How pervasive is AI in your shopping experience?
AI (Artificial Intelligence) has been around for more than 60 years, gaining main stream adoption in the last decade, with investment increasing more than 6X since 2000. Most people don’t realise how pervasive AI already is, and this article will walk you through a typical consumer’s shopping journey to highlight it’s use : the AI shopping experience.
You are sitting on your couch at home and it occurs to you that you need to buy a pair of hiking shoes for your upcoming camping trip. You pick up your tablet and start doing research to see what is available. Your search most likely starts with Google, which lists all the different vendors where you can find hiking shoes. At this point AI is already in play. Google tracks all your searches, including your interests, age, gender, location and a host of other metrics, then uses AI to list the most suitable retailers for your hiking shoes.
You click through to a website that peaks your interest. Every action and click is now recorded and associated with you automatically. It is anonymous, unless you register, but they will remember you, even if you are anonymous, so they keep on adding more behavioural information on every subsequent visit. All this information is then made available to AI algorithms that can learn and predict which hiking shoes you are most likely to purchase. The more you visit a brand, the more relevant the recommendations become. Once you’ve made the decision to buy, the clever AI algorithms would have analysed the buying behaviours of other visitors, using those results to recommend other products that are usually bought together with your shoes, which is all part of the AI shopping experience.
Provisioning your goods
An order for your hiking shoes has now been created. You’ve paid and there is an expectation that your purchase will be delivered as soon as possible. This means that stock always has to be available to meet the expectation of 1000s of shoppers. This is where the clever AI algorithms come into play again. Historical sales data, seasons, events, weather, fashion trends are all taken into account to work out what the optimal stock levels need to be at any given time. If there is too much stock, then the algorithms can work out the most optimal discount, which will result in increased sales of the items.
Your shoes are now sourced and packed in the warehouse, ready to be shipped. It is loaded onto a truck for delivery. Logistics companies invest lots of money to optimise their delivery schedules. It is very difficult for a human being to work out the best routes for any combination of deliveries. Once again, AI can plan the most optimal route based on various data points which includes traffic on the day, weather conditions, accidents, the size of the delivery vehicle and many more. The savings are significant, deliveries are more predictable with the added benefit of reducing the company’s carbon footprint. The truck delivers the order at your home.
After sales service
The whole process is frictionless, making for a very enjoyable shopping experience. But let’s assume a mistake did creep in and they delivered the wrong size shoes. You dread going through the whole process of calling the call centre because you generally end up waiting in a calling queue. You log on to the website to chat to a service agent. The agent is available immediately and willing to assist, with you explaining what happened, and a new instruction is issued to deliver the correct size shoes. These days you will most likely be communicating with a chatbot, who is an AI based computer program that can simulate conversation with human beings. Sometimes the conversation needs to be handed off to a real human when it can’t answer all the questions, but the bot will learn over time and become more efficient. The process is seamless and your shoes are delivered on the next delivery run.
AI is changing the way we live and do business. It is making our lives easier and will become even more prevalent in future. There are many pro’s and con’s to AI, but the positives for the retail consumer has been a frictionless AI shopping experience and reduced prices as a result of it. AI in business is not an option any more, it is a necessity. Businesses won’t be competitive if they don’t embrace it.
By Leon Coetzer, Co-Founder getDeveloper
Leon has more than 20 years in the software development industry, successfully delivering both enterprise and greenfield software projects. Responsible for strategy and operations, Leon brings a unique blend of technical and business knowledge to getDeveloper.