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Julia Hammond
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How Artificial Intelligence is Improving E-Commerce

When people talk about the future of technology, more often than not they’ll mention artificial intelligence (AI). Some of the world’s largest brand names are experimenting with AI in their products and services, and now your e-commerce business can, too. Before you dive in with your own AI, let’s look at what it is, how it’s limited and how it can improve your e-commerce store.

AI is all around us

From asking Siri to tell you today’s weather to browsing the ‘Top Picks for …’ category on Netflix; your day is peppered with AI. Even Google is using AI to improve their search results; in 2015 they released the RankBrain update which was the first to feature AI at Google. In 2019, they released a second AI-focused update known as BERT (WME blog LINK). Both BERT and RankBrain are focused on building a better user-experience but being run by computers means they can process huge amounts of user data more efficiently and effectively than humans.

What is artificial intelligence?

Put simply, artificial intelligence is the ability of a robot – machine, computer, or program – to complete tasks usually performed by humans. For AI to function, a human must first give the robot a set of rules to follow, also known as algorithms. In most cases, a robot is only capable of performing a set task based on the algorithm it was programmed with. But more recently we’ve been able to give robots the ability to create their own rules. This is known as machine learning which is a subset of AI.

Machine learning is the ability for a robot to build its own rules through the input of repeated examples of the desired outcome. For example, if you give a computer 100 pictures that are a coffee shop and 100 pictures that are not a coffee shop, it will be able to build a set of classifications that depict a coffee shop. Then it will be able to apply those classifications to other photos and accurately show you photos of a coffee shop. The more examples you can give the computer, the better it will learn how to provide your desired outcome.

Limitations of AI

With many of the world’s biggest brands experimenting with AI, people sometimes worry the robot revolution has begun and humans will soon become obsolete. But even with all its good points, AI is not without its faults. First, machine learning can oversimplify human interactions to the point where context is missed, and it becomes offensive. Second, and more importantly, AI cannot function without a human first setting it up. The ‘intelligence’ part of AI is built by humans and will continue to be for the foreseeable future.

AI in e-commerce

One area where AI is proving beneficial is e-commerce. Simple AI tools are popping up to help e-commerce websites improve their customer interactions and increase conversions. Examples could be a tool that selects which products to recommend to customers based on their past purchases or a chatbot that helps solve basic customer queries. Popular e-commerce platforms WordPress and Shopify already have a set of plugins/apps that use AI. One that we often see is the ‘you may also enjoy’ or ‘other customers also bought’ sections on a product page. While you could manually select what to show here, AI analyses user data to recommend the most relevant products and make the choices feel more personal.

Benefits of AI for e-commerce

Automate your workflows

Anything that AI can do, a human can do, too. But why bother when a computer can do it just as effectively and save you time on basic, boring tasks?

Instant customer support

Chatbots are a popular form of 24/7 customer support. They can handle most simple queries either with pre-programmed responses or by leading customers to pages of your site with a solution.

Personalisation

AI recommendation apps track user data to provide the most relevant product suggestions to each individual customer. This helps your customers feel connected to your business and as though you understand their needs.

Increased customer loyalty

With personalised suggestions you can entice your customers into purchasing with you more than once. They’ll also build trust in your brand as one that has everything they’re looking for.

Is your e-commerce store ready for the future?

AI is a great addition to an already brilliant e-commerce store. But what makes your store brilliant? User-friendly web design, SEO to build organic traffic, a quirky social media presence and engaging content are all key factors of a store worth shopping. WME can help you build a modern e-commerce store that’s ready for the future. Get in touch with our digital consultants on 1300 663 995 to sort out your business needs.

By Julia HammondJulia Hammond


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