Conversational eCommerce: BOTs + AI

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At this moment there are a lot of new technologies that could have a massive impact on eCommerce. This is why Managers are having a difficult time to place the correct bet. For this reason, we have investigated Managers and Directors to navigate future eCommerce trends. We asked more than 60 carefully chosen managers from all around Europe.

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First, we asked them about their eCommerce investments last year. Then we asked about investment plans for this year. Having these two datasets we can calculate the changes between 2016 and 2017. Thanks to this, we are able to see the most crucial trends to keep an eye on. These standouts are: Bots (20%), Big Data (14%), Recommendations Systems (13%), Automated Pricing Optimization (11%) and Data-driven Loyalty (11%).

As you can see, it looks like 2017 will be the year of the Bot. We understand Bot as a general category where you can find things like Siri, Alexa and chatbots. We could call this trend conversational eCommerce.

Why is it getting so popular? I think that two trends merged here. First is the popularity of mobile messaging apps, second is improvements in artificial intelligence and voice recognition – also on the hardware side – microphones are much better today.

The number one player in this game is Amazon. The Echo device has been a huge success with an estimated 9 to 12 million units already sold. What is most important is that it looks like clients really like the device – lots of positive comments. It can even understand my polish accent and works well :)

Amazon opened the Alexa Skills Marketplace. It’s a single place to find new features for Alexa. With an open API every developer is able to create their own Alexa Skills. Basically it’s very easy to develop an Alexa Skill – you create your own question (invocation name) and then your app is responding to that question using the API.

This could build a marketplace as big as the App Store. It has more than 10,000 external skills already and it is growing. Alexa also dominated the CES Exhibition this year, having several dozen implementations and integrations in places like: TVs, refrigerators, vacuum cleaners and cars (Ford Fusion) only to name a few.

Of course Competitors like Google, Apple, Facebook and Microsoft are working hard in this field too. Google presented Google Home. Developers can now create Actions for Google Home. Google has real potential to surpass Amazon, using the most advanced AI team on the Planet that they acquired with the Deep Mind company. You can see some Youtube videos (eg SHOWDOWN: Google Home VS Amazon Echo!) comparing these two devices and it looks like Google Home answers are more complex. However a massive digital product base (Music, Audiobooks, Video) and great logistics gives Amazon an unfair running start.

Google Home
Google Home

In this growing market there are plenty of new players to watch.

For an example – allows you to build branded bots. There is an interesting case study about Sephora chatbot. They use bot to make appointments at any Sephora store for example, or to match a color of lip shade accordingly to picture you upload.

Viv is another interesting example. This is an AI platform that enables developers to create conversational interfaces – they call it ‘the intelligent interface for everything’. It’s built by Siri-creators, so they probably know what they are doing.

Operator is an interesting AI augmented startup that connects you with a network of concierges and can execute any shopping related request. You can order concert tickets, get gift ideas, or even receive interior design recommendations.

Download eCommerce Trends 2016-2017 Report.

Published February 23, 2017