How Artificial Intelligence is reshaping the e-commerce sector

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Artificial intelligence, as the name suggests is the tech behind artificially recreating human intelligence, by making a software that understands repetitive human habits.

While numerous industries in the world that have embraced artificial intelligence (AI), e-commerce deserves a special applause for using AI to help companies get closer to their customers and rolling down the red carpet for a much brighter future. So, what is unique about e-commerce in the context of AI?

Unlocking AI for better purchase decisions

E-commerce itself is a striking revolution of sorts, where the natural human behaviour of walking up to a store — big or small — touching, feeling a product, making a well-informed purchase decision, and procuring a product was turned on its head! Overnight, we were expected to look at a screen (either on a smart phone or a larger computing device), and make purchase decisions based on image and descriptions. But the sheer convenience of getting stuff home delivered and on time made e-commerce a superhit industry. But, that wasn’t all. Today, e-commerce is redefining business by unlocking AI and testing AI to unimaginable proportions. Let’s understand this with a few examples.

Bot is hot

On Valentine’s day this year, Titan launched a chatbot on its website, which helped its predominantly millennial customer group choose eyeglasses, bags and watches based on robotic intelligence. The bot, which hinges on the three primary spokes of any merchandise business — product discovery, customer support and referrals — spiked the number of people visiting the site within days. Today, many e-commerce sites are leveraging concepts like predictive intelligence and contextual messaging simply to indulge the customer.

Even the more ‘serious’ segments of the industry are following the e-commerce guys to ensure customer delight. One example of this is ‘Ask Eva’ by HDFC Bank. Account holders of the bankwill be familiar with Eva, who pops up (quite literally) on your screen to help you out with anything from service requests to IFSC codes to loan offers, making the bank’s website a shopping mall of sorts. Of course, there’s more to the investments on chatbots than just customer delight.

The treasure trove of data regarding customer behaviour and usage patterns acquired by e-commerce platforms thanks to AI and self-learning algorithms, creates personalized shopping experiences for online buyers, besides giving in-depth visibility on trends. According to Gartner,  customers will manage 85% of their relationship with the enterprise without interacting with a human, by 2020.

AI and Robotics in e-commerce

Let’s not forget how AI and robotics are driving better efficiency behind the scenes. A Bangalore-based AI startup called iFuture Robotics that has tied up with hyper-local shopping sites such as Big Basket to enhance their warehouse operations. The robots are intelligent enough to read RFID tags, and since every customer order cart is associated with a unique ID, the bots are able to know when a filled cart is ready for dispatch, thereby saving several precious productivity minutes. This is just one of many examples of how AI, fuelled by new-age technologies like machine learning, virtual reality, robotics etc are reshaping the e-commerce experience for users and the industry for its business. Imagine a scenario where a 32-year-old male is buying a perfume for his female partner. While this person may usually buy men’s apparel online, the perfume shopping is a  deviation from his expected behaviour. Soon, AI will be able to understand this difference and churn out two sets of data, one on past behaviour and the other on the exception, and possibly predict when the next deviation will occur.

In the future, one can reasonably predict that that more and more AI will be used to create multi-layer data on every customer, based on his/her past and current buying behaviour, and almost accurate prediction of future behaviour. Of course, it doesn’t take a bot to understand that the human brain is one of the most complex things on earth, and if there is any tech that can even ‘think’ of understanding it, it is AI!

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