Artificial Intelligence in eCommerce – Innovation or Norm?

It’s time. It’s time we opened our minds to innovation. More than we have already. Machines keep learning deeper from humans and we’re more and more connected – with ourselves, with the internet, with innovations and innovators. I wonder if innovation gets more difficult or easier with time? As in was is easier to invent the light bulb than it was to invent a virtual department store? And yes, when answering that we need to take into consideration both the initial idea and its execution.

When did you last took the time to think of… the future? Your future, my future, the world’s future. All bonds and futures. *wink
Let’s do it now. Let’s take a peek into the future of eCommerce. No, I don’t mean trends, this time. I mean let’s consider innovation and what the giants are working on, for example. Or the latest releases in the field.

Seems that we’re currently focused on smoothing the online – in store jumps. That’s all I heard of in 2016. Oh, and trying to inflict more digitality into the shopping experiences we’ve had till now.

There are millions of online transactions taking place every day. AI & VR not only ease their number, but they increase it. This Information Age article notes that the rate of digital influence is of 36 cents over every dollar spent in stores. In other words, a total of $1.1 trillion worth of in-store transactions is determined by the online endeavors.

Naturally, I’m not the only one who thinks that’s cool. A Jay Walter Thompson study shows that 70% of the US millennials (who, by the way, are well into their 30s now) would appreciate a retailer using AI to either show more interesting products or predict their desires better.

In other words, with the help of AI, big data, and language processing capabilities, machines keep learning deep about our environment, eCommerce included. And we love it and welcome it because it makes everything easier for us, consumers. Only a bit earlier, I was wondering: “What will be of this world when I’m going to take a virtual walk through a library on the other side of the country, take a book from the shelf, read a few lines, and ask Alexa to order it for me. Then receive it by drone in say a couple of hours?”

That’s far-fetched, I know. Or is it not? Not necessarily. I mean, not if you factor innovation in and these last year’s events:

So, what are they really about?

Innovation in Department Stores: The eBay & Myer VR department store

There’s a new shopping experience in town. Have you tried it?
You put a ‘shoptical’ on and browse through the 15K + Myer products.

VR Innovation - Product Categories

When you see something interesting you just stare at it for a short while and it’ll automatically zoom-in on the product details. The VR store then connects to the API and updates all the prices, stocks and all the other information in real time.

Want to buy the product? Gaze into the Add to Basket button and then complete the buy via the eBay App.

VR Innovation - Product Info

Currently, 15 thousand shopticals are available for free at Quite cool, isn’t it? For a more feel of how things happen there, watch their presentation video on YouTube.

It’s amazing how you can be in a park, on a bench, and pick the camera you’ll use to document your next vacation. Or in a coffee shop, on a short break from work, put your glasses on and instantly buy your kid a new outfit for school. In less than 5 minutes.

I believe that innovation in the VR field in general cuts the time we spend on what we have to do. It minimizes buffering so we’d invest more on what truly matters for each of us. Whatever that might be. And especially in eCommerce. I think Virtual Department stores are the next big thing in our field. And we’re going to get there sooner or later – depending on the local technological absorption.

What I find very interesting, though, is what happens if the gap between the most digitally advanced countries and the ones where that is not a focus area steepens?

But that’s a topic for another article. 😉

Macy’s & IBM’s foster innovation with their mobile Personal Assistant

Macy’s teamed up with IBM Watson to revolutionize mobile shopping. They’ve used the Watson Natural Language Classifier API to help shoppers get information about products, services, and facilities.

Macy’s & IBM’s foster innovation with their mobile Personal Assistant

Your in-store mobile companion, as they called it, can direct you and answer some of the most FAQ. What’s really interesting about this App is that it can sense whether you’re frustrated – say, if you only answer “No” – and send a person to assist you. It also records information about your preferences, so it would learn more about your needs and wants.

I love that. Machines recognizing and assuming digital boundaries – that’s gold. Because it leaves room to learn even more.

The companion is currently present in 10 Macy’s retail stores – one of them in Spanish.

I also think that in the near future we’ll see more of this kind of mobile apps. They’re learning fast and zooming in on key details about how we shop – what we need during the buying experience, what we think of, what makes us more comfortable, etc.

Where are we heading with this? Mobile Apps will learn a lot more and will become more intuitive when it comes to how we’re making purchasing decisions. They aim to figure out what our algorithm is, so they can make it easier, more comfortable and faster for us to get what we want.

Amazon Drones were the 2016 Innovation Peek

Amazon Prime Air is the giant’s own Customer Delivery System using drones. With Amazon Prime Air, you can have your order delivered in 30 minutes. Or less, as they say.

Amazon Prime Innovation drone

The devices are equipped with video cameras to record everything surrounding them and Sense & Avoid technology. This way, they can also detect and avoid other objects in their proximity and ensure a safe landing. When your order arrives, Amazon notifies you so you can enjoy it.

I have to admit – this is my favorite of all 2016 innovations in the eCommerce area. Yes, because it’s cute and fuzzy. 🙂 And because orders to come to me faster. I wondered what follows next in the eCommerce, mCommerce string and I’ve finally found my answer – iCommerce. Instant Commerce. I believe that besides smoothing online – in-store jumps, we’re also heading towards cutting time between buying and owning.

Amazon Prime Innovation

Also an interesting point here – after Amazon fully integrated and homologated their service, how will this impact the other giants, such as Walmart or eBay or even Alibaba? How will they react? I do think keeping up will become a necessity, a norm, a must. This is why I love innovation – it enables competition and inspires progress.

So, there you have it: your glimpse into the innovations of 2016 and future of eCommerce. We’re moving quite fast, therefore, next time you blink, you might actually wake up a decade later. *wink To, say, robotic in-store assistants and holograms describing products and persuading you to buy. Holograms you’ll have a dialogue with and that will anticipate your needs in all their complexity. Are you ready for that?

Author avatar
Deliana Trasca

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