Slides: How to improve customer engagement by using AI-driven marketing & merchandising

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Published on 03/10/19 by Bradlie Houldsworth.

On Thursday 26th September, our Strategy & Innovation Manager Brad Houldsworth presented a set of top tips and area’s of your eCommerce site to introduce A.I into. Here are the slides and full transcript:

Afternoon everyone, I’m Brad. I work for the eCommerce software agency Remarkable Commerce as their strategy & innovation guy. Which means I get to look at cool tech, chat to our clients about cool tech and hassle our developers to make our own cool tech.

This afternoon I am going to show you all how to improve customer engagement using AI-driven marketing & merchandising strategies.

So, unless you’ve been burrowed deep underground for the last couple of years, you’ve probably heard of artificial intelligence (AI). And in fact, 92% of companies have increased their investment in AI this year.

As a software company, Remarkable Commerce is massively interested in AI and its applications, especially in our eCommerce world over the last 5 years as it has began to embed itself into all aspects of our everyday lives.

We’ve got self-checkouts everywhere, advanced security checks at the airport, we’ve got Siri or OK Google on everyone’s phones, we have intelligent toothbrushes that detect brushing patterns and not to mention the facial recognition AI that started a few years ago.

I believe there is going to be an AI turbo-drive starting in the next 5 years, as already the giants like Google and Microsoft are already investing heavily into new AI initiatives and are using AI in most of their software.

This started years ago when Google purchased DeepMind for £400m in 2014, the artificial intelligence company that specialises in algorithms and machine learning for ‘positive impact’.

The reality is that everybody is already talking about artificial intelligence in eCommerce – if you search for AI online, you will find millions of articles that predict a marketplace dominated by artificial intelligence. These articles and top-tips are often too ‘advanced’ and slightly far-fetched with suggestions like wearable technology. Though it’s a world we are slowly getting to, yet we’re not quite there yet.

What you may not realise is that there are actually many e-commerce businesses are already using forms of AI.

When Brightedge (an enterprise-level SEO platform) asked 500 marketers what their company uses AI for, 31% said they are using AI to better understand their customer – whether that be what their interests are, what/where they go each day and how they behave.

These 11 million articles are the broad topics being discussed where you can use AI in our world. I’m going to chat through a few of these but I’m going back to basics today and give you some real actions that you can take away and look at or do. But before we get into those I want to get a little technical super quick…

There are different forms of AI… and in our eCommerce world the two most common are Machine Learning and Natural Language Processing.
Machine-learning is basically where systems learn from patterns of huge data sets and become smarter and smarter over time.
Natural language processing is where the data being fed into the system is better understood and the meaning of questions or text becomes known. But that’s as technical as I’ll go today…

So let’s get to it. Here are the 7 key areas to focus your initial AI efforts on…

Focus Area 1: AI Copywriting

The first technique I’m going to discuss is copywriting with AI. Copywriting is an often-overlooked but an incredibly impactful art, that, when done effectively, can have a hugely beneficial impact on CTR (click-through rate) and conversion rates.

But let’s face it, writing copy is boring as hell. If you’ve ever tried to write a 100-word product description for 100 products – you will know what I’m on about. Especially when your SEO team are like “its got to be unique” and your buyers are like “it’s not red it’s razzzzzmataaaazzzz red”

So here are some AI copywriting tools which will make your life a lot easier.

  • Phrasee is a platform for writing email subject lines and headings/titles for your marketing activities. I believe they released a feature for social posts not too long ago which sounded great.
  • Grammarly is quite a common chrome browser plugin, it helps with writing copy and enriching it
  • Finally, Persado – a powerful and enterprise-level platform for personalising your copy.

Focus Area 2: AI Site Search

Every retailer should know that a search box is a fundamental feature in pretty much every single eCommerce website as it allows users to type anything into the box and within seconds, relevant results should pop up.

Did you know that users who use the search tool typically have a much higher conversion rate than those who don’t use it, but normally only about 10-20% of all website users actually interact with that search box?

So, before we dive deeper into how AI can aid your website, let’s quickly think about search engines as a whole, and how they already use AI.

When searching on google for the word ‘it’, what results should be returned?

'IT' being searched for on Google, which demonstrates the importance of 'AI Site Search'.

It courses? IT the film? A synonym of the word it? Or am I trying to remember a long lost tag line? The possibilities are endless!

To give you a basic understanding on how the search engine works, as the search engine algorithm trying to decipher what is meant by ‘it’ they look at your previous searches and what searches you’ve been clicking on in order to figure out the intent of the search. Obviously, these methods do get more complex as you search in different ways as the way you search changes depending upon entry type.

It’s safe to say that text-based search queries are very different to voice-search queries and image search. So how does this help you when it comes to your very own eCommerce site search?

It’s clear that search is a powerful tool for any website but extremely complex if you’re wanting to give your users the best experience possible whilst on your website. Thankfully, there are many tools which help customers discover products easily and with relevance. Here are a few of our favourites:

  • Visenze if you’re looking to add a visual search functionality to your eCommerce website.
  • Remarkable Commerce Search Manager which enables you to control your search results in great depth.
  • Klevu for a machine learning search technology.

Focus Area 3: Chatbots

A 'Chatbot' interaction taking place in relation to finding the correct hair colour match.

We’re all familiar with chatbots on websites. Those little simulations you go to to get a question answered – sometimes, they do it really well and others, not so much!

According to Gartner, by next year, 85% of our engagement with businesses will be done without interacting with another human, and instead, we’ll be using self-service options and chatbots.

If you’re looking to add a chatbot to your eCommerce website, some of our favourite AI chatbots include Verloop, ManyChat and Pandorabots.

Focus Area 4: AI Display Ads

Display advertising is one of the oldest forms of web/digital advertising however, over the years, consumers have became tired of seeing irrelevant and simply boring ads.

Although the concept of AI-based display ads is not completely groundbreaking, it can help you get your ad in front of the right person and will help your PPC campaign achieve a higher ROI, with 60% of marketing leaders believing that AI will have a transformative effect in delivering the right message to the right people.

Programmatic advertising enables retailers to target consumers based on specific demographics such as age, salary, online and offline interests and their current job role.

When posting out your display ads, you need to ensure that the placement within the Google Network is correct. Below is an example of a poorly placed ad, and you don’t want this unfortunate mistake to tarnish your brand.

An AI Display Ad from 'delawareonline' that is poorly placed which serves as an example of avoiding this approach.

Within the space of display ads, there are two forms of AI innovations happening at the moment:

  • AI for Hyper-Targeting – this will enable your ads to reach the right people, at the right time, with the right form of ad.
  • AI for Ad Copy – the ad copy will become completely personalised and will test out the best possible variants in order to create the most engagement.

Focus Area 5: Predictive Analytics

Who remembers when Netflix said the would give the team who increased accuracy of the company’s recommended engine by 10%, $1million as a prize?

Though it took a few years, somebody actually did complete it. Funny thing about this though, was that Netflix never actually used the code as within the 3 years it took for someone to complete the challenge, they had already improved their accuracy by over 10%.

Improving the recommendation engine’s accuracy was the goal for the challenge but really, they needed to be able to predict what their customers would want to see, which is a long-term ambition of most retailers.

But what actually is ‘Predictive Analytics’?

Essentially, Predictive Analytics is data that gives you a deeper understanding of customer habits and preferences. By being able to recognise these patterns as a retailer, you can:

  • Know which products your customers are looking for.
  • Identify popular and not-so-popular products and product categories without having to run manual reports.
  • Be able to plan and forecast sales more accurately.
  • Track which of your drop-ship fulfillers is faster.
  • Predict revenues from certain products or product categories.
  • Avoid undesirable situations where products might be listed as unavailable or out-of-stock.

A few popular Predictive Analytics tools include AbsolutData, Crayon Data and SwiftERM.

Focus Area 6: AI Merchandising

The visual merchandising of your online store is a critical part to the success of an eCommerce business. It is the secret on how your can engage with your shoppers and guide them towards making a purchase.

When using intelligent technology, your shoppers are not only more likely to buy the goods you’re promoting, but by creating a great user experience, your customers will enjoy engaging with your digital store and will be more likely to return. For retailers, this means that you’ll have a significantly increased conversion rate and a higher AOV.

The importance of retailing the product itself is often overlooked by retailers as they look at the navigation, page copy, filters, adverts and product recommendation engines but often skip over the product ordering and product discovery.

If you’re looking to merchandise your products effectively, we recommend using Remarkable Commerce Merchandising Manager, a super powerful tool enables you to manually and dynamically control the retailing of your product lists. Save time, save money and improve your conversion rate by transforming your online visual merchandising.

Focus Area 7: AI Product Recommendations

And finally, the old favourite, using AI to push product recommendations. In our time as eCommerce experts, we’ve seen many examples of retailers using AI driven recommendation strategies and some are better than others. Take a look at Amazon, they are the masters in this space and their AI capabilities are ridiculous.

Product recommendations on Amazon, suggesting a 'PlayStation 4' and game based on the customer's purchase history.

Our final recommendations for AI driven product recommendations with varying features and functions include Nosto, Remarkable Commerce, Rich Relevance and Dynamic Yield.

To Summarise…

  1. Run your copy through AI for optimisations
  2. Install an AI Search Engine onto your site
  3. Invest in a chatbot that will improve your customer engagement
  4. Ask your PPC/Media agency to start using AI
  5. Start tracking your customers’ habits so that you can analyse and predict their next move
  6. Refocus your merchandising strategies to be product focused
  7. Integrate an AI product recommendation engine onto your site

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