According to Forbes, global online sales in the business-to-business eCommerce market are forecast to reach $6.7 trillion by 2020. This is underpinned by a fast-changing landscape, and the heightened customer expectations that are driving digital transformation. It’s also backed by another recent survey that says 76% of retail executives across Europe and the US have already built a dedicated b2b eCommerce site, and the fact that, for nearly 40% of them, this site is their primary sales channel. So let’s look at how emerging technologies like artificial intelligence (AI) could help b2b eCommerce sellers gain competitive advantage.
The evolving capabilities of AI are encouraging an increasing number of companies to incorporate new technologies into many different areas of their organisation – from contact centres to eCommerce. AI tools help to support the ability to learn from customers, analyse their data, and evaluate their purchasing behaviour. Whether it’s used in a smart search feature, for chatbots or to improve personalisation, AI can dramatically enhance the customer experience, and help to convert new prospects to buyers.
Cognitive technologies are bringing together humans and machines in the eCommerce environment and allowing each to continually learn from the other. By working together in this way, companies can deliver a highly personalised customer experience, while optimising stock and supply chain processes. Insights that come from ‘cognitive commerce’ can include the ability too predict future demand, recommendations for product cross-selling and upselling, purchasing trends and pricing optimisation.
The best way to build AI into eCommerce ecosystems involves using the technology to leverage the things that the storefront does well. Most companies already know a lot about their customers from analytics, metrics and other data captured at each interaction. Using AI, companies can mine huge amounts of data instantly and continuously. It picks up patterns in human interactions and allows business managers to understand what, where and why certain events are occurring so that corrective action can be taken. This kind of automation gives us the insights we need to make smarter decisions, faster.
With AI, information can be used create a more personalised experience and to assist customers on their purchasing journey. For example, if a buyer’s journey normally goes through three stages, we can be reasonably confident in predicting the probability of the customer completing the purchasing process. Over time, with the addition of a continuous data stream, AI technology will ensure the machine learns how to best optimise an individual’s journey to deliver a successful sales conversion.
AI is already helping to streamline workflows, and add more personal relevance into customer-machine interactions. AI technologies such as machine learning, natural language processing, and speech analysis are now used by some organisations in feedback scenarios where follow-up questions can be dynamically adjusted based on what customers say and how they say it. This is dramatically improving the quality of the data collected.
Away from the eCommerce platform itself, AI is also helping companies monitor and understand social media conversations in real-time, on channels like Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook. By keeping abreast of what customers are saying AI can automate alerts to any part of your business to make sure that issues or potential problems can be dealt with quickly and efficiently.