Using Artificial Intelligence (AI) in your business may sound complicated or expensive, but it doesn’t have to be.

The thing is, implementing AI can be as simple as leveraging an existing tool, like your Customer Relationship Management (CRM) or eCommerce platform, to suggest particular products to customers and generate email recommendations through machine learning.

Now more than ever, AI solutions are easier to use in your business. You just need to know what it looks like in practice, and where to begin.

We’re going to cover three main areas in this article:

  1. Understanding key terminology: What’s the difference between AI and machine learning?
  2. How small to mid-sized businesses can use AI – more specifically focusing on:
    • AI for the customer experience
    • AI for inventory management
    • AI for security
  3. The best place to start investing in AI

Understanding the difference between AI & machine learning

Let’s clear a few things up around terminology.

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is the ability for a robot to complete tasks that would normally require a human. AI occurs when a robot is programmed to follow a set of rules (or algorithm) to make decisions and carry out the task.

Machine learning on the other hand, is the ability for the robot to make its own rules and improve the algorithm for better results.

Developers create an algorithm for a robot to follow, and then increase the robot’s capabilities to create its own rules using machine learning. Machine learning is often considered a subset of AI, which is why it falls under the broader discussion of artificial intelligence.

So what does AI look like in the context of eCommerce?

Think about all of the super time-consuming or repetitive manual tasks you have to do often.

Here’s some examples:

  • Keeping tabs on what inventory is getting low and conducting manual reviews on what you need to order
  • Responding to repeated customer questions or queries
  • Having to constantly update any promotions you’re running

Now, imagine there was a way that could take care of tasks like these for you?

How small to mid-sized businesses can leverage AI

AI can help you turn these tasks into automations that fill the gaps between apps and processes that power your business.

Here are the three top areas where AI can help your business:

  1. Improve and personalise your customers’ experience
  2. Optimise and automate your inventory management
  3. Automate repetitive elements of your customer service

Improve and personalise your customers’ experience

This is all about creating a relevant customer experience that feels tailored to a specific individual.

AI can help you learn more about your customers individually so you can tailor product recommendations, dynamically change content or provide timely discounts.

Personalised product recommendations for online shoppers can increase your conversion rates and average order values.

This is made possible by the enormous amount of data collected around previous purchases, searched purchases, and online browsing habits.

It’s no longer about generic bulk email sends and promotions.

Machine learning is being used to identify changes in customer behaviour and patterns in how they’re buying, and what they’re buying.

For example: Sally wants to buy a medium-sized purple jacket for her ski trip to Japan. AI can be used to provide specific upsells by identifying the product Sally has chosen and show her products that would complement this purchase.

You can also use AI to identify patterns and trends around search terms potential customers are using to find sites like yours, so you can deliver the right message tailored to what they are interested in or value, e.g. ‘cheap’ or ‘leather’.

This kind of personalisation can happen from your shopping cart, or via data collected through your CRM or email management tools.

Your job is to understand and interpret this data, so you can tailor the customer experience from browsing to purchase.

What is AI’s role in payments?

Artificial intelligence can also help mitigate payment fraud in your business. There are machine learning tools businesses can use to predict if a transaction is likely fraudulent. It will apply rules to either accept or decline the transaction, or pause it for you to review.

eWAY supports our merchants with our anti-fraud product Beagle Ultimate, to deliver a personalised and automated fraud solution for businesses.

Optimise and automate your inventory management

AI-enabled inventory management helps you provide a better onsite customer experience. It could be something as simple as hiding a particular product that is running low, and showing it again when you get restocked. Or, sending you a notification when products are running low.

AI-enabled inventory management helps you manage your stock levels to prevent spoilage, reduce idle stock, and reduce storage costs.

Again, this is made possible using data by looking at things like:

  • Past customer purchasing behaviour
  • Projected or anticipated changes in product demands
  • Trends in sales from previous years
  • Potential supply-related issues that could impact inventory levels

On an inventory level, we’re seeing businesses use their physical stores as warehouses.

For example: Bunnings or Kmart have a multi-store approach, which means they have to ensure they don’t sell a product online or in-store that can’t be fulfilled. To avoid this, they have an integrated approach between inventory management, their point of sale software and ecommerce platform to set up rules such as:  “if this product gets to 5 or less in-store, then don’t sell online.”

While that example is not technically AI, where AI could be applied to this scenario is changing stock levels based on demand. For example, AI can be used to predict that certain stock isn’t moving in-store, so it makes units available to purchase online. It enables you to move the goods freely.

Read more

How a PIM system will automate your online inventory

There are also some businesses using AI in their warehouses to streamline their pick, pack and ship processes. AI learning can help decide if products are sitting in the right locations within the warehouse.

For example: If you had a low selling product right near the pick, pack and ship operator, but the high-priority and valuable items sold on a frequent basis are all the way down the back of the warehouse — this is going to take the person longer to retrieve this product, which isn’t a good use of time. So AI can be used to identify ideal product location and routes to get the goods to fulfil for shipping in a meaningful large-scale way.

Automate your customer service

Humans need to sleep, chatbots don’t. With the use of AI you can train bots to handle urgent queries in a 24/7 environment or do some of the heavy lifting prior to engaging a support agent or a sales resource within your business.

Chatbot technology is continually improving and becoming far more intuitive to provide a better customer experience.

Here’s what it might look like:

  • AI allows you to automate your customer service experience through chatbots to provide more information to your sales and marketing teams
  • Send automated engagement emails and responses based on customer interactions and information
  • Anticipate commonly asked questions and save yourself the manual copy and paste every time
  • Being able to listen and respond to customer feedback, comments, and reviews in a timely and efficient manner
  • Self-learning capabilities to keep improving their customer support over time
  • Being able to provide personalised offers to customers to build retention and loyalty

Another area where AI could help your business is providing website security.

There are two types of ecommerce platforms: Software-as-a-service (SAAS) products such as Shopify, BigCommerce, and Magento. Or self-hosted, custom built, which is where AI and machine learning applies.

How? For those using a self-hosted website, you should make sure:

  • You have machine learning to scale your servers if they are getting a lot of load
  • Using AI learning to block and deny service attacks
  • Using AI to manage inbound traffic you shouldn’t be receiving it or any fraudulent activity in that regard

Where is the best place to start investing in artificial intelligence?

It all depends on the eCommerce platform you are using. Generally speaking, you need to have a specific goal in mind.

I’m an online business wanting to grow. I will use AI to help me do that.

Start by looking at technology to support that goal within the shopping platform and customer experience tool you’re using.

And if you aren’t sure your current set-up is fit for this purpose, check out how to choose the best eCommerce platform for your store.

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