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What does an artificially intelligent toolbox look like? (Hint: It isn’t whatever it wants to be.)
Just as a regular, fully equipped toolbox can’t build a home on its own, an artificial intelligence (AI) toolbox can’t build a modern tech stack alone. It’s up to the builder to use the right tool at the right place at the right time to get the job done.
Ecommerce professionals who use AI tools — and shoppers alike — will remain the sharpest ones in the shed.
In this post, explore how modern shoppers are using ecommerce AI tools throughout their buying journey and how you can best accommodate them.
Ecommerce AI tools are anything that leverages artificial intelligence or machine learning algorithms to automate, facilitate, or support aspects of the online shopping experience — often through specific tasks or problem-solving.
Are there more than six ecommerce AI tools available to shoppers today? Sure are — but the following tools (and, really, categories of tools) are what’s hot.
Some shoppers do it for the love of the browse — they’ll wait until an item speaks to them. In the case of personalized recommendations backed by AI, many items will have something to say.
Other shoppers, however, might prefer to be doing anything else than shopping but still benefit from the convenience of recommendations (and, hopefully, quick checkout processes).
Shoppers have come to expect personalization and recommendations on the product pages they click on, in their shopping carts, email inboxes, and even in ads on their social media feeds.
Image Source: Tula
By leveraging data from each buyer’s journey, recommendations are a crucial example of finding shoppers where they are on the digital shelf — oftentimes expediting conversions and boosting average order value (AOV) in one fell swoop.
Shoppers say, “Jump” and voice-activated shopping assistants say, “OK, finding tickets for the Van Halen tribute tour.”
More seriously, however, voice-activated shopping adds another layer of accessibility and convenience for many shoppers. When typing in a specific or detailed search becomes cumbersome, voice activation can take over.
According to Vixen Labs’ “Voice Consumer Index 2022,” about 45% of Americans and more than a third of people in the U.K. use voice search technology as the basis of their buying journeys.
Shoppers can quickly reorder items from retailers like Walmart and Amazon equipped with voice assistant and voice-activated shopping capabilities, per HubSpot, with others like Target, Costco, Kohl’s, Staples, and Walgreens coming soon, per TechCrunch.
Worth emphasizing, however, is that shoppers can quickly reorder or discover only if product content is clear, accurate, and easily crawled by search technology.
For more simplistic, but often tedious customer service inquiries, AI chatbots are tagging in. While it’s up to brands and retailers to initially feed chatbots the right answers — or some semblance of an answer — they can take a lot off of customer service teams’ plates.
Shoppers can ask chatbots for information on product care, return and exchange policies, or file support tickets for damaged or defective merchandise.
Rather than feeling alone in their quest to resolve an issue with your product — or trying to meet the need in their lives the product was supposed to meet — AI chatbots can help them at least feel seen and acknowledged if not fully at ease.
For shoppers whose beloved couches have seen better days, want to quickly compare the availability of their dwindling moisturizer, or are coveting the computer bag of the person at the coffee shop who’s locked into a Zoom call, image search can save the day.
Suddenly, the couch in the lobby of a posh hotel isn’t from a mysterious origin, they can reorder moisturizer from a new retailer offering a sale, and that computer bag won’t be lost forever in their mind’s eye.
Visual search tools like Google Lens, Amazon Stylesnap, and even social media platforms like Pinterest and Snapchat offer shoppers access to the products they want or need when words fail.
To come up in more image searches, your brand needs to have high-quality images as well as diversified galleries backed by user-generated content (UGC).
But what if the image or other search still comes up semi-inconclusive? It’s possible. But some companies, like Estée Lauder and The Coca-Cola Company, are leveraging AI to reshape product development to make these conceptual or search-based products a reality.
One of the most powerful and common price comparison tools likely every shopper uses — maybe without trying — is Google Shopping. Search engines are among the top five ways consumers discover products, per Salsify’s “2023 Consumer Research” report.
Other tools for price comparison, like Shopzilla, Honey, and The Camelizer are also worth noting, per Shopify. Not only can shoppers track live prices and auto-apply discounts with these tools, but they can also be alerted if they should wait for price changes over time (i.e., dynamic pricing) and a better deal.
Though shoppers often care to dig a bit deeper into comparisons of features and reviews, price is a top factor that shoppers consider, especially in the present economy.
For there to be enough pricing and product content to compare, it might be prudent to leverage generative AI capabilities — that is, allowing AI to write basic product content for your creative teams to edit, tweak, and build off of to ensure consistency.
With the luxury and convenience of at-home shopping comes an unflattering risk — that, quite literally, items will not flatter shoppers or their lives in person.
Online and in-person shopping experiences are linked in more ways than ever, but will never quite be the same. Augmented reality (AR) is a way to digitally infuse rendered elements into a user’s world, whereas virtual reality (VR) places a user in an entirely digitally rendered world.
With AR try-on tools and view-in-room tools, shoppers can take a lot of guesswork out of, “Will I actually like this?” without having to leave their homes, stop the car on the way home from a commute, and so on.
Oftentimes, these technologies require the use of a mobile device in addition to or instead of a desktop — which also ties into the predominance of mobile-first shopping.
Shoppers can try on makeup to best suit their skin tone with Yves Saint Laurent via a live video or uploaded image. Or, they can view how fitting furniture will be with view-in-room tools, like that from Crate & Barrel.
Image Source: Crate & Barrel
The best tools like this aren’t limiting, either. Oftentimes, brands upload their entire product catalog (or at least 5,000 items worth) into AR.
With just about every AI tool on this list, its ability to offer the right answers comes down to the quantity and, more importantly, the quality of your product information.
Unsure of what the truth is at your organization? Teams feeling siloed? A leading product information management (PIM) solution can help.
Once you’re in a good spot, integrating ecommerce AI tools into your shopping experiences can allow shoppers to take it from there — then, literally, through increased conversions and loyalty, your brand’s image (and home) will build itself.
Having trouble speaking ChatGPT’s language? Download this cheat sheet for tips on how to get AI to work both with you and for you in your role as an ecommerce professional.DOWNLOAD CHEAT SHEET
Yvonne Bertovich (she/her) is an editor and writer at Salsify, reporting from Knoxville, Tennessee. With a longtime passion for research, she enjoys flexing her perspective on ecommerce, trends in consumer behavior, and health and wellness.
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