Modern ecommerce merchandising is a complex business. Shoppers are purchasing products using multiple devices, and the rise of ecommerce giants like Amazon are setting new industry standards – making online shopping as easy, fast and personal as possible. Retailers are having to respond by redefining the ways they work to keep up with the competition.
Those in the know are already thinking outside the box by using AI-driven technologies to maximise their creativity and operational efficiencies. By using AI to enhance the online customer experience, from search and product rankings to recommendations, forward-thinking visual merchandisers together with wider ecommerce teams are enhancing the speed of their workflows, and their ability to create unique brands that resonate with their customers’ interests. Here’s how:
AI refers to cognitive software that can act, sense and build upon stores of information. Modern-day applications of AI centre around machine learning, or the ability for algorithms to automatically make sense of data by detecting patterns and learning from data trends. For online visual merchandisers, this application of AI can be game-changing, as it helps them to understand how different shoppers are purchasing, shopping and engaging with products online.
With these big data insights, merchandisers are empowered to make smarter decisions about placing products in the most relevant and exciting ways to inspire their customers.
Visual merchandisers know how important it is to make a good first impression, particularly in the online world, where shoppers make their minds up about your site in just 50 milliseconds! The key to standing out is a personalised storefront that matches individual customer intent.
AI is helping merchandisers to create these tailored experiences by recognising different shoppers and giving merchandisers the ability to adapt product displays, navigations and content features automatically to reflect diverse shopper tastes. By giving merchandisers more power to personalise their storefronts, shoppers are less likely to bounce and more likely to explore.
Helping explorative shoppers find what they want with ease on your site is a challenge for most online merchandisers, particularly when faced with thousands of products displayed in a complex jungle of webpages. But AI is helping merchandisers to be the best tour guides by optimizing the on-site search experience so that the right products, category pages and facets can be displayed to customers when they search for specific products using the search box.
Machine-learning algorithms are adept at helping shoppers to ask questions that will bring them to the right product results. Algorithms can learn different synonyms that customers use for different products, while understanding customer typos and mistakes, and mapping all of these search terms to the right pages that merchandisers want their customers to see. Machine-learning algorithms can even showcase visual recommendations based on popular shopper searches, making the search experience hyper personal and relevant to every shopper. This gives merchandisers more power than ever to surface the right products to the right consumers in the search process.
AI is also transforming the more mundane tasks that merchandisers must take on, such as managing product placements and product recommendations on category and product pages. AI algorithms help teams by applying automatic ranking strategies to populate different shopping pages with different products at speed, based on a range of customizable metrics, from click-through rates to conversions. These automated processes save merchandisers valuable time while giving them the ability to scale their activities across a vast number of webpages – something that is particularly valuable for multi-market international websites.
But AI’s true value doesn’t just lie in operational efficiency. The difference is really made in the merchandiser’s ability to maximise their strategic strength. By speeding up workflows and enhancing the ability to personalize the shopping experience for different customer segments, it allows merchandisers to adopt better creative and strategic roles. AI may be king when it comes to automation and analysing / learning from shopper data, but shoppers aren’t data-driven machines and have quirks and desires that are difficult to predict.
Merchandisers can make their biggest impact by curating the shopping experience according to their own observations, looking to ‘in-the-moment’ trends that are relevant to now, and overriding AI when appropriate to do so. If you’re a fast-fashion retailer for example, you’ll know that machines can’t yet predict what the next Instagram influencer will be wearing, or who the next Instagram influencer will be, let alone the importance of them to the products that your company purchases and sells.
AI doesn’t have the common sense to notice these subtle but important details, or the intelligence to comprehend the branding implications that these can actually have. But this is why AI is proving to be so useful – many leading merchandising teams are using it to do the heavy lifting while giving them more time to work on the strategic things that matter most, like responding to ‘in-the-moment’ trends and developing an irresistible brand proposition that stands out above the competition. In this respect, AI and merchandisers can be the perfect partners.
Learn more about how Merchandisers can extract value from AI in Attraqt’s upcoming Webinar: The journey from data to shopping experiences: Making AI work for you