As eCommerce retailers head full speed into the Holiday Season, the advent and adoption of new technologies have helped a number of retailers come to terms with some of the most demanding days of the calendar year. And whilst there are examples of retailers who have posted exceptional numbers, AI is helping others learn more about changing  consumer behaviour as shopping expectations ramp up. 

Alibaba’s AI models 

This month, China’s eCommerce giants, Alibaba and JD, generated $115 billion in sales as part of their annual Singles’ Day shopping bonanza. The breakdown of these numbers reveals that Alibaba accounted for $74.1 billion of those sales, a number dwarfing the $10 billion brought in by Amazon’s 48-hour Prime Day sales. Given the scale of the event, optimising eCommerce efforts is a logistical challenge and requires investment and stress resilience. In order to tick these boxes, Alibaba and JD have invested heavily in AI models and other technology infrastructure to predict shopping demand, optimize the global distribution of goods across warehouses, and streamline worldwide delivery. 

In particular, Alibaba used AI models prior to this year’s Holiday Season to help navigate the uncertainty around shopper intentions and stock requirements. Whilst they have used forecasting models from previous years to understand requirements for a number of years, COVID-19’s disruption meant they needed to quickly alter their models. So rather than project shopping patterns based on season, as done before, models factored in more immediate variables, such as  the previous week of sales leading up to major promotional events, or external data like the number of Covid cases in each province. The results were a major boon and just one example of how leading eCommerce businesses have been able to successfully use AI. 

The benefits of AI in eCommerce 

Alibaba is not alone in leveraging AI technology to improve customer experience and offer greater personalisation. The American store Target, for example, have long been using AI and machine learning as part of their online strategy. They could infamously predict when a woman was pregnant. 

Consumers are now far more comfortable sharing their data in order to have a better-tailored shopping experience that is now widely craved. With greater reliance on eCommerce than ever before as a result of COVID-19, we have reached a seminal point where tracking cookies and apps can provide key information that AI models can be used to develop strategies to keep customers loyal and increase consumer’s propensity to buy. 

The AI adoption gap 

The AI adoption gap can refer to those who are fully utilising and adopted true AI. We are seeing this with top retailers such as Amazon and Ali Baba who  have been able to fully utilise AI and for many years and are experiencing accelerated growth, whilst the majority of eCommerce retailers are being left behind. So what are they experiencing by doing this that others are not?

AI has opened up the capability of having more targeted customer identification. For example, in partnership with Cloud.IQ, StoreYa’s use of AI as part of its Traffic Booster solution is part of a clear trend that is seeing the technology shape the future of eCommerce. They specialise in optimising the paid advertising channels by leveraging AI technology to create a cost-effective bidding strategy that can make real-time adjustments to keywords, ads and the most relevant category or product page on your site whilst geo-targeting the most relevant shoppers. 

Further down the funnel smarter marketing, powered by AI, can help your business promote items through campaigns when they are well-stocked. Should that stock need replenishing, AI technology will recognise it is no longer beneficial to spend time and effort bringing these items to the attention of consumers and change tact. This ensures your campaigns are always fully optimised and making the most of your marketing efforts for your eCommerce business.

How AI can meet consumer demands 

The desire for a personalised customer journey is also clear amongst consumers in a landscape altered by COVID-19. According to Cloud.IQ’s exclusive consumer insights survey, over 58% of consumers are either extremely likely or very likely to buy from a retailer who offers personalised content. With AI capabilities, retailers can more accurately identify shoppers and segment them to create a true 1:1 marketing experience helping to meet consumer demands and expectations. Alongside this, AI can predict a shoppers likeliness to buy and offer them personalised incentives based on this understanding. From building an understanding of the shopper’s preferences, AI can also recommend products throughout the customer journey and link this back to stock to predict popularity. 

To summarise, the AI will know what to say, when and which message to deliver to the shopper to get them to convert and become a loyal customer. To learn more about how Cloud.IQ can help take your eCommerce business to the next level using AI-powered solutions, contact customersuccess@cloud-iq.com.