Less than a decade ago, the world was skeptical when it came to eCommerce, weary about the idea of pulling out their credit cards and making purchases online. But today, with eCommerce exceeding $22 trillion in sales across the globe and expected to make up 11% of all retail sales in 2018, it is safe to say the industry is growing at a mind-boggling pace.
Of this massive number, the Asian-Pacific will remain the world’s largest market for eCommerce, reaching $1 trillion in 2016 and expected to double that within the next couple years.
Both Europe and North America are not too far behind the pace car. Americans are not only opening up to the idea of making purchases online, they are embracing it — currently spending $51 billion on clothes, $26 billion on electronics, $16 billion on groceries and $4 billion on pet and baby products.
Who would have dreamt of the day we would all be buying diapers and groceries… online?
Today, not only American culture but culture across the globe is forced to face yet another major change that is bringing about mixed feelings of skepticism and excitement (not unlike the introduction of eCommerce years ago): Artificial Intelligence (AI).
While AI has been a topic of both exploration and development for years, it made its most popular debut when Apple started dating a girl by the name of Siri and before we knew it, iPhone lovers across the world were making requests to their devices like “Hey Siri, Call [fill in the blank]”.
Since its inception, AI has grown light-years. So much so, that by 2020, it is expected that 85% of customer interactions will be managed by… non-humans.
Martians? No, AI.
The rapid advancement of AI, along with the growing acceptance of eCommerce, has led to a cultural intersection that will completely transform the way we buy, how we buy and where we buy. In the near future, AI will be able to:
Decrease bounce rates & increase customer conversions by creating onsite conversation
You will notice more eCommerce sites are beginning to use chatbots in the hope that customers will feel less like a number and more like the only customer in the store.
While this has improved the customer shopping experience to some degree, some might argue chatbots come off a bit… well, robotic.
This is because chatbots aren’t AI. They can’t actually understand the individual they are communicating with. The majority of chatbots match words with a pre-set database of answers, not yet creating their own replies.
However, apps like Mona are seeking to take this idea a step further through the integration of artificial intelligence. Mona dreams to create the world’s most personal mobile retail shopping assistant.
The goal is to create a mobile shopping experience that is similar to an in-store conversation between a customer and a personal shopping assistant. Today, Mona simplifies mobile search, discovery and purchases; but, eventually, she will be able to do returns and reorders too.
In the future of eCommerce, you will see more adoption of artificial intelligence in the form of personal assistants. There is a personal element of physical, in-person shopping that eCommerce does not currently offer. Artificial intelligence will help fill this void.
Improve the shopping experience by changing the way consumers search for products
Back in 2015, Pinterest launched a groundbreaking rendition of AI in the form of a visual search tool — allowing consumers to easily and conveniently search their platform through images rather than words.
Pinners can now click on a picture on Pinterest, zoom into an object in the picture and then search the site for the object.
For example, let’s say you are looking at a picture of a kitchen and, within the picture, a pretty red chair catches your eye. You can simply zoom in on the red chair and hit search. Pinterest would then search the site for images similar to the chair that had caught your eye.
A huge issue within the eCommerce of the present is how difficult it is for customers to actually search for what they want. While online shoppers often know what they are searching for, they have trouble coming up with the right search term to find what it is they are looking for.
AI has not yet been able to effectively bridge this gap between keyword searches and natural language, partially because the shopping experience is so visual for consumers.
Because of this gap, apps like CamFind have had plenty of success — utilizing mobile visual search technology to help users find what they are looking for by searching with images rather than words.
Collect customer data and accurately predict what they will do in the future
Amazon Go is an innovative shopping technology that will allow consumers to shop in a physical store location without having to deal with the hassle of long checkout lines — providing what Amazon calls the “Just Walk Out Shopping” experience.
By simply downloading the Amazon Go app, customers will be able to walk into one of Amazon’s store locations, grab what they want from the shelves and then walk right out of the store. Shortly after leaving, the customer will receive an online receipt and will have their Amazon account charged.
In addition to providing an innovative checkout experience, this technology will allow Amazon to track individual customer buying habits and, in turn, predict what buying decisions they will make in the future. This will also allow Amazon to offer targeted products that they know their customers are interested in.
For example, if a customer buys 25 gallons of Blue Bell ice cream a year, Amazon may decide to market the customer products like… ice cream scoopers or perhaps an insulated bowl that keeps their ice cream cold.
If Amazon Go is successful, they will be among the first to truly bridge the gap between in-store and online.
Influence the way we live on a daily basis, not just how we shop online
While, over the next decade, we will see firsthand AI’s influence on eCommerce, we will also notice the influence it has on our day-to-day habits.
For example, Siri’s creators are currently working on a new form of artificial intelligence technology they are calling Son of Siri. They hope it will be a virtual assistant that can fulfill transactions like calling an Uber, ordering pizza and booking a flight.
Understanding human habits and consumer behavior are vital to running a successful business, whether it be online or offline. Embracing AI — accepting the fact that it is changing the way we as humans interact, work, buy and even live — will put you and your brand one step ahead of the competition.
Not only do we need to understand how our consumers shop, we need to understand how they live on a daily basis. This will start and end with Artificial Intelligence.
I would ❤️ to hear your thoughts (in the comments below) about what AI and machine learning applications will be used to automate eCommerce — What am I missing? 🤔