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Rising Tide – The Surge of Artificial Intelligence in Global E-Commerce

Rising Tide – The Surge of Artificial Intelligence in Global E-Commerce

May 08, 2019

What's dangerous is not to evolve.

- Jeff Bezos, Amazon.com

The darling of consumers and investors alike, Mr. Bezos sure seems to have the future figured out. Amazon today is the most AI driven customer experience platform in the world, besides just being an e-commerce marketplace. The Retailocalypse is here. Retail has moved from the brick-and-mortar store front to beautiful and highly aesthetic web portals, accessible on any device you use, that seem, at times, shockingly intuitive. The secret ingredient here is AI. The global e-commerce industry, running hosted servers and data-centers around the world has been changing paradigms in how the world shops, for the last five years, and the possibilities seem to be, pardon the cliché, limitless. Consumer spending in e-commerce each year has followed its growth diligently as a result, making it one of the great sectoral revolution of modern times, changing the way the world shops their needs in the process. Brands like eBay, Amazon, Alibaba.com and Rakuten of Japan, common household names in their respective geographies, have soared in their sales revenues even as the insatiable demands of the millennials for a friendly shopping experience multiplies with each passing year. The world has also moved on from age old, archaic product cataloguing systems into the incorporation of artificial intelligence in most aspects of their customer experience delivery. In the back-end, too, with AI based procurement, sorting, warehouse management, pricing and every conceivable function in the entire supply chain process.

eBay: AI Engines Based on Massive Datasets and How!

179,000,000 active buyers, 1.2 billlion live listings. 190 markets. How do you seamlessly operate at such scale with flawless precision? Without engaging thousands of employees? One need to look no further than the e-bay AI implementation model. The portal, that has been around on the internet for a fairly long time, trained algorithms and neural networks with 20 years’ worth of transactional data. The result? Increased intelligence and intuitive accuracy by their AI systems every time a new transaction is recorded in the site. From functionalities ranging from customized search, buying insights, product discovery related to purchase history and even computer vision to see which areas of interest in the webpage are of most interest to the users, ebay learns and implements on quick turnarounds, ensuring a better and more seamless buying experience for every customer each subsequent time they visit the site.

But enough about e-bay. It’s just a particle in the macrocosms of AI implementations engulfing our planet right now. Artificial intelligence has made headway into the global e-commerce industry unlike any other technology in the past three years. From recommendation engines tracking their users, prospects and existing customers based on previous purchase patterns, to the profiling their likes, dislikes and preferences based on massive amounts of data gathered from social media, AI is a monster on steroids that is showing no signs slowing down anytime soon, especially in programmatic advertising engines, retargeting the same customers who had checked a product for their wish-list earlier, leading to an exponential burst in purchases and sales revenue for the informed and advanced e-commerce retailer. In fact, leading publisher Business Insider states that retailers who have implemented artificial intelligence algorithms into their custom experience have grown revenues of up to 10% year on year. This is no mean feat for the retail industry, and translates into a differential of hundreds of millions of dollars of revenue added to their balance sheet every quarter. Hyper personalization of e-commerce stores are the foundation for extra revenue per user visits for almost every EU retailer on the planet today.

Renowned publication Business Standard projects, based on an earlier Gartner research, that 85% of customer interactions will be handled by artificial intelligence by 2020. Consulting firm KPMG also predicted 2018 to be the year when artificial intelligence initiatives would be deployed in production systems worldwide, at scale. And they haven't been wrong. We can safely say that the big AI breakthrough in retailing and e-commerce is finally here. As it gains more clout, it also opens up hundreds and thousands of career opportunities for aspirants wanting to create a fast growth and lucrative tech centric career in this exciting new domain. Almost every e-commerce and retail service establishments today have the need for engineers and analysts to develop AI powered systems and tools to attend to customer enquiries and even return handling directly, without any human intervention.

The current implementations of AI chatbots, the most common variant of the implementation, not only handles customer queries, but also provides recommendations on their next purchase, adding on customized reminders of when they need to replenish their current groceries and perishables, and even suggest the most useful reviews left by other customers their respective e-commerce portal. With that in mind, let's delve a little deeper into exactly how AI is delivering miracles in the retail industry, especially in e-commerce sites like e-bay, amazon and a surprising entry, a restaurant chain!

Two quick case studies elaborate further on the sheer innovation and operational efficiencies that artificial intelligence can bring to the enterprise.

Taco Bell

The global restaurant chain has deployed the taco chat bot robot, that when installed, converses with the user answers questions about the nearest outlet, the availability of items the latest updates on the menu, as well as special offers. It connects directly to the cloud platform TA.co and constantly communicates location data and other key customer experience metrics. Essentially, it is an AI bot present at the right time at the right place-the customer smart phone, offering every detail of information they might need to order their next favorite burrito. Given this convenience, Do you think a customer will switch to any other brand?

The Alexa and Echo Saga

The Alexa domestic personal assistant has almost become a generic brand name to mean AI powered domestic assistance for users across the world. Amazon saw its Alexa revenues soar as customers increasingly began to rely on voice-based conversations with the device on a daily basis. Brilliantly advertised, no doubt, the device uses artificial intelligence technologies like natural language processing, sentiment analysis and machine learning all bundled together, while at the same time remaining in constant contact with its AI engine hosted in the Amazon cloud servers. The Amazon e-commerce portal also uses sophisticated tracking and heatmap systems to track every customer mood, usage patterns and click through rates to determine what offerings they are most likely to purchase next. Massive growth in sales results and high customer loyalty towards the portal are a natural consequence. Amazon selling its own AI technology might have been ridiculed in the past, but the records show that it has shipped more than ten million Echo units in Q4 of 2017 alone. But then, these are but just some common use-cases. The deeper you look, the more you see how the world in 2019 is AI driven, while humans are making strategic decisions and innovating. A mutual win-win, one might add. The artificial intelligence revolution is just beginning and is not in a nascent stage anymore. The time to act on a career with the world’s only leading artificial intelligence certifications is now!

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