Technological developments in e-commerce are happening at lightning speed. Artificial intelligence (AI) is the new magic word. It is important to understand what AI systems can do for B2B e-commerce and how you can use them so that you as a professional can continue to do your job to the best of your ability. Everything you need to know about predictive technology, personalization, and making AI work for you in B2B e-commerce.
What is artificial intelligence (AI)?
In short, artificial intelligence is about learning computer systems that mimic human intelligence in order to perform certain tasks. AI is not meant to replace humans, but rather, to greatly improve human contribution using input from the humans themselves. The improvement lies mainly in AI's ability to think very efficiently and quickly through the analysis of large amounts of (fragmented) data.
What are the benefits of AI in B2B e-commerce?
AI is therefore mainly used to perform complex tasks that are less easy for humans to perform. In e-commerce, you can think of its role in online communication with customers. Providing personalized buyer journeys ensures that online shopping customers are served as smartly and quickly as they would be by your best representatives.
Personalization falls within the realm of the predictive. Predictive is an umbrella term for the statistical expression and deployment of data. In e-commerce, selecting and displaying relevant images, content or products are common ways that it is applied. Various sales tasks such as personalized product overviews, upsell and cross-sell recommendations and promotions can thus be made a lot smarter and autonomous. You can also unleash Predictive on service tasks, such as showing personalized FAQs, how-to content and topics on user forums at the top. You can combine statistics from multiple attributes to predict what is of interest to a particular visitor.
Applying Predictive in B2B may seem like a difficult task. Indeed, B2B companies often deal with a multitude of customers and buyer roles, a large and diverse product range, complex pricing models, and a finely woven web of related products and manuals. But this very complexity presents a great opportunity for serving up super-relevant, personalized user experiences to your customers. AI can help make the complexity of B2B manageable. In doing so, a clear personalization strategy is important.
Why does AI need the input of the e-commerce professional?
Predictive AI systems have a high degree of autonomy and use controlled, learning algorithms to interact with visitors in real time in a personalized way. To do this, the algorithms need to take real-time contextual data into account, such as who the visitor is, what pages have just been viewed, what is in the shopping cart, what is the visitor's location, etcetera. For this reason, these algorithms are complex and perform best with input from the knowledge, intuition, and creativity of e-commerce professionals.
Successful one-to-one personalization requires these professionals to teach the algorithm which visitor behaviors provide important information about intent and preferences, where in the data this information is captured, and which methods they can best apply to make the algorithm work well. In fashion, for example, a marketer might tell you that brand, size, and color determine whether a customer finds an item interesting or not. In another category, however, such as construction equipment, it may be the number and quality of reviews.
It is the experience and analysis of the marketing and e-commerce team that will help direct data models for personalization in the right direction.
How does AI increase the value of e-commerce professionals?
The rise of AI is therefore a positive development on several fronts for e-commerce professionals. A well-implemented AI-driven personalization strategy has a proven positive impact on customer experience, customer lifetime value, and revenue. Professionals can also add a lot of value by understanding customers and customer behavior, and by distributing this knowledge throughout the organization.
This is especially true in B2B, where it is very much about empathy with the customer, customization, and personal relationships. Customer-specific pricing, ranges, stocks and payment terms are only natural, and every customer is treated personally with in-depth knowledge of the customer situation. Therefore, personalization should be the foundation of any B2B organization's e-commerce. AI makes this possible.
Should we all get AI?
The era when messages and behaviors were hung up on four buyer personas is out of date. The battle to use your data more intelligently than your competition has begun. So, embrace AI technology, get to work on a personalization strategy, and strengthen your company's market position as well as your own position as a B2B e-commerce professional.
AI-powered personalization is one of the biggest B2B commerce trends in 2023 – and beyond. Read all about this and six other spectacular trends to make your digitalization strategy fit for the future in our Digital Trends Report. Get inspired!