Leveraging Cloud & AI/ML for a better eCommerce & Retail experience

Cloud & Artificial Intelligence can solve some problems in the customer journey

Retail has undergone a lot of change over the last few years and the pace of change is only accelerating. Customers are always short on time and multiple device form-factors is what they use for browsing. Increasingly online shopping now blends with traditional offline shopping and customers expect a seamless experience between the online & offline world and everything should just work faster. 

5 challenges for customercentric eCommerce & Retail

A Recent study by Qubit surveyed retail customers and asked them what would ensure they complete more purchases on their mobile devices, and following are the top-5 reasons surfaced by the customers:

  1. If the browsing experience was faster/easier
  2. If it was easier to find exactly what I want
  3. If it was easier to discover new products I like
  4. If It was easier to pay
  5. If I don’t get distracted

Online retailers have tried to build features around these areas however on several occasions have found the investment needed to build such infra and product solutions too high, however Thanks to the offerings by Cloud Platforms providers and various AI & ML products it is possible even for small retailers to bridge some of these customer experience gaps and create more delightful experiences for their customers that results in more sales.

Solving the eCommerce challenges

Now we are looking for solutions how to solve these 5 crucial challanges in the retail and ecommerce field for the customer.

1. Faster Browsing Experience 

Using cloud services results in faster browsing experience compared to a single server being used to serve the traffic. Since cloud hosting platforms use a cluster of servers to load balance it results in faster response rates. More rich media images, videos you are planning to use higher is the benefit you would get by using a cloud platform hosting (in some cases this is as much as 60% improvement). In addition to faster experience cloud hosting also provides a higher level of security (compared to what you can provide typically build on your own) and the ability to seamlessly scale as your traffic grows

2. Easier to find exactly what I want

We are busy and always on the move, we see a great dress and want to get something exactly like that. Thanks to various products available which use Image processing and pre-trained machine learning models to detect and classify images. Integrating these products in your retail workflow would mean you can create experiences where someone takes a picture of a dress they just saw in a store and you can show them similar products from your catalogue. Various major Cloud vendors provide products as part of their AI/ML offerings to make this possible. 

3. Easier to discover new products:

Showing product suggestions for related, complementary helps your customers discover other products they might be interested in. Using Cloud platform you can build and train Machine Learning model through which you can surface suggestions for related products as the customer is browsing. By using profile, historical customer data, browsing history you can also adapt the recommendations and also adapt to the changes in the environment including offers, sales, change in product catalogue etc.

4. Easier to Pay

Most of the cloud platform providers offer Payment solutions that you can include in your workflow. Instead of building your own payment solution it is highly recommended to integrate with the solutions offered by your cloud provider. If you are expecting customers from different countries it is also important that your payment solution works for different currencies and it is worth testing this use case (i.e. ordering from a different country)

5. Customer doesn’t gets distracted

With so much going on in our lives this one is probably the hardest to solve for, there might be an interesting news article that popped-up and your customer gets busy reading that leaving the purchase work-flow midway. To try to solve for customer getting distracted and leaving purchase flow mid-way you can:

  • Ensure the end to end shopping experience has as few steps as possible (test it several times including A/B tests)
  • Send a notification if there are items added to the customer’s cart but the purchase wasn’t completed

Final thoughts

Wide range of Cloud offerings and advancements in AI & ML is making it easier to create richer, more engaging customer experiences in Retail. For experience which would have required massive investment in servers, infra, data scientists are now possible for a fraction of the cost (investment, time and people). 

Based in Silicon Valley(California), Uttam heads Global Dev Ecosystem Programs at Google, leading the team working on programs that aims to make developers and startups successful as they build products and apps on Google's Developer Products. Prior to this he led Google's Launchpad program and Developer Relations for Google in SouthEast Asia. He has a Bachelors & Masters degree in Computer Science from IIT Kanpur (India) and a Master in Management (Strategy & Finance major). He also has a long association with Switzerland (over 10 years) first working as a Research Associate on projects involving Business Process Modeling & Cloud Computing, Mentoring & Coaching Swiss students & startups and most recently teaching at University of Applied Sciences in Switzerland.

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