Why E-Commerce Needs the Power of AI
By Carl Bleich
In a world where technological advancements are shaping the future of entire industries, AI stands at the forefront of transformative change. Paul Edwards, the Technical Product Strategist at Bloomreach, recently joined a podcast to discuss the pivotal role AI plays in the evolution of e-commerce and marketing.
Here are some of his insights on the profound impact of AI on various aspects of online business, and its potential to revolutionize the way organizations approach customer engagement, content creation, and data-driven decision-making.
The Power of Generative AI
Among the vast capabilities of AI, one concept emerges as a driving force behind revolutionary change: generative AI (or GenAI). Simply put, GenAI can be understood as predicting the next word in a sentence, a seemingly simple task that belies its complexity. The core model serves as the foundation, where the system learns from vast datasets, becoming a proxy for human understanding and encompassing nuances of language, culture, and behavior.
Generative AI models are already finding applications across a spectrum of industries, ushering in a new era of efficiency and innovation, including:
- Content Creation at Scale
In the realm of e-commerce, one of the most compelling applications lies in content generation. Marketers and merchandisers can use generative AI to scale multiple variations of product descriptions and texts, streamlining the process of personalization.
Reimagining Search and Discovery
Beyond content creation, GenAI is altering the landscape of search. Users can now pose questions to tools like ChatGPT and receive immediate summaries, marking a significant shift in how people interact with information. While the technology is not yet fully harnessed for e-commerce and product discovery, ongoing advancements show its potential to drive conversational marketing, where brands initiate engaging conversations with consumers.
GenAI isn’t limited to content and conversational applications; it also extends its influence to customer segmentation. Data exploration tools powered by generative AI enable marketers to streamline workflows, enhance campaign performance, and optimize ROI. The effective use of generative AI holds the key to unlocking more sophisticated customer segmentation, as brands can make use of zero-party data willingly provided by customers.
Optimizing for E-Commerce Relevance
While ChatGPT showcases its power in analyzing public data, the challenge is making it more relevant for day-to-day business operations. Asking the right questions about products, understanding how to rank them, and determining the correct product for specific audiences are crucial aspects that demand attention.
Consider the scenario of crafting a campaign for a set of dresses. GenAI can eloquently generate copy based on provided descriptions and titles. However, the question arises: Which dresses should take center stage in the first place? In this instance, dynamically feeding the right information becomes imperative for getting the most fitting response.
As the e-commerce landscape evolves, the application of GenAI is not just about predicting words; it's about predicting consumer preferences, market trends, and the ever-shifting dynamics of online commerce. In the next sections, we’ll dive deeper into how generative AI can chart the course for a more sophisticated and efficient e-commerce ecosystem.
How Bloomreach Approaches AI
At Bloomreach, our commitment to elevating e-commerce experiences is embodied in Loomi — a powerful internal technology that forms the backbone of all our products. Let's delve into how Loomi is intricately woven into the fabric of Bloomreach's offerings, shaping a future where AI is the driving force behind every optimization, interaction, and decision.
Loomi: The Engine of Optimization
Loomi is ingrained in the very DNA of Bloomreach. The foundation of our success lies in years of internal development, honing AI, algorithms, and optimization strategies to cater specifically to the changing demands of e-commerce consumers. We've mastered the art of optimizing everything from sorting, ordering, and searching to crafting effective campaigns and engaging strategies — all powered by Loomi.
Extending beyond conventional optimization, Bloomreach has integrated generative AI into the Loomi layer. This empowers us to dynamically generate content, enriching e-commerce experiences with personalized and compelling narratives.
Loomi doesn't merely dwell in the back end; it extends its influence to the front end through our newest solution, Bloomreach Clarity. Think of Clarity as a chat-based e-commerce interface — a direct line of communication between your customers and a sophisticated shopping assistant persona. It's the culmination of extensive experimentation aimed at catering to two distinct types of visitors: the search-focused user and the seeker.
Enhancing the Searcher Use Case
For those who know exactly what they're seeking, Loomi fine-tunes the search experience. Whether it's the pattern, color, thickness of socks, or any other product, Loomi ensures optimized results that not only align with the user's preferences but also meet your business goals. Balancing revenue generation with personalized shopper satisfaction is the art we've perfected over the years.
Enhancing the Seeker Use Case
The seeker, on the other hand, operates based on feelings and preferences. Redecorating a living room, planning a dinner with parents, etc. — these scenarios introduce ambiguity and an opportunity for optimization. Loomi steps into the role of a trusted advisor, assisting customers in their decision-making journey. This front-end technology enhances the interaction, making the shopping experience not just transactional but experiential.
Loomi’s Impact Across Channels
What makes Loomi truly remarkable is its ability to power a seamless e-commerce experience across every channel, in real time, and at scale. It's the thread that weaves through every Bloomreach feature, from merchandising and site search to content and marketing campaigns.
Loomi powers a wide range of use cases like alerting customers about price drops on favorite products, prioritizing product values for visibility, showing the preferred variant on an individual level, and much more. Marketing automation, powerful algorithms in product discovery, and continuous merchandising optimization — Loomi plays a pivotal role in each. The predictive prowess of Loomi determines the best channels to engage with customers and orchestrates campaigns at optimal times.
In essence, Loomi is not just AI for e-commerce; it's a force that collaborates with you to enhance efficiency, effectiveness, and the overall success of your business. As we continue to innovate and evolve, Bloomreach remains committed to ensuring that Loomi's capabilities are integrated into every product, marking a transformative era where AI becomes synonymous with the future of e-commerce.
Moving Forward With AI
As we stand at the dawn of the AI revolution, the question echoing in many minds is, "Is AI going to replace me?" It's a question reminiscent of the Industrial Revolution when machines disrupted traditional roles, triggering concerns and even riots. History, however, reveals that instead of replacing jobs, it pushed people up the value chain, fostering creativity and new ways of living. The same transformative potential is unfolding now with AI, reshaping e-commerce and offering many opportunities.
In reality, AI empowers people to ask questions and receive relevant answers, eliminating the need for extensive searching of information, coding, or app development. The challenge lies in learning to use this technology, to create in a new way. In e-commerce, this means using AI to transform not just the industry but our individual roles within it.
Humans still possess an irreplaceable spark of creativity. Just as during the Industrial Revolution, when people became valued for overseeing machines, today's e-commerce professionals can elevate their roles by embracing AI. It's an opportunity to evolve, to learn a new muscle, and to create in once unimaginable ways.
Top Tips for Harnessing GenAI
- Embrace Generative AI Fully: Regardless of your role or career stage, incorporating GenAI into your toolkit is non-negotiable. It's not just a trend; it's a fundamental shift that demands adaptation.
- Become a Native: Familiarize yourself with generative AI as if it were a native language. The more comfortable you become with it, the more you can integrate it into your daily work.
- Apply Yourself Actively: Learning generative AI is not a passive exercise. Actively apply it to your tasks, experiment with its capabilities, and discover ways it can enhance your efficiency and effectiveness.
- Explore Creative Applications: GenAI is not confined to one specific function — it opens doors to creative applications. Explore the diverse ways it can amplify your creativity.
- Take Advantage of Advancing Technologies: Collaborate with technologies that facilitate the integration of generative AI. The future lies in partnerships between humans and technology.
The Future of E-Commerce With AI
GenAI is not just about generating content; it's the key to unlocking the door to conversational commerce. In the past, asking generic questions would yield clunky and complex results. Now, with generative AI, conversational commerce becomes scalable, efficient, and accessible. The challenge, however, lies in steering the technology in the right direction, ensuring it aligns with your brand voice, resonates with customers, and remains on track.
Looking ahead, the impact of AI on e-commerce is bound to be profound. The future holds fundamental questions about our relationship with technology and where information resides. Will AI become our trusted virtual friend, our agent in the digital realm? While we may not have all the answers, one thing is certain — the AI train has left the station, and there's a massive opportunity waiting to be explored. As it transforms commerce, it also influences the human condition, underlining the expansive potential that lies ahead.
The future of e-commerce is intertwined with the future of AI, and together, they hold the promise of a more sophisticated, efficient, and creative digital environment. Learn more about the role of large language models in the evolving e-commerce landscape, and be sure to listen to the full podcast episode from Paul here.