Rory OConnorRory OConnorOctober 7, 2019
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13min1397

Customer Experience is shaping the future of ecommerce.

AI is no longer science fiction – it’s real present-day technology and many ecommerce businesses are already using some form of AI to understand their customers better and provide an enhanced CX.

2019 is shaping up to be the year that AI becomes truly prominent in ecommerce. Investment in AI and machine learning is increasing across the board, just as the developments in technology are expanding the range of uses. According to IDC, the global retail industry is set to spend $5.9 billion (£4.45 billion) on AI systems this year.

AI is changing how people find products and shop online; there are systems that can analyse millions of daily interactions to create targeted incentives to individual customers.

In a highly competitive and dynamic marketplace such as ecommerce, the drive to integrate these emerging technologies is accelerating. AI has the power to be a game changer in ecommerce by pushing CX to the next level. Virtual assistants, product recommendations, voice search, and augmented reality are just some examples of these technologies. 

AI is a trend, but it is not a fad, so brands that wait to implement it into their business will rapidly find themselves eclipsed by their forward-thinking competitors.

What can AI do for your ecommerce store?

It’s predicted that ecommerce businesses that personalise successfully could see profits rise by 15 percent by 2020 (source: Gartner).

There are various ways of capitalising on AI and machine learning platforms for your business but the most significant advantage of AI is the level of hyper-personalisation that becomes available to your customers.

The demands of online shoppers are evolving at a spectacular rate, faster than human retailers can respond to them.  Consumers now expect personalisation as standard as they are used to experiencing it on a daily basis. For instance, the recommendations Amazon and Netflix make based on the user’s prior interactions. Eighty percent of watched content on Netflix comes from algorithmic recommendations, according to findings by Mobile Syrup.

Meanwhile, McKinsey found that 35 percent of Amazon’s revenue is generated by its recommendation engine. Your business may already be collecting data on the online behaviour of your visitors but vast amounts of data can be overwhelming and pretty useless if you don’t know how to analyse it for the purposes of putting effective strategies in place.

An effective AI system has the capacity to filter through petabytes of consumer data to predict online behaviour, and offer individually specific recommendations that are buyers find relevant. This level of intelligence is vital in delivering a personalised shopping experience to the consumer.

Quite simply, stores that have not deployed ecommerce personalisation will lose out on revenue. Brands that engage this tactic can transform their online stores in a way that serves the customer’s needs and best interests. And do it efficiently and even cost effectively!

Humans cannot compete with AI when it comes to deconstructing big data. AI facilitates multiple ways to segment your audience to gain intelligent insights that allow retailers to personalise in a range of different ways.

  • Product recommendations: Algorithmic recommendations that update in real time, depending on the visitor’s behaviour. Buyers expect the ‘you may also like this’ feature to show items that are relevant to their tastes. Personalised merchandising sorts the product display to show customers products that genuinely appeal to them.
  • Personalised website content: Presents visitors with various configurations of online content according to their personal preferences. This can even include personalised navigation of the site, with a personalised home page, which is proven to increase conversions.
  • EA (Evolutionary Algorithms, a subset of AI): This can carry out sophisticated content testing and optimisation at a rate that humans simply cannot, by assessing which layouts and content drive the highest conversion with different customer segments and then configure the online experiences to the individual in real time.
  • Customer-centric search: Using tools such as natural language programming, searching online is becoming more intuitive to what the customer is actually looking for during online searches.
  • Currency auto-detection: Detects and presents the correct currency for your visitors and converts the prices accordingly so there are no surprises or extra steps for the customer.
  • You can even use AI to tackle fake reviews by finding and removing bot generated reviews by competitors. Negative reviews and lack of customer trust impacts sales. Ninety percent of shoppers surveyed said that positive reviews influence their online buying decisions. 

Brand benefits

The benefits of creating such a personal and convenient Customer Experience are vast. By increasing the level of visitor engagement through recommendations and customised content you reduce bounce rates, improve conversions, and increase sales. And better still, generate repeat business.

These tools eliminate the need for time-consuming content testing, and reduce the amount of money spent on ads. They can create valuable efficiencies across operations that free up precious time to focus business at the strategic level. An AI engine that continuously monitors all devices and channels has the ability to create a unified universal customer view; for the first time its possible to deliver a seamless cross-device and cross-platform experience.

AI systems can be integrated with digital marketing solutions and can be utilised to build unique customer experiences that are consistent across all marketing channels.

For instance, since implementing AI, clothing brand Footasylum saw a 28 percent increase in email campaign revenue from hyper-personalised marketing communications.

Marketing copy that speaks directly to the customers based on their purchase history, search queries, and page visits, is an extremely effective tool for cart recovery and post-purchase promotions. Abandoned cart emails achieve a 4.64 percent conversion rate, according to Proteus Themes.

Personalised ads on social media as a tool may not lead to people buying directly from the SM platform but they do drive relevant traffic that increases conversion rate so should not be left out of the AI strategy.

Privacy and ecommerce personalisation

Of course, the price of hyper-personalisation to the customers is their private data, but even cautious shoppers will part with their intimate details for a high level of customisation and ultra convenience.

Building value-based, trusting relationships with your customers is essential for long-term loyalty, so remaining fully transparent on how and why you collect people’s data and the security levels in place are vital.

Invespcro found that 57 percent of online shoppers are comfortable with providing personal information to a brand, as long as it directly benefits their shopping experience.

Chatbots and virtual assistants

Chatbots are a machine learning technology that interacts with shoppers in a chat environment simulating human conversations. Chatbots and virtual assistants are being deployed across online retail to mimic the personal touch of a shop assistant.

They learn and evolve to become better at assisting the visitor with customer service needs and product queries. They can even be trained to say ‘thank you’ and ‘sorry’, making them more forgivable if they do frustrate a customer.

Chatbots present an effective and low-cost way of providing customer service, 24/7, which reduces the need for expensive humans. Virtual assistants are impacting the way customers make purchases and provide retailers with a creative opportunity to deploy across the customer journey.

Where to start?

Investing in AI may still seem like an enormous undertaking, but there are several ‘off the shelf’ platforms available, many of which offer 30-day free trials. By testing out different applications on your site, you can see which works for your business. The real question is, can you afford not to invest in ecommerce personalisation for your business?

The smart approach is to do so with the intent of ensuring your customers feel personally valued and focus on providing them with an engaging and seamless shopping experience that will build long term brand loyalty.


Rory OConnorRory OConnorJuly 24, 2019
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6min1556

The scalability of online shopping is any retailer’s dream.

Any marketer will tell you that a happy and satisfied customer is your best weapon when it comes to success, but the waters are muddy in the online world and the downsides are even more slippery.

When somebody buys from your online store they get an instant dopamine hit with even more coming as the anticipation builds over the following hours or days until delivery. Every brick and mortar shopper gets the same hit initially, but by walking out with the item in hand that level of anticipation doesn’t hit in the same way. In other words, every customer that buys from your store is on a high from that moment all the way to when they are opening the package and then wearing/using the item.

This is great news for e-retailers, but the downside of this is much steeper if you get this process wrong, with customers being much more let down than by a poor in-store experience.

Positive customer experiences are an imperative for the sustained growth of a business; it builds customer brand loyalty, affinity, and encourages them to refer their friends and interact positively with your brand.

According to the American Express Customer Service Barometer, people tell an average of 15 others about a poor service experience. This means that if you’re having issues with your supply chain, deliveries, or any other part of your business you’re doing untold damage to your future sales and reputation with Forbes reporting that US companies lost $75 billion in 2018 due to poor customer service. 

On the other hand, according to Zendesk, as many as 42 percent of consumers will repeat purchase following a positive online experience.

So how might your business combat this?

For online players, the key focus has to be customer-centric. Customers increasingly want next day or even same day delivery options with the ability to tailor times and locations accurately to their needs. To ensure this occurs, having integrated systems that allow you to improve all facets of the digital Customer Experience is key. These include the user interface, mobile responsiveness, and design along with clear communication methods and a way to relay real-time data across all interactions with each customer.

Not only does this ensure a frictionless process for your customers, but it ensures consistency on your end and open communication lines around all aspects of each delivery to ensure proper deliveries or fix any issues in real-time. Companies in retail or in any other industry have been traditionally poor at fixing customer issues in real time and at the customer’s convenience. This comes as no surprise that even now Harvard Business Review found that 64 percent have no dedicated system in place. All companies will have customer issues and while you should always strive to minimise these instances, those who get them right are in a strong position to keep their customers satisfied and differentiate themselves all at the same time.

ROI

Winning new customers is very difficult and expensive with the Harvard Business Review finding that it is anywhere from five to 25 times more expensive to acquire a new customer than it is to keep a current one, yet only 49 percent of consumers say that companies provide good CX. 

PWC also found that customers spend up to 16 percent more with retailers who provide good CX and are also more willing to share data with these companies also. At this stage you would have hoped that online retailers would have gotten the memo about online CX, satisfaction, and relationships, but it appears for many there’s a lot of work left to do to keep their customers’ dopamine flowing.


Rory OConnorRory OConnorMay 23, 2019
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3min680

Experience is everything for the digitally empowered customer, and delivering online goods from factory to front door is an integral part of the sales experience. 

Getting that delivery function right means frictionless online sales that will ultimately result in a solid, loyal customer base, but what exactly is a good delivery experience?

A good delivery experience is contextual – it differs from individual to individual as well as the locale in which the delivery is taking place.  The speed of delivery has become an evolving battleground for retailers, with a 28 percent increase in the UK from 2016 – 2018 on the number of next day delivery orders placed. However, even next day deliveries are becoming obsolete with more people now looking for same day delivery.

As a retailer, there are four key things that need to be done to ensure the Customer Experience is positive. The most important thing is to not only review your data but analyse your date to find trends and exceptions. Secondly, create direct and meaningful connections with customers offering consistent and trustworthy communication and tracking. Thirdly, where possible, automate and use AI and chatbots to deliver more speed efficiency and productivity. Lastly, carrier automation is key to operational efficiency.

Having different delivery options can make a huge difference at the level where people abandon their baskets during an online shopping experience. The key to securing a shopper that does not abandon their baskets are convenience, speed and price. Again, the context of the individual is important with every transaction, so having different delivery options to offer is key. Most online shoppers expect free delivery without a minimum spend, which puts pressure on delivery providers and can severely impact customer experience.

Failed deliveries are a large problem when choosing your delivery provider. The cost of getting a delivery wrong is detrimental, as a lost delivery can cost the company up to £150. Not only can it cost money on-the-spot, but worse, it can cost future sales as the customer that is not having a successful experience with the company is more likely to choose a different provider next time. A company is only as good as their last delivery, so each delivery has to be perfect for a customer to continue using that company.

Experience is now everything for the digitally empowered customers and the future of delivery relies upon successful customer experiences. Carriers have seen that providing an experience to the consumer is very important and have focused their energies on the creation of apps and brand recognition, amongst other things.




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