Artificial Intelligence might seem like a high-tech and lofty concept, but recent advances in technology have given rise to a number of more everyday applications for AI.
And in ecommerce in particular, brands who want to stay relevant and ahead of the curve are embracing AI as a way to enhance the customer experience, making it more personalised, efficient and intuitive.
Here are three ways that we are already seeing artificial intelligence in action across various sectors, which when applied to ecommerce, have the potential to take customer experience to the next level.
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1. Natural language processing is making search more intuitive
We’ve all experienced the frustrations of trying to search with keywords – a constant process of trial and error which results in many of us giving up in frustration. “iPhone.” “Second-hand iPhone.” “Second-hand like new iPhone.” “Second-hand white iPhone like new.”
Wouldn’t it be better if we could just talk to our computers in full sentences, explain the exact parameters of our search, and have them understand?
Companies like Google and Microsoft are training their AI to interpret complex, multi-part queries.
Artificial intelligence, combined with the power of natural language processing – which allows machines to understand the nuances of human language – is making this possible. Companies like Google and Microsoft are already using voice search and complex, multi-part queries to continually improve their understanding of natural language.
As natural language processing is applied to ecommerce search engines, shoppers will be able to express their needs, desires and specifications in everyday language – resulting in a faster and more satisfactory shopping experience.
2. Visual search is making the physical world buyable
Visual search, a form of search which allows users to search with images or photographs of objects in their surroundings, is bringing the physical world into the virtual.
This has any number of applications for search engines and social networks, with the likes of Google and Pinterest already developing visual search capabilities that give users more ways to find what they’re looking for. But the most natural application of visual search is in ecommerce.
Think about the number of times you’ve been out and about, and wished you could find out where to buy that cool-looking bag, or those awesome shoes. With visual search, retailers can allow customers to snap a picture of an object they like and find a way to buy it, or buy something very similar, in their store.
The future of visual search in action.
Ecommerce giant Amazon has already incorporated visual search functionality into its mobile app and the Kindle Fire HD. Meanwhile, department store Neiman Marcus has partnered with visual search providers Slyce to produce a feature called Snap. Find. Shop. which allows shoppers to capture 3D images of items in any category, and receive matching items from Neiman’s product offering.
Visual search will soon be closing the gap between the moment of inspiration and the eventual purchase, making the transition between seeing an item and buying it absolutely seamless.
3. Chatbots are personalising the online shopping experience
Chatbots are artificial intelligence in miniature: every shopper’s own text-based personal assistant. They have been trialled by companies such as Facebook and H&M as a way of giving online shoppers bespoke attention at no extra expense to the retailer.
Chatbots can help customers more easily navigate the range of products for sale, provide personalised recommendations, and feed back in-depth data about customer preferences and behaviour to the retailer to help improve the business.
Chatbots like H&M’s Kik bot can offer personalised recommendations to the customer.
As artificial intelligence develops further, chatbots will be able to interact with the customer in almost human terms, potentially even solving customer service issues – or preventing them before they arise.
Ultimately, what we know so far about the future of artificial intelligence is very exciting, and is opening up a world of opportunities for retailers to learn more about their customers, personalise the ecommerce experience and engage with them on a whole new level.
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