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The Role of Artificial Intelligence (AI) in e-Commerce: Moving from Hype to Reality in Southeast Asia
By Sunil Suresh, CMO and Global Vice President, Strategy, Capillary Technologies
Southeast Asia’s e-commerce landscape has never been more exciting. Amazon and Alibaba are investing billions into the region, taking on established local market entrants. These incumbents—the likes of Redmart, Carousell and SEA—themselves are raising millions from VCs, all in a bid to capture and retain a segment of the region’s 600 million consumers. The Holy Grail: lower customer acquisition costs.
As the competitive landscape turns near Darwinian, online and offline retailers are looking at technologies, including artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML)—to win big. Yet, while brands often talk about how innovation is going to transform their business, there is a clear chasm between being technology-forward and actually utilising it to make or save money.
Amid this, here are five quick tips for Southeast Asia’s online and offline retailers to utilise and benefit from AI:
1. Gaining Quicker, Better Insights
Say a brand wants to know why sales are down the previous week. The traditional way would have taken a team of analysts a few days to come up with answers. Not only so, the accuracy of these answers would be limited by what questions have been asked by humans. With AI, tens of thousands of questions can be processed and the impact of these factors on the business can be assessed in mere seconds. It can throw up surprising insights on what action is likely to have most impact on the business and this can give e-commerce brands a competitive edge in today’s fast-evolving environment.
2. Delivering Personalised and Seamless Experiences
AI can learn from your consumer’s behaviour and make recommendations on relevant products that the consumers may be interested in.
Leveraging on technologies such as AI will allow them to better engage and hence securing customer loyalty
This is critical for brands today as Accenture, for instance, revealed that almost half of Singaporean consumers (48 percent) are frustrated with companies that fail to deliver relevant, personalised experiences.
3. Respond to Customers 24/7
Deploying AI as chatbots or using Natural Language Processing (NLP) algorithms as call agents will free up the time of customer service staff to provide higher-value assistance. Furthermore, these machines do a credible job of handling and resolving the vast majority of routine queries that typically hit customer service centres in real-time. In summary, AI will allow for quicker 24/7 resolution, lower cost and, of course, happier customers!
4. Improving ROI of Marketing Efforts
It is often challenging to keep track of the ROI of your marketing efforts, especially when it is also an area which requires higher volume of investment. As American Marketer John Wanamaker famously said, “Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is I don't know which half”.
With AI, brands can now manage campaigns on an individual level—brands can tailor push out the most relevant messaging to each individual based on their personalised consumer lifecycle. Brands can also track thousands of signals across the marketing lifecycle, both in traditional and digital channels, to continually optimise the marketing mix, improving sales performance and marketing ROI.
5. Accessing New Streams of Data from Offline Stores
We have frequently heard stories of how online marketplaces and e-commerce are stealing consumers from offline retail. Despite so, the advent of ‘omni-channel’ retail has allowed offline retailers to remain as key players in the industry as they have an edge over their online counterparts in providing a great customer experience.
To win and retain customers, data across various channels is key to develop a holistic customer experience strategy. For instance, you can easily access information such as who is visiting the mobile site or app, what they are looking at, how much time they are spending on the digital platforms. In offline stores, on the other hand, AI tools including computer vision and natural language processing will empower brands with customer insights by anonymising and tracking in-store visitors, generating style profiles, tracking purchasing habits and identifying hot zones. With insights captured across digital and offline channels, brands can devise a holistic omni-channel strategy to engage their customers.
For many brands, it is easier and more cost-effective to retain consumers than to win new ones. Leveraging on technologies such as AI will allow them to better engage and hence securing customer loyalty. Besides improving the brand’s image, companies can also induce positive word-of-mouth and in turn, increase the company’s revenue.
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