Machine Learning is one of those trends that have the biggest potential to change the e-Commerce game in the near future.
When it comes to Machine Learning technologies, IBM and Google are at the helm. IBM develops the Watson technology, thanks to which the user can work with a learning machine using natural language. Thanks to Developer Cloud Enterprise, startups can utilize the IBM Watson system. The first projects I came across are medical diagnosis support (Modernizing Medicine) and legal consultations (ROSS).
Google is starting to develop services centered around artificial intelligence and machine learning with growing determination. First commercial application, that is Google Now, already supports data from eBay, for instance. However, the biggest speculations have sprung up after Google bought the DeepMind company. Google wants to build software that will develop on its own. The number of possible applications is huge.
Throw in a couple of more mundane applications such as Siri and Cortana assistants and the tool recently released by Amazon – Amazon Echo. Amazon Echo already allows you to, among others, create shopping wish lists.
It all seems a bit idyllic but opinions of first Amazon Echo users are really encouraging. Here’s one of them:
Three days in and we’re already acting like it’s been here forever. (…) Alexa can maintain two lists for you: To-do and Shopping List. Adding things is as simple as “Add butter to shopping list” and “add gutters to to-do list.” (…) Once you’ve added things to your list, you access them through the app. One great thing is that everyone in your household who installs the app shares everything. So when I was at the store, my wife texted me that she’d put some things on the Echo shopping list. Sure enough, I opened my app and there it was. I could check off the things I got and they disappeared.
How can the future of e-Commerce look like, considering the Machine Learning trend?
First of all, buying the not-so-glamorous stuff will no longer be a nuisance to us. An assistant can analyze and draw conclusions on the basis of a lot of information and order products that we’ll need in short time on its own. Specialized logistics tools can already shift goods between warehouses according to predictions of demand. Here, such predictions will be made for a single user.
You’ll never run out of milk because a shipment will arrive just in time. What it means for e-stores, is that it will be more difficult to compete in the area of mass products. Obviously, the system can follow our preferences in terms of brands and suppliers but orders will be placed at the computer-computer level, which means that all the promotions that we’re so familiar with in the FMCG sector these days, will become irrelevant to us.
The companies controlling digital assistants will become the biggest shopping hubs. This could totally churn the distribution of power. Marketing experts will have to come up with completely new methods of promotion. The basic competitive advantages like the availability of goods, attractive price, efficient logistics, will grow in importance.
The Internet will become another layer of technology – one which is of little interest to a layman. Just as hardware, structured cabling or TCP/IP protocols are today. Digital assistants will significantly improve Customer Experience in terms of searching for information and ordering products.
We’ll also probably gain more support in shopping that requires advice. If IBM Watson is able to diagnose illnesses more efficiently than doctors, then I believe that a digital assistant of the future will do just fine choosing a shirt, shoes or sports equipment for me.
How do you prepare for the popularization of digital assistants?
It’s definitely worth it to already start developing all the mechanisms for data exchange and automation of creating offers – prices, displays, promotions (it’ll be the basis for supporting the sales agents). It’s also worth it to develop your own databases in order to be able to stay in direct touch with a customer for as long as possible.