Tim Rentowl, Vice President of Product Management, examines how AI can deliver real value to e-commerce strategies.

While it hasn’t yet reached the outlandish Hollywood depictions, AI has definitely gone mainstream. For many retailers, AI is working hard behind the scenes, transforming businesses and delivering tangible value. With its potential to harness both big and small data, AI and machine learning (ML) in particular is vital for the online retail sector, making use of data throughout the customer journey to allow businesses to better understand consumers and to tailor their offerings accordingly.

With many business leaders unsure of where to start when it comes to AI, we’ve identified four ways e-commerce organizations can put AI to work right now, finding solutions to everyday problems through the advanced capabilities that only AI can offer.

1. Uncover actionable insight

AI is at its best when it’s used for sorting through data where there are already established rules. When you’re dealing with hundreds of SKUs, thousands of customers, and millions of online posts, AI is king, automating what would take an inordinate amount of time to do manually. So, AI can be put to good use in sorting, matching and generating the valuable insights which connect the dots between buyer profiles, product attributes and that often elusive customer experience excellence.

Where ML comes in is dealing with exceptions to predefined or preconceived rules, discovering new data ‘relationships’ and relaying this insight back to the business. This combination of AI and ML tackles both big and small data, uncovering actionable insight to inform merchandising strategy, while freeing-up merchandisers to focus on actively selling and building the brand.

2. Optimize your search capabilities

Where many online retailers really struggle is in the programming of their own search algorithms. We all know that in order to generate good, helpful search results, that aren’t just long on content and short on answers, context is key. However, this is often easier said than done. Intelligent search features such as predictive search and autocomplete are just two of the more well-established AI tools that are both accessible and available to businesses as add-ons to popular e-commerce platforms. For many organizations, opting for such tools often proves to be much quicker and easier than programming their own search algorithms, freeing-up the team to focus on other strategic priorities.

3. Small data is important

While big data is all about machines, small data is all about the people, who, let’s face it, should be the number one priority. AI can be used to streamline data collection and organizational learning, observing site visitors, reviewing the buying process, and identifying any bottlenecks that might exist. You can see what people are buying, what they like, not only by monitoring your site activity but by analyzing social media posts and product reviews.

With the right AI tools in place, seemingly innocuous customer behaviors can be seen in a whole new light, revealing new, valuable insights into customers’ buying habits and their online journeys. It’s only with this level of insight that you can build intelligent product recommendation engines into your business, turning these insights into action and informing agile merchandising practices.

4. Influence customer choices

Recommendation engines and other ‘helper apps’ powered by AI are proving more in demand with online retailers. There’s a real need to get better at steering buyers in the direction of the right option, not only for them but for you, the retailer, all while minimizing other on-site distractions, simplifying the end-to-end buying journey. Making use of any patterns identified in transactional and behavioral data can inform real-time personalization, strategically narrowing a customer’s set of options while still providing a quality, tailor-made shopping experience.

For more information on how SLI can help your e-commerce business derive optimum value from AI tools and technologies, contact us at info@avolin.com.