TLDR: In a rapidly evolving ecommerce landscape, businesses face increasing pressure to deliver hyper-personalized customer experiences— a feat made achievable with recent AI technology advancements. This article will discuss this paradigm shift, delving into how AI is revolutionizing everything from marketing and content creation to customer support and reward systems. As customers' expectations for personalization soar, now is the time to harness the power of AI and stay ahead of the curve. This is a must-read if you want to supercharge your personalization strategies and create unique, compelling experiences that keep customers coming back.
In 2023, providing a personalized experience to your ecommerce customers is a top priority.
Okay…so it’s been that way for quite some time now.
(Chances are you already personalize your online experience in several ways.)
Thankfully, the recent emergence of ultra-sophisticated AI technology allows even the smallest of teams to supercharge their personalization efforts from every angle — on both the front and the backend.
In this article, we’ll look at the key ways to leverage AI to deliver a unique and individualized experience to every single one of your customers every time they engage with your brand. Feel free to skip to the most relevant section via the table of contents or continue reading for an all-encompassing insight into AI-driven ecommerce personalization.
Let’s dive in.
The State of Ecommerce Personalization in 2023
To get a better understanding of current consumer expectations regarding personalization, check out the findings of a recent report from Salesforce:
For our purposes, there are a few things to focus on here:
Firstly, 73% of consumers expect brands to understand their unique needs and expectations — up from 66% in 2020. Additionally, 62% of customers expect companies to anticipate these needs and expectations — again up from 56% in 2020. Finally, 56% of consumers expect their offers always to be personalized.
Your customers expect you to always provide unique offers and experiences to them.
And they expect you to be proactive about it, too.
In other words, a strategic personalization approach is par for the course by today’s standards. If you’re not actively looking for ways to deliver more individualized value to your customers moving forward, there’s a good chance you’ll lose them.
AI and Ecommerce Personalization: The Big Picture
The good news is that providing such a personalized experience to your customers — and doing so at scale — is well within reach for even the smallest of ecommerce companies.
This is thanks to the recent boom in artificial intelligence technology that’s taking the world by storm. Taking full advantage of the many AI-powered tools coming down the pike will be crucial for teams looking to take their marketing to the next level and stay ahead of their competition. This entails providing an individualized experience and implementing an effective branding strategy that aligns with your customer's expectations and needs.
As for what this entails…
From Automation to Hyperautomation
Emerging AI technology is quickly ushering in the era of hyper-automation.
Among the many AI-powered tools to embrace, mobile app analytics tools play a significant role in gathering and analyzing customer behavior data, providing insights that enable teams to tailor their marketing and branding strategies effectively.
By harnessing such tools, you can provide an individualized experience and devise and implement an effective branding strategy that aligns with your customer's expectations and needs.
This concerted effort is all about going beyond just automation to what Gartner explains as “hyper-automation,” which “deals with the application of advanced technologies, including artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML), to automate processes and augment humans increasingly. Hyperautomation extends across a range of tools that can be automated, but also refers to the sophistication of the automation (i.e., discover, analyze, design, automate, measure, monitor, reassess.).”
In short, hyper-automation is intelligent automation. While essential automation tech allows teams to automate simple, definitive tasks, hyper-automation can optimize how it approaches and performs specific processes and help teams optimize their manual processes, too.
Again, making the shift toward hyper-automation is non-negotiable for marketers today.
AI Powers the Front- and Backend
Today’s AI-powered marketing tools will help you automate and optimize your internal workflows and customer-facing processes — enabling you to deliver highly personalized experiences to your customers at every touchpoint.
Internally, these tools can assist with processes such as:
- Customer segmentation
- Marketing content and campaign creation
- Support staff management and scheduling
- Improved internal meetings
Optimizing these backend processes prepares your team to meet and exceed your audience’s expectations whenever they engage with your brand for any purpose whatsoever.
(As we get to this, you’ll ultimately be looking to automate these processes whenever possible.)
The point is that modern AI tech can optimize all aspects of your marketing operations — while breaking down internal silos. As previously discussed, this is often the key to ensuring your customers get the personalized experience you intended.
AI and Content Creation
AI is reshaping the backend and frontend operations of ecommerce and revolutionizing the content creation process. AI's ability to analyze large data sets, understand user behavior, and generate personalized content can be invaluable for ecommerce businesses.
Creating engaging and relevant content tailored to your customers' unique needs can be challenging, especially at scale. That's where AI can lend a hand. By automating content creation and tailoring it to individual user preferences, AI can help businesses deliver personalized experiences more efficiently.
For instance, tools like ChatGPT and Copy.ai are becoming instrumental in this domain as they can create a wide range of marketing materials such as emails, social media posts, product descriptions, and more.
This enables businesses to provide content that resonates with their audience's unique needs and drives engagement and conversions. In a world where consumers seek more personalized interactions with brands, AI-powered content creation tools can significantly enhance the ecommerce experience, making it more personalized and engaging.
Using AI to Automate and Enhance Ecommerce Personalization
Let’s look at the key ways ecommerce teams can leverage AI to serve their customers without further ado better.
Targeted Behavioral Marketing
By now a staple of strategic ecommerce marketing, behavioral targeting has always been about getting the right message to the right person at the right time.
To do this, teams must:
- Identify all critical touchpoints throughout the customer journey
- Determine what triggers the customer to take action — and what actions they take
- Know what they’ll need at these moments to nurture them to the next step
- Deliver it most effectively and conveniently as possible for the circumstances
In the past, teams could set up triggered campaigns to be sent to sure customers once they took a specific action.
The main limitation to doing this manually — even if you’re using AI to empower your team — is that you can’t possibly identify and analyze every one of your customers’ touchpoints, triggers, and on-site actions. While you’ll be able to build campaigns around the more significant and apparent moments, you’ll almost certainly end up overlooking others that may be just as critical to their journey.
Emerging AI tech alleviates this issue by analyzing and cross-referencing all relevant data, uncovering moments and patterns that may have slipped your team’s fingers. Advanced predictive analytics tools can help you create campaigns around future actions your customers may take — even if they’ve never taken them.
With AI, behavioral marketing is less about waiting for your customers to take specific actions along their journey — and more about delivering relevant value to them whenever they engage with your brand.
Advanced Chatbots and Conversational Marketing
Another long-standing staple of the ecommerce experience, chatbots are currently undergoing a massive transformation thanks to the AI evolution.
Generative AI — which powers the popular ChatGPT — allows modern chatbots to emulate human conversation better than ever. While past chatbots could follow simple, pre-defined scripts and answer basic user commands, today’s chatbots provide dynamic responses based on the user’s language and the context of the situation.
Instead of being programmed to follow specific scripts, generative chatbots are “trained” using existing branded content and past customer engagements. So, your chatbot tool will be able to adopt your brand’s linguistic style and adapt to your customer’s current needs and moods.
(And, it will always provide information that’s 100% in line with your standalone content. More on this in a bit)
This will all help you ramp up your conversational marketing initiatives to the point of true personalization. Your chatbot will not only be capable of providing the exact information or assistance your customers need at all times but also of approaching each engagement as the unique experience it is for the individual.
AI-Assisted Search and Navigation
AI is helping ecommerce brands make their on-site experience more accessible to the consumer in several ways.
Some of the key features we see here include:
- Computer Vision: AI-powered search by an image that allows customers to locate products by uploading relevant picture files.
- Recommended Search: AI-powered search tools understand user intent to deliver ultra-relevant results.
- Voice Search has also become more sophisticated, accurate, and personable.
AI can also be used to tailor the on-site experience to your customer's needs.
For example, you can use AI to…
- Generate and deliver text scripts of video content for hearing-impaired viewers
- Increase the size of text or clickable buttons on certain pages for certain users
- Adjust the color scheme of your website for colorblind individuals
Look for emerging tools to take this further by automatically applying certain accessibility features to individual accounts based on known customer preferences and other data.
Smart Product Recommendations
Product recommendation tools have come a long way since yesterday's rudimentary “You Might Also Like…” engines.
Modern AI again takes a more contextual approach to recommend products that a given customer may want to buy — and that are relevant to their current situation. This takes ecommerce product recommendations from “You might like this” to “You probably need this right now.”
For a glimpse at what you’ll soon be able to do in this regard, think of Starbucks.
Over time, the popular coffee retailer has refined its recommendations engine to deliver highly-targeted and perfectly-timed offers to their customers. The goal is to keep customers engaged and regularly coming back for more while providing something new with each experience to maximize customer lifetime value.
To make this happen, the app considers the customers:
- Past purchases (and known likes/dislikes)
- Purchase timing
- Spending limits
In turn, the app can deliver timely reminders and individualized suggestions tailored not just to the customer’s “average” preferences but to their specific needs at that exact moment.
Personalized Rewards Systems
Similarly, modern AI tech can help ecommerce teams create dynamic, individualized rewards programs and schemes.
Again, Starbucks and other major brands have been doing this for years — but the tech is quickly becoming more accessible to smaller teams.
With these AI-powered tools, ecommerce teams can create personalized loyalty programs where each customer…
- Earns a unique amount of points for ordering different items at different times
- Has a unique selection of rewards to choose from based on their behavior and tailored to their preferences
- Receives unique VIP offers and other “just because” prizes
As with product recommendations, the idea is to meet the customer where they are — and reward them for taking another step toward engaging further with your brand.
(Sure beats the tired old branded punch card, no?)
Dynamic Pricing on Steroids
Dynamic pricing has been a go-to ecommerce pricing strategy for years.
And, as you can probably surmise by now, it’s about to become how ecommerce brands price their products, thanks to AI. With smarter machines using more significant amounts of data than ever, brands will soon be able to offer their products at the exact price their customers are willing to pay at any given moment.
Again, the “smarter” part of the technology will revolutionize dynamic pricing. Moving forward, tools like Vendo can analyze customer, company, and industry data to automatically set optimal prices for every visitor (and individual visit) for both conversion and profit.
Optimized Customer Support
Automation and AI technology enable ecommerce teams to deliver top-notch, personalized customer support at scale.
Once more, the currently-emerging tools are doing what’s always worked in customer support — but are doing it more innovative, efficiently, and effectively.
Mainly, AI is enabling ecommerce customers to serve themselves even when encountering more advanced issues or challenges.
- AI-powered chatbots can handle deeper conversations and advanced prompts and better understand customer sentiment and engagement history.
- Dynamic content recommendations deliver crucial information to specific users right when needed.
- Automated customer service tools (like EmailTree) can “learn” from support agents and instances to proactively deliver support to individual customers as they encounter scenarios where they’ll likely need assistance
(Note that the AI-powered tools pull from the team’s collective data and knowledge in each of these cases. A solid internal knowledge base is necessary to ensure your automated self-service efforts operate seamlessly.)
Finally, the escalation pipeline is becoming more personalized due to generative chatbot technology. Like conversational marketing, conversational ticketing allows customers to speak more freely about the issues they face through automated means — giving support agents all the info they need as they take the reins.
Enhance Ecommerce Personalization with Artificial Intelligence
There’s no question we’ve entered a new era of artificial intelligence technology.
And with it, we’re quickly reaching the point where digital consumers will expect hyper-personalized service and experiences at every turn — and may balk at any brands that aren’t able to cater to their specific, unique needs.
Thankfully, the tools needed to provide such individualized experiences are becoming more sophisticated and accessible daily. How smaller, growing ecommerce companies can leverage these tools creatively to differentiate their services from the competition and bring even more value to their audience remains to be seen.
To stay up-to-date with all this (and everything else going on in the ecommerce world), check out new episodes of eCommerce Fastlane’s Shopify podcasts and other daily content made for entrepreneurs and founders like yourself.
How can AI improve ecommerce?
AI enhances ecommerce through personalized experiences, predictive customer behavior analysis, intelligent product recommendations, and advanced customer service. Improvements in the ability of AI to contextually understand queries have enabled more intelligent automation, optimizing and automating processes for efficiency and personalized marketing.
How can AI improve customer experience?
AI significantly elevates the customer experience by offering tailored content and recommendations, predictive behavior analysis, and intelligent search features. Optimized customer support using chatbots, knowledge base software, and other self-service tools, facilitating seamless interactions, and delivering relevant, contextual responses to customer queries.
What are the benefits of AI in customer experience?
AI enables personalized, engaging, and efficient interactions, increasing customer satisfaction and loyalty. It predicts customer needs, enhances accessibility, automates support, and empowers customers with self-service options. All these contribute to a more enjoyable and seamless customer experience.