Today, around 16% of retail sales are made via the internet. It is predicted that by 2023 e-commerce will take over 22% of the market. The sales sector is becoming more and more digitised – even stores that only sell on stationary basis benefit from the support of new technologies in areas such as logistics, product lifecycle management and demand forecasting. One of the branches is artificial intelligence, which can take over some of the duties from employees, in some jobs completely relieve them or perform tasks unattainable by man.
Google Cloud Platform its portfolio of cloud services includes AI solutions dedicated to the e-commerce industry. They support, inter alia, customer service, product image search or intelligent recommendations.
What is Artificial Intelligence?
Artificial intelligence (AI) is a branch of computer science that involves the creation of machines capable of self-learning. Intelligent machines are supposed to imitate the way people think and act, solve problems, draw conclusions and develop their knowledge. Technology is supposed to support people and take over tasks from them, from simple to very complicated.
Artificial intelligence is used, among others, in:
- healthcare – AI can support self-diagnosis of patients, thus minimising the workload of medical facilities (this is how artificial intelligence is used, among others, by the Polish company Infermedica),
- the financial sector – AI, by analysing current and historical data and relationships between them, helps to make business decisions,
- robotics – Roomba 980 vacuum cleaner model uses AI to scan room dimensions, identify obstacles and remember the layout to optimize cleaning,
- social media – Facebook is developing a system of recognising faces of specific people; Twitter tracks and removes posts that contain hate speech or support terrorist activities (in the first half of 2017, Twitter banned 300,000 accounts connected to terrorist organizations – 95% of accounts were identified by artificial intelligence).
Examples of the use of artificial intelligence in e-commerce
The e-commerce sector is also experiencing many benefits from the development of artificial intelligence. Technology allows you to relieve employees of simple, repetitive tasks, giving them more room for valuable, creative activities or solving more difficult problems. AI also helps to read customer needs on a large scale, conducts analytical activities and supports data-based decision making.
Examples of activities that can be carried out by AI in e-commerce:
- presenting to the client highly personalised article suggestions that may interest him,
- enabling the client searching for a product based on a photo or graphic,
- giving answers to customer questions (via chat and via the hotline), redirecting the customer to the service agent if necessary,
- management of communication channels, e.g. directing hotline or chat calls to the most appropriate service agents,
- reading the intentions of the interlocutor and support for service agent during a conversation (e.g. by presenting hints or useful materials),
- forecasting sales trends,
- tracking potential problems in the functioning of the store or the sales process,
- process optimization service and sales by analysing factors such as customer location, demand, level of satisfaction with service or product, product availability, shipping time or package dimensions,
- performing simple actions such as accepting returns or complaints,
- leading inventory of products or support in this field.
Artificial intelligence on the GCP platform – solutions for e-commerce
Google is aware of the requirements that customers place in front of online stores. The attractive price and fast shipping stopped playing the leading role long time ago. Now, apart from the speed of operation, stability and availability of the website, what also counts is the ease of making a purchase, personalization of the offer or flawless service.
Many stores around the world – small and large – use Google Cloud Platform solutions to provide their customers with the best possible experience. The GCP cloud ensures stability, security and scalability, and additionally, it gives the possibility of conducting advanced analytics or support for service and sales thanks to machine learning and artificial intelligence.
The portfolio of Google Cloud Platform includes services that, using artificial intelligence, allow you to provide customers with positive experiences, give the team a relieve and at the same time increase conversion in the online store.
Product search by image – Vision Product Search
Vision Product Search is a service that allows you to search for specific or visually similar products among the assortment. The customer takes a picture of the article or posts a picture of the product, and the system redirects him to the card for this or a similar item. Thanks to this, customers can immediately find a product, without the need to manually search the web or store page, open multiple subpages or tabs. This is a great convenience for the customer, making it easier to reach the product also affects the level of conversion.
IKEA uses this GCP service. Susan Standiford, Chief Technology Officer at IKEA, says that the use of Vision Product Search can further simplify and shorten the purchasing process. Customers have direct access to IKEA products wherever they are. This translates into a better customer experience and greater brand openness (which is one of the company’s core values).
Personalised product recommendations – Recommendations AI
Customers browsing among online e-commerce shelves expect to receive recommendations of similar or complementary products to their basket. GCP’s Recommendations AI service automatically creates highly personalised product suggestions. The mechanism takes into account, inter alia, the customer’s path, subpages viewed, products added to the basket, but also changes in the assortment, product availability, prices, promotions and special offers. Recommendations AI works in real time and adjusts the proposals to the identified needs of the client on an on-going basis. The mechanism, by constantly analysing the behaviour and reactions of recipients, learns and creates better and better matches.
Kathy DePaolo – VP of Engineering at Disney shared her observations on the use of Recommendations AI in reading customer needs during the Google Cloud Next ’19 conference.
Customer service support – a group of Contact Center AI services
Service specialists often have to answer simple, repetitive questions – for example, about the method of delivery, payment method or order status. This slows them down, distracts them from handling more complex requests, and is quite simply frustrating. On the other hand, customers get stuck in lines at the hotline, are sent away from the agent by the agent or wait hours for a simple query to be answered. Contact Center AI is a group of Google Cloud Platform services, with the help of which you can build your own tools to support service and increase the level of customer satisfaction. Contact Center AI, along with other Google Cloud Platform services (e.g. Text-to-Speech, Speech-to-Text or Natural Language), allows you to create, among others:
- tool automating the order of calls and messages between available service agents, directing the client to the most competent specialist,
- own communicator with chatbot or IVR systemthat can run automated customer service using natural language (it is possible thanks to the Dialogflow platform),
- tool for building and development of a self-service system with a virtual agent available 24/7; chatbot can drive personalised interactions, provide the customer with answers to simple questions or decide to redirect a more complicated problem to a customer service agents,
- support system for agents working on the hotline; the system can transcribe the conversation in real time, read the intentions and attitudes of the interlocutor using semantic links, and provide the agent with the necessary materials or tips on how to conduct a conversation step by step to solve the problem and ensure a high level of customer satisfaction.
AI in the service of conversion and customer satisfaction
Contrary to common fears, artificial intelligence will not take our jobs. Yes, it will take over some of the duties, but thus giving us space to perform more difficult, more satisfying tasks. AI supports decision making that is based on numbers and results. In many areas, he analyzes data much better than humans – that’s because he is able to see the broader perspective. Within seconds, it processes data layers, searches for numerous connections, diagrams and draws conclusions.