified to by the incredible success of Amazon in the fourth quarter of 2019 — a valuation that pushed the online retail giant’s stock towards the $1 trillion mark.
And yet, with so much success already surrounding the industry, the yet-untapped potential of AI is promising to accelerate the existing success to unbelievable levels. While nothing in the future is certain, here are a few of the top ways that AI is poised to enhance the e-commerce industry both now as well as in the not-too-distant future.
Personalization gives people what they want
Yet another fledgling technological field that has seen tremendous growth of late, the Internet of Things has exploded in recent years as everything from home assistants to egg cartons have gone “online.” While this shift to the online world has allowed retailers to carefully follow their products down the manufacturing chain, it doesn’t stop there.
Once sold, AI-powered equipment continues to drive business by providing valuable information to the manufacturer on how it’s used, enabling them to use this information to optimize future product offerings. In other words, the data collected from IoT devices is allowing retailers to personalize their products for each potential customer they have contact with in the future.
Of course, the IoT network isn’t the only source of this data. Data can be harvested from websites, social media, and countless other sources. Regardless of the source, though, data is nothing more than unorganized, raw facts — until you, well, organize it. And that’s where AI steps into the picture. The growing power of modern AI allows programs to take massive sets of user data and turn it into actionable information.
As AI continues to develop, the power to collect and process data will only increase, empowering e-commerce sites to quickly and accurately tailor their products, webpages, emails, and all other points of contact to precisely the optimal message for each customer.
Customer service and chatbots
Another area that has become critical to the modern e-commerce retailer — and which goes hand in hand with the aforementioned personalization trends — is the concept of providing excellent customer service.
In fact, the old cliche that “the customer is always right” has never been more important to reinforce. That’s because, in the modern, online retail world, where competition is fierce, if you don’t have satisfied customers, your e-commerce business can’t survive.
While a company can provide said quality service via emails, phone support, social media, and even a live chat, though, it can prove difficult to maintain a staff of support experts always ready to field questions and provide answers — that is, until you consider the possibilities of utilizing AI.
AI is providing an increasingly sophisticated front line of customer service that can answer evermore complex customer questions without the need for human interaction. Chatbots utilize machine learning and natural-language processing in order to interact with and help customers. They can provide this service around the clock, and, unless the question is particularly challenging, they can literally replace the need for a person on the business end of a conversation.
Artificial product descriptions
As if providing customer service and personalizing product recommendations wasn’t enough, AI is also in the process of taking over many of the nitty-gritty elements of the e-commerce game. Case in point: artificial intelligence is flirting with the ability to begin replacing the need for human-produced text on e-commerce sites.
And we’re not talking about chatbots here, either. We’re talking about critical text providing essential information in the form of product descriptions. A company uploading dozens or even hundreds and thousands of products onto a website has a gigantic task, a task that traditionally had to be typed in by hand.
In early 2019, OpenAI revealed the language model GPT-2, claiming it could “generate conditional synthetic text samples of unprecedented quality.” The language used AI to analyze massive amounts of content in order to create more content. This is a huge step towards setting up programs to literally create brand new descriptions for products.
Not only does this cut out the need for a copywriter, but if we let our imaginations run away with the idea for a moment, it could potentially open up the door for a program to create descriptions that morph to the specific requirements of the user, thus marrying the concepts of personalization and product description creation into one AI-controlled process.
Amazon hasn’t just built its reputation on selling things well. It’s also set a gold standard for innovation in the e-commerce space. One of the many areas where this has crossed into the AI realm is in providing e-healthcare.
For instance, in 2018, the company integrated the medical appointment artificial intelligence company Nimblr into its Alexa service. This was just one part of a larger push to provide extensive, quality e-healthcare services through their online platform. Naturally, much of this service would be operated by AI, whether you’re ordering a prescription, making an appointment with a physician, or relaying health information to a medical professional.
Whatever other developments look like, there’s no doubt that e-healthcare will be a regular stomping ground for AI in the years ahead.
AI and the future of e-commerce
These are just a few of the latest AI trends, and rightly so. The concept of AI is so overarching, it’s likely to find its way into nearly every crack and crevice of the e-commerce world as the future unfolds.
In fact, the potential for AI in e-commerce is so enormous, the main question being asked shouldn’t be what it will eventually be able to help with, but rather what, if anything, it won’t be able to impact.
This is a guest post by Jori Hamilton. Jori is an experienced freelance writer from the Northwestern U.S who takes interest in covering topics related to business, technology, and productivity. You can find her on Twitter and LinkedIn or view her portfolio.