As Thanksgiving Day’s record-breaking $5.6 billion in online sales heralds a new era in e-commerce, it also underscores an urgent need for businesses to embrace advanced technologies like AI.
With consumers increasingly turning to digital solutions, there is an opportunity for e-commerce to leverage AI for enhanced customer experiences and operational efficiencies.
This shift represents not just a trend but a forward-thinking imperative for those looking to stay at the forefront of the digital marketplace revolution.
One of the hottest e-commerce technology trends is AI, but some AI adoption challenges hinder implementation. AI applications in e-commerce must contend with a complex tech ecosystem of diverse tools, resources, and personnel. This complexity includes inventory management, demand forecasting, marketing, customer acquisition, retention, and customer experience. Adding AI tools to the mix adds more complexity, resource intensity, and execution risk.
The Benefits Are Worth the Effort
Yet, e-commerce is booming, and the risk is worth it because AI tools offer significant advantages. Whether a business seeks to enhance its marketing efforts, improve the customer experience, or even glean customer insights, AI offers exciting possibilities.
But e-commerce businesses must be ready to use it properly. For example, they must train AI tools on historical data for them to work effectively, but not all e-commerce stores have that data. Even if the stores do, they must safeguard the data to conform with privacy policies. This protects businesses from regulatory problems and reduces the likelihood of exposing sensitive information. Companies also need new personnel to integrate AI tools — particularly in data analytics, data science, and engineering.
Overcoming the Trust Barrier
Despite the benefits, it’s difficult for leadership in the e-commerce sector to have sufficient trust to green-light all these steps. If they don’t, however, their businesses will be at a disadvantage.
To bring e-commerce stakeholders around to adoption, it’s important to focus on solutions and benefits rather than just fancy features.
One benefit is delighting customers. AI can deliver personalized shopping experiences, and customers love that. It can even perform customer service via chatbots and virtual assistants, an aspect of shopping that a growing number of online customers expect. AI tools can also optimize inventories and prevent fraud. Additionally, AI systems are being used for marketing to predict trends, allowing business owners to plan effectively.
Streamlining the Path to AI Adoption
The best way to encourage AI adoption is to help stakeholders make informed choices. This can include offering tactics for data management and tips for recruitment and retention of experts.
E-commerce leaders must also consider due diligence. Testing is critical; no one should authorize an AI tool to go live without it. Collecting performance metrics on the AI system and reviewing them regularly is essential. Diligence also applies to legal and ethical matters, so leaders should prioritize this.
4 Key Strategies to Successfully Bring AI Into E-Commerce
For all the above reasons, AI is an excellent choice for many e-commerce businesses, but it’s often difficult to know how to get started. Here are several AI implementation strategies that can help:
1. Walk — Don’t Run
You don’t have to have a grand initiative at first. Just start with smaller AI integrations with minimal risks and clear benefits to customers. This way, you can get a wedge in the AI door without disrupting operations or worrying about major issues.
For example, AI-powered personalized recommendations are a great way to begin the process simply. Start with a single product category or customer segment to tune the AI service. Once you’re confident it works well in this limited case, you can start using it more widely.
2. Commit to Excellent Data Management
We live in a marketplace in which data is king and can accelerate your business decisions, so don’t ever skimp on robust data collection and management. This practice is critical in e-commerce generally, but AI can also help you leverage quality data in new and exciting ways.
More importantly, training AI tools on bad data will result in erroneous “insights” based on a false picture of your business and customers. These can lead to damaging executive decisions. In this way, you should use AI as an amplifier of whatever raw materials you start with, being vigilant to provide it with excellent data.
3. Build a Great Data Team
E-commerce leadership must consider their data teams as the pillars of their operations. Having a data analyst, data scientist, or data engineer on staff is becoming table stakes to running a successful e-commerce business.
The data team should be in place before the AI implementation strategy gets off the ground because data issues need to be fully worked out before AI systems can ingest the data. So, don’t rush this step. Make sure your business has scaled up to the point where you are generating quality data that gets into the hands of your data experts. Then, you can transition to bringing AI into the picture.
4. Keep a Customer-Centric Approach
AI is a general-purpose approach to computing. Because it can potentially do anything, it can feel overwhelming to know what you should be doing with it specifically. To simplify things, always think in terms of the fundamentals of customer needs and wants.
By mapping potential AI integrations back to their impact on your core customer experience and prioritizing those with the most direct effect on customers, you can ensure better ROI on AI investments.
Get Started on Your AI Journey Now
AI in e-commerce is an exciting new opportunity, but it can only benefit your company if you employ it effectively.
By starting slowly, emphasizing quality data management and security, and always focusing on the customer, you can give your business the best chance of success. So, start now — you’ll be glad you did.