July 16, 2018
Welcoming change can be difficult. It’s human nature to enjoy the “comfort zone” and resist stepping outside of it. However, the most successful companies welcome change, seeing future unknowns as opportunities to disrupt and win. Committing to this type of mentality requires disruptive thinking, commitment across your entire organization, and creating a sound roadmap to guide the tactical execution of your winning strategy. At Echidna, we call this being future-ready. And the future comes fast in the digital age. Part of being future-ready means having the ability to change rapidly and regularly. Digitally mature companies regularly set goals, make plans, build solutions, change how they operate, and measure the results. If the results are good, they iterate and repeat. If they are bad, they change.
Digitally mature companies realize the burden that constant change demands from their people. Even as technology makes us more efficient, it has given us more work to do. Companies equip their people with modern tools to administer their parts of a growing digital ecosystem. And daily searching, browsing, clicking, and administration consumes most of our attention and leaves little time for innovative insight, much less for truly disruptive innovations.
That’s where artificial intelligence (AI) comes in. It offers us the opportunity to create intelligent assistants that perform tasks on our behalf and some we couldn’t possibly be expected to. As companies learn how to use these “intelligent machines” to improve revenue, reduce costs, and increase customer satisfaction, AI will become our most valuable emerging resource.
What is AI?
Simply stated, AI and its subset machine learning (ML) are transforming tools that manufacturers and distributors can offer via their digital commerce experiences. Efforts that were traditionally relied on to be completed by humans can now better augment their work with AI-powered tools that are automated and run faster than their human counterparts. These tools can analyze large groupings of data sets, run test, understand context, adjust based on results, understand human languages, interpret digital images, make predictions and continually updated based on more use of the tool. AI helps you have a better understanding of your customer to drive more personalized customer experiences. The more data it has the better the experience for your customer and the possible return on your investment. AI for B2B eCommerce platforms is still in early days, but future readiness preparations show that it should be a top tool on your roadmap to prepare to implement.
5 Ways to Utilize AI to Improve B2B eCommerce:
1. Improving upon omnichannel strategy. With better business decisions based on insights via AI of how your products are being used by buyers, you can create a stronger strategy with less future gaps.
2. Use predictive insights on stocking and inventory management. Through market trends, you can stock the hottest products for specific times of the year and also offer your customers improved inventory management, and reduce overhead.
3. Identify recurring activities that can be automated. Automation of these tasks through the use of machine learning will subsequently reduce costs. An example of this is automating product classifications. In the case when the model is not confident of its classification decision, human intervention can be requested. This can significantly reduce the time required to classify products and help increase the bandwidth of employees and empower them to spend time on more value adding initiatives.
4. Improve efficiency by developing richer, more refined persona-segments. By applying a machine learning approach, you can analyze low-level web behaviors (what people are browsing, searching, clicked on, eventually purchased). This will empower you to refine your personas and, by implementing a machine-learning approach, possibly increase sales and reduce churn.
5. Answer more questions across more channels, quicker. Conversational interfaces via AI are gaining popularity and for good reason. AI can swiftly and proactively answer questions such as “Where is my order” and can be easily programmed for new omnipresent buyers and their requests. So, from routing customer service requests to tracking packages, personalizing product suggestions or handling returns, AI can offer answers in many cases before customers even ask the questions.
Including AI in your eCommerce strategy will help move your enterprise from passively to proactively selling online. At a time when buyers can find virtually every kind of product at a low cost online, uniqueness and personalization is a requirement for success in eCommerce today and in the future. By letting AI take over mundane tasks, manufacturers and distributions can save their human resources for the more complex customer engagements while keeping up with their buyers’ changing behaviors and expectations. It is important as you begin to explore AI within your organization’s eCommerce strategy to identify gaps in your current processes and understand the business value of this technology for your unique requirements. By doing so you will be able to apply it in a way that feels true to your brand for employees and customers alike.
“Artificial Intelligence, in its many forms, will empower us like no technology has ever done before. By automating the cognitively mundane tasks of our day-to-day lives, AI will free us to explore new domains of creativity and expand our innovative potential beyond imagination.”
- Mike Pierce, CTO, Echidna
Internal follow-up discussion:
What is your plan to incorporate new technologies into existing and near-term digital strategies and finding the right people to implement them to drive growth?
Where would AI offer a better experience for your customers then what they are receiving today?
What gaps are in your current programs for digital commerce that AI could potentially assist with?
How does it look to implement AI in a natural way, both for our people and our customers?
About Kali Kasprzyk and Echidna
Kali Kasprzyk is the Director of Marketing at Echidna. She has been published in The Huffington Post on the topic of digital commerce and continues to write for various industry publications. Echidna is a leading digital systems agency led by experienced commerce professionals focused on helping enterprises evolve their Digital Commerce journey and maturity. Echidna focuses on the Consumerism of B2B with clients to guide them to maintain their B2B heritage while coupling B2C processes and solutions to add multiple points of value to all constituents.
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