Virtual try-ons. Personalised shopping feeds. Automated customer services. In every direction you turn, AI capabilities are revolutionising the face of our online shopping experiences. Shopping online with AI is no longer the exception, it’s the norm.
While some of these AI tools have been in use – visibly or invisibly – in our online retail environments for years, the rapid proliferation of new technologies means we’re entering into an online shopping era that’s changing month by month.
For consumers, this means new opportunities to find the products they need more efficiently within an intuitive online shopping environment. For retailers, it’s more important than ever to focus on delivering the highest quality of consumer experiences, harnessing the power of these shifting technologies to identify new ways to connect with their consumer base.
How is AI impacting online shopping?
In an Algolia article titled AI eats eCommerce, Sean Mullaney writes about 10 ways AI shopping is transforming in the 2023 landscape, including supercharged results ranking, clarified understandings of search intent, personalisation, conversational commerce, real-time data integrations, and more.
Mullaney sums these changes up by noting ‘the problem with eCommerce sites is they basically can’t understand humans… So we as humans have to figure out how to speak computer lingo and tell this database what we’re looking for… This is about to change dramatically.’
AI shopping changes are profound, bringing enhanced capacities to the online retail landscape that are compounding years of consumer habits into strategic online sales environments. Some of these notable impacts include..
A shift in how keywords drive search results
Search is changing rapidly, with more sophisticated AI capabilities delivering results based on understanding the concepts shoppers are looking for, not just the keyword itself. Commonly referred to as user intent (which can also be understood as the customer’s goal), these new capabilities can result in higher-quality outcomes for consumers based on single search queries.
Forbes’ April 2023 article, How AI will revolutionize the future of SEO, states ‘one example of AI integration in search algorithms is Google’s RankBrain, which uses machine learning to better understand user intent and deliver more relevant search results. As AI becomes more advanced, we can expect search engines to adopt similar technologies, leading to a more accurate understanding of user queries and better search results.’
In the online shopping realm, these new tools can lead to better product results, more relevant suggestions, and a smoother discovery process for the online consumer.
Unique product rankings for each individual
While eCommerce sites have traditionally sorted results according to popular products, AI-fuelled ranking now enables unique rankings based on personalised data from each individual.
The result? Optimised outcomes for shoppers based on their unique needs and preferences, rather than rankings based on mass data results. ‘For companies, it can lead to increased sales and customer loyalty, as well as more efficient inventory management… for consumers, personalised product recommendations can save time and improve the overall shopping experience,’ Sprinter Consulting reported in June 2023’s AI Personalised Product Recommendations.
Of course, this isn’t a new development in the eCommerce landscape, with giants such as Amazon using recommendation systems for years that are fuelled by the customer’s search history and other behavioural specifics. For small eCommerce stores, however, the ability to utilise personalised technologies is more accessible than ever before.
Compared to the rudimentary experiences of personalisation we’ve become familiar with in the eCommerce landscape, AI-driven personalisation will enhance the customer experience from the first click-through to every touchpoint. ‘With the power of artificial intelligence (AI) and automation, brands are finally able to tailor shopping experiences to customers’ interests, based on real-time web browsing habits and shopping data,’ Salesforce writes in How artificial intelligence powers personalised shopping. ‘Through personalisation, brands now have the power to turn every shopping interaction into a meaningful and rewarding experience,’
With personalisation also linked to higher conversion rates and product sales, this online retail development represents a win for both the consumer and the retailer.
In this shift, personalised chatbots engage with customers through questions and conversation, using the data the customer provides to refine products live in front of them.
While chatbots are common in many eCommerce environments, this delivers a personal shopper experience that’s highly intuitive, refined, and shaped around the unique purchasing intent of the individual user.
Wix eCommerce states that ‘the best experiences use these technologies to guide shoppers through the entire customer journey, from the moment they inquire about a product, to when they’re ready to check out or want to make a return.’
Conversational commerce channels can include online chats, social messaging apps, SMS messaging, in-store consultations, phone customer service, and more.
Multimedia shopping capabilities
In the world before AI-empowered eCommerce capabilities, products are defined by text listings in the title and description. Today, AI models can draw data from multimedia sources (such as images and videos), using the capacities of generative AI to show custom models in different clothing, recommend purchases based on the customer’s previous purchases, and source customer suggestions from a multifaceted data pool.
Generative AI tools can also empower businesses to build targeted product imagery and videos that enhance their visibility while capturing consumer attention. Google’s Product Studio, for example, tackles the problem of creating a range of high-quality images, offering generative AI to businesses of all scales. Able to create custom product scenes, remove product background, increase image resolutions, and more, this tool is a powerful example of how AI co-creation techniques can fuel online retail experiences and increase conversion rates.
As AI tools continue to deliver innovation and revolution to the eCommerce landscape, the way we search, consider, and buy in online environments will continue to evolve. The future of online shopping, fuelled by AI, isn’t just about convenience: it’s about a marketplace that’s shaped to the nuances of our individual whims, interests, needs and curiosities, delivering results that the eCommerce platforms of the 90s could only dream of. For business owners, marketers and online stores of all shapes and sizes, AI presents a powerful co-creation tool that can deliver sustainability and transformation to their bottom line.
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