The talk around artificial intelligence in ecommerce usually revolves around what the technology can do to help get customers to buy something — email targeting, improved organic search performance, more relevant on-site search, product recommendations, personalization in general.
Indeed, when 1,000 AI adopters were asked what they were doing — or planned to be doing — with artificial intelligence, “email marketing” was the most common answer (tied with “sales forecasting”), according to a recent eMarketer report. The report said marketing leaders talked about how in the next five years, AI would transform the work of delivering the right message to the right consumer. It would be deployed to create landing pages and websites and it would be used for hyper-personalizing content, they said.
As important as all that marketing work is, though, it’s only half the equation. Of course there is no sale if you never get a customer to your site and help them discover what they need or want. But once you make that sale, there is a long road (perhaps literally) to providing a complete and satisfying customer experience.
I had a chance to talk to Brian Beck about that challenging fact of life for online retailers. Beck is senior vice president for ecommerce and omnichannel strategy at Guidance, a commerce services and strategy company. He’s been helping online retailers overcome the challenges of a fast-moving, highly competitive industry for 20 years.
Beck talked to me about the scope of the disruption and potential that artificial intelligence is providing ecommerce, and in particular, how that potential is not limited to attracting customers and leading them to the products they are most likely to buy.
Yes, the A word — Amazon — came up. Everybody marvels at the Seattle company’s selection and the way it’s changing consumer expectations when it comes to online commerce in general and delivery speed in particular. But Beck dug in a little bit and pointed out that Amazon’s AI work carries through its entire process — including order management, fraud protection, picking, packing, delivery and customer support.
It turns out, the scale and efficiency of those back-end procedures are both a competitive threat and a playbook for other online retailers looking for answers in a fast-moving industry.
Contact Mike Cassidy at email@example.com; follow him on Twitter at @mikecassidy.