How can AI transform the way you shop?

We live in the age of Artificial Intelligence that has incontrovertibly transformed the way we interact with different technologies. The last decade marks the emergence of many innovative AI technologies and advancements in the field of Machine Learning and Predictive Analytics. From face recognition to Self-driving cars, AI has many innovative technologies up its sleeve. The latest trend/development in AI is the Generative Pre-training Transformer (GPT-3) — an open-source AI project developed by ‘openAI’ — a company founded by Elon Musk and Sam Altman. Using GPT-3 technology as the base model, it is possible to build advanced robust models and applications that can change the paradigm of the current AI technology. RHB Group recently launched the RHB Financing (SME) Mobile App, the first AI-powered “customer self-initiated” SME financing mobile app in Malaysia which provides added convenience and accessibility for its customers.

Some of the many things that AI-based applications can do are:

  • Creating search engines that answer your questions to the point.
  • Creating websites and mobile applications just by describing the features in plain English.
  • Create fictional and philosophical texts.
  • Generate codes by just describing the function.
  • Design User Interfaces by just typing your requirements.
  • Translate legal documents into simple texts that even a fifth-grader can comprehend.
  • Predictive typing/Sentence completion.
  • Create Chatbots and get opinions from historical figures & fictional characters.
  • Smart Cameras, personalized search, and recommendations, Voice assistants, etc.

But the question now remains, “ Can we use AI for e-commerce?”. Well, the answer is “Yes”. In fact, this technology is already embedded in many of the online shopping applications that we use today. From Recommending Popular to personalized products to the users, AI has come a long way since it was first introduced in mobile applications. Companies like Amazon, Google, Facebook, Yahoo, Pinterest, etc. have implemented AI in their web applications. It has certainly revolutionized our online shopping experience.

Fig. E-commerce ecosystem

Many users now find it more convenient to use the web and mobile applications to shop for their favorite products. As a result, the offline market is losing its sparkle. But using AI we can transform the way we shop both online and offline. Let us now discuss the ways in which we can achieve this.

Online Shopping:

1. AI-based Search:

Text-based searching has been used for many years. If the search results are irrelevant and do not meet the expectations of the users, he/she may end up not buying anything from your website/app. It may lead to dissatisfaction among the users and can even give rise to negative sentiments. But with the advent of AI, we can now implement advanced search algorithms to give accurate and relevant results. One such example is using visual searches. A user can upload images or screenshots of a product and the app will search for the product online and also recommend similar products. Such applications use technologies such as object recognition, Natural Language Processing, OCR, and CNN/RNN (Neural Networks). Users can even click pictures of objects, and the app will automatically detect them. Companies like Twiggle, Clarifai, Etsy, Gilt, and Pinterest are working towards improving search results and the overall customer experience on their website. Pinterest has even developed a Google chrome plugin that lets the user crop out an object from the image and then search for the matching products online. It can provide flexibility in terms of product color, fabric, size, etc., and suggest similar products.

Fig. Image-based Search

2. Targeting and Retargeting Customers:

There is a need to improve the sales process before we can target potential customers. Implementing AI technologies in CRM software, chatbots, and voice assistants can help answer customer queries, solve their problems, and even identify new opportunities for the sales team. The AI bots can accurately analyze the requirements of a customer and suggest matching products. AI can analyze customer behavior such as time spent on a particular product page, shopping trends, etc and suggest personalized product suggestions and offers.

AI can also help companies target potential clients by collecting specific data from the web. Companies like Mintigo provide AI solutions for marketing, sales, and CRM systems. Through Mintigo’s software, ‘Getty images’ has generated many leads by capturing the data of business websites that feature images from Getty’s competitors.

3. Personalization:

Many shopping websites recommend new products to customers based on their shopping history. They use Machine Learning models based on content and collaborative filtering. But this is not enough in today’s time and hence many advancements in AI and ML have led to the adoption of even deeper levels of personalized product recommendations. It combines data from various devices and channels to provide a seamless user experience. For example, a user browsing a particular product on a website may receive details of various offers related to the same product on their mobile app as push notifications.

Fig. Sample Amazon Recommendation

We can further personalize the shopping process for users by implementing an AI-based chatbot. The chatbot can handle many basic and advanced tasks and provide accurate and relevant information to the customers. It can process orders, handle return requests, process complaints, connect with Sales representatives or technical support Teams, etc. Chatbots are more convenient to users as compared to traditional alternatives such as email, contact forms, and phone calls. Almost every shopping website has a chatbot. These chatbots are trained with information from the FAQs, terms and conditions, etc. so that they can easily answer customer queries.

4. Virtual Assistants:

AI-based virtual assistants are the future and they can certainly make our life easier. They can perform many tasks with just one voice command. Most notable virtual assistants include Alexa, Siri, Google Now & Bixby. Most of these AI-based virtual assistants rely on Natural Language Processing and Speech recognition technologies to process the user commands. Starbucks also has an application called ‘My Starbucks Barista’, which uses AI to enable customers to place orders with voice command or messaging.

Instead of being stand-alone voice assistants, these technologies can be combined with other products such as smart TVs, refrigerators, Air-conditioners, etc. LG has partnered with Amazon to develop Instaview refrigerators that have a virtual assistant panel that can display valuable information to the users such as temperature, weather conditions, time and also notify if any of the products are going to be out of stock soon. This is an innovative technology and we can expect to see more of such appliances that use AI technology in the future.

5. Using AI as an intelligence tool:

AI agents can be used to match buyers with sellers. Such tools are fully automated and are responsive to the environment. Businesses can monitor their competitor’s product-mix and pricing and adjust their own. This can help them retain their customers. Predictive models can be built to understand the impact of any business decision.

It is very important for businesses to acquire the confidence of their customers in regard to the privacy of their personal information. AI can use the personal information of the users and provide them with a personalized experience.

Besides the above use cases, AI can be used in many other ways to improve user experience.

  • Using Machine Learning models to tackle fake reviews and Products.
  • Using AI-based text-to-speech features for the convenience of users.
  • Using AI in wearable gadgets to collect sensitive information such as heart rate, BMI, height, etc. for an accurate product recommendation.
  • AI can be combined with Robotic Process Automation to provide incredible results.

Offline Shopping:

Because many people are now turning towards online shopping, it has become absolutely necessary for offline retail stores to implement AI in order to drive the population back to their stores. Some of the ways in which this can be achieved are:

1. Create Digital Cart:

With AI it is possible to scan a product with different sensors and get all relevant information about it such as color, size, weight, manufactured date, etc. Amazon is at the forefront of this new revolution. The Amazon Go store based in Seattle is a one-of-a-kind grocery shopping store. The users can pick up the items that they want and just walk out without paying anything. All the products that the user picked get added to their amazon app cart and they can pay later as per their convenience. This makes the entire shopping process very smooth and saves a lot of time.

Apart from Amazon, another company called Caper has introduced an AI-based Digital cart that users can use for shopping. Each item added in the cart is scanned by a number of sensors fitted on the cart and once the product is detected, it is displayed on the screen and added to the virtual cart as well. The user can pay for all the items at once by just swiping their cards on a machine that is attached to the cart. This makes the process highly convenient for customers. According to the Co-founder Ahmed Beshry, “The Digital Cart is dynamic and works for all cart sizes. The aim is to provide the customers with the same experience and convenience as they would get from an online shopping experience.”

Fig. Caper shopping cart

2. Store Robot and Personalized recommendation:

Having a store robot can be convenient for the customers as they can interact with it and ask for relevant information and also check for the availability of products. The robot can also recommend some products to the customers based on their shopping trends.

Fig. AI-based store robots
Fig. FashionAI by Alibaba

FashionAI — an AI-based shopping assistant developed by the Chinese giant Alibaba, offers an interface to the customers that makes clothing and accessory suggestions to the customers based on the items that they have carried with them for trying on. As the customer enters the store and picks an item, tiny sensors embedded in the cloth suggest all the matching items, including fashion tips and accessories. Transactions can be processed by a virtual assistant or a digital cart available at the store. This makes the process very smooth for the customer.

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AI has many advantages when applied in eCommerce. It can create a seamless shopping experience for users, help businesses grow, and save a lot of time that usually gets wasted during a traditional shopping process. It is necessary for retail stores to adopt new and innovative AI technologies to stay relevant in the digital world.

Fashion AI & Amazon Go are still in a pilot phase. But the future looks promising and we can expect to see many AI-enabled stores in action by the end of this decade.

Exploring the domain of Online Marketing, Business Analysis and Analytics.