When we think of Artificial intelligence, it can seem like a concept lifted from a sci-fi movie. However, in reality, we use AI every day since it’s integrated into our mobile devices, smartwatches and computers. To put it simply, AI are complex and reactive algorithms that can adapt to different inputs –can appear to make human-like decisions or reactions– whilst also learning from those inputs to create more successful outputs.
Take social media feeds, for example. These are powered by AI, and it is why while we scroll through our social media, we see shopping ads and suggestions as to what we should like and purchase. However, as eCommerce grows, we look at how more companies are beginning to integrate AI into their customer journeys to make them more streamlined for the user.
A unique application of AI for online shopping has to be nate. Founded by people fed up with being told what to buy – and how awkward the checkout process can be – nate aims to show off how artificial intelligence can make eCommerce enjoyable and quick. When users download the app, they first put in all of their delivery and payment details. Then nate’s algorithm fills out all checkout forms, so all you have to do is click a button to complete the purchase.
However, what is great about nate is that users can save items from any online store into their wish lists. This means that browsing on nate is restricted to what consumers want – not what they are told they might like. Of course, there are no ads featured on the app either. The creator aimed to create a more human and organic experience that was simple and enjoyable. Ironically, AI was perfect for making that happen.
Digital Fitting Rooms
Digital fitting rooms have been discussed frequently within eCommerce circles, especially over national lockdowns when traditional clothing shops were closed. There are many different ways to run a virtual fitting room – but we think that H&M’s concept (currently in the works) is one of the best. Customers will be able to go in-store to get a body scan from which a personal avatar is created. Then, at home, they can try on clothes virtually using their avatar, automatically adjusting styles to the correct sizes using artificial intelligence. Whilst this has yet to be rolled out, it is an exciting concept and could be a unique step in the path-to-purchase journey.
Due to the increased amount of time spent on Zoom calls and the like during the COVID-19 pandemic, make-up brands went as far as to release virtual make-up that could only be worn online. Trying on new cosmetic styles virtually is advantageous, especially considering that most makeup can’t be returned once purchased. The popular cosmetics brand Bobbi Brown launched its own virtual makeover assistant online. The technology accurately maps a customers’ face to virtually apply make-up in a realistic way.
Augmented Reality Room Planners
Despite the multitude of easy-to-assemble furniture and home-delivery options presented by online homeware shopping, there’s one question that has always been difficult to answer: What will this look like in real life? It’s, therefore, no surprise to find that IKEA has created their own 360° room planner app named IKEA Place. The app allows users to take a photo of their room which is automatically measured using AI. This will enable customers to try out furniture and see if it will fit (both in size and style), whilst the app may also make some suggestions depending on which furniture will fit in the available space.
Camera Shopping Assistants
Ever gone shopping without your BFF by your side and wondered how you would cope making purchases without them – not to worry – perhaps your phone camera can help! Camera shopping assistants utilise your phone camera as input for AI programmes that can assist you whilst shopping. Take the Nike Fit app, for example. The app aims to help people find their correct shoe size, all you have to do is point your phone camera at your feet, and the app does the rest. Once the user’s shoe size has been determined and saved in the app, customers can shop in-store simply by showing a QR code.
Another company which has made good use of camera shopping assistants is Chanel. Their app Chanel Lipscanner has the dual function of matching you with the perfect lipstick shade and allowing you to try it on virtually. Users can allow the app access to their phone camera to scan real-life objects that they wish were a lip shade, and the app will match them to the correct lipstick – not only in colour but also the closest texture match to what they scanned in. Then users snap a selfie-and the virtual try-on feature will show them what their chosen shade would look like on them.
We couldn’t discuss artificial intelligence and eCommerce without mentioning chatbots. Chatbots use NLP (natural language processing) to simulate human conversation. This can be useful when customers have frequently asked questions or need help with simple tasks like navigating a website.
However, chatbots can be programmed to do much more. Take Lidl’s chatbot Margot for example. It runs through Facebook Messenger and aims to help shoppers choose from Lidl’s wine range. Using a hyper-conversational model allows users to find wines based on country or region, type of grape, colour, or even the price. Margot became a popular chatbot with users due to its human-like conversation style combined with helpful advice about Lidl’s products.
There are already great ways to apply artificial intelligence to optimise e-commerce websites and improve the shopping experience to make the communication between customers and brands better when it comes to eCommerce. The use of the technology and its implementation on these new apps as virtual assistants aim to make our shopping experience even more seamless without taking away the thing consumers love most – choice.
Written and researched by Paige Elford, Digital Marketing Graduate