Your Burning Questions about AI and Automation, Answered

Updated: May 13, 2024

·

Published: May 13, 2024

·

7 mins read

We recently hosted a webinar: AI and Automation: Reshaping Tomorrow’s eCommerce, where we explored different ways merchants can harness smarter technology at various points throughout the customer journey and unlock new avenues for growth. 

The chat was full of compelling questions from the audience — so many that we ran out of time and couldn’t get to them all. Here are answers to some of the most common concerns raised, along with insights from our panelists: Shuvra Rahman, Sr. Enterprise Customer Success Manager at AfterShip; Dexter Da Silva, Director of Digital Products at Compound Studio and Founder of Split Rocket; Elise DeCamp, Co-founder at Toki; Justin Holmes, CMO at Gorgias; and Daren Limas, VP of Business Development at Nostra.ai

What strategies can businesses use to effectively leverage AI-powered personalized recommendations?

AI-powered personalized recommendations can help merchants enhance customer experience and drive sales. Here are some strategies to try:

  • Collect and analyze data: Gather relevant data about customer preferences, behavior, and purchasing history. Use AI algorithms to analyze this data and identify patterns and trends that will inform product recommendations.
  • Real-time recommendations: Use AI to provide real-time recommendations at vital touchpoints like product pages, checkout, thank you pages, and tracking pages. 
  • Omnichannel integration: Ensure that personalized recommendations are integrated across all channels, including websites, mobile apps, social media, and email marketing. Consistent and relevant recommendations across channels enhance the overall customer experience.

“How we went about implementing personalization was by trying to understand the touchpoints that matter most and how to add an upsell or cross-sell product in the sense of, ‘Would you like fries with that?’ I always break it down to being upsold at McDonald's,” said Dexter Da Silva. “How can we make it a no-brain decision for the customer at the cart level, at the checkout level, and so on?” 

What steps can eCommerce brands take to ensure that AI recommendations are accurate and relevant to individual customers?

First, it’s important to ensure that the data used for training your personalization solution is  accurate, complete, and up-to-date. But making your AI solution work smarter isn’t a one-and-done endeavor. You have to continuously train and test AI models to improve their accuracy and relevance over time. Use historical data and user feedback to retrain models and adjust recommendation algorithms as needed.

As AI becomes increasingly sophisticated, how can you balance automation and human oversight in critical areas like customer service and dispute resolution?

AI and automation are perfect for many tasks: tier-one support requests like answering WISMO tickets, providing basic information, processing simple transactions, and initiating standard procedures. When you free up your support team from handling these inquiries, they can focus on more complex and high-impact tasks. 

“Humans are best at creating really good connections with other humans, and we think that tier-one support requests can be taken care of by automation — and in the future, customer support teams are going to turn back into that sort of sales associate that was in the retail stores,” said Justin Holmes. “And then they'll spend part of their time setting up the automations, coaching the AI, and making sure that it's handling those tier-one supports really well.”

What challenges do businesses face when implementing AI-driven solutions in eCommerce?

Now that every technology solution is billing itself as ‘AI-powered,’ it’s hard to know which will deliver results. Before you choose a provider, set concrete goals for the results you want to achieve with AI and automation, and then ensure your chosen solution can deliver.

It’s also important to evaluate your current tech stack and choose solutions that integrate well with your eCommerce platform, your communication channels, your tracking and returns software, and more.

Holmes offers these questions to consider: “As you’re evaluating different providers, make sure you know how easy it is to set up — are you going to get help? What kind of data is it going to be fed? And do you have that data within your own system? And then what does observability look like? How can you monitor it to help it improve?”

What metrics should businesses track to measure the effectiveness of AI and automation?

There are several measures of success when it comes to AI and automation, including:

  • Cost savings: How much are you saving on labor and operational costs? 
  • Response times: Are you decreasing the resolution time on customer support tickets, or seeing improved efficiency elsewhere?
  • Conversion rates: Are you seeing increased sales from personalized product recommendations?
  • ROI: Are your sales exceeding the costs of your AI solutions?
  • Customer satisfaction: Are your customers receiving a better experience? 

How do automated customer service platforms improve response times and customer satisfaction?

When customers have questions, they want answers quickly. Relying on a limited number of human support staff can mean long wait times for relatively simple queries, which can create friction for shoppers. Leveraging a platform that relies on AI and automation can make a tremendous positive impact on customer experience.

“Now that everybody can sell online, the majority of support associates end up answering questions like, ‘Where's my order? What's your shipping policy?’ Very, very simple questions that we believe that humans shouldn't be answering,” said Holmes. “What Gorgias has done is we've released different automation products that are helping brands automate 30% or more of their customer support. And we're seeing the brands who really lean into this are actually seeing a 20% decrease in tickets created per order and 30% more repeat purchases.”

How can businesses identify the right AI solutions based on their specific industry, customer base, and budget constraints?

With so many impressive AI and automation features on the market, it can be tempting to want all of the bells and whistles. But you can have too much of a good thing — and it can have a negative effect on the customer experience. It’s important to really understand which AI tools are going to have the most positive impact on your business. 

“What we've run into is the age-old debate for brands — what's the need to have and the nice to have? From a speed perspective, oftentimes you need to really weigh what's going to weigh down your site, what's truly needed — what’s nice to have might not be needed because it's going to affect your conversion rate, customer experience, etc.” said Daren Limas.

It’s also important to look ahead. As your business grows your needs will change, so you need to find solutions that can scale with you.

“Oftentimes we will speak with brands that had something that worked for the stage of growth that they were in early and they're leveling up,” said Elisa Camp. “They're ready to do something that's more customized, that fits their brand vision a bit more.”

How can AI in eCommerce create strategic advantages for competitive differentiation?

AI enables eCommerce businesses to deliver highly personalized shopping experiences tailored to individual customer preferences, behavior, and purchasing history. Personalized product recommendations, targeted promotions, and customized content enhance customer engagement, satisfaction, and loyalty. And because AI solutions continuously learn from data, feedback, and interactions, they’re always getting smarter and more effective, allowing eCommerce businesses to stay agile and responsive to evolving market dynamics.

“We've done a fair amount of market analysis, and one interesting thing we've uncovered is that a gap exists between the consumer expectations and the experiences they receive,” said Shuva Rahman. “We found that around 85% of businesses believe they are delivering personalized experiences, but only 60% of consumers tend to agree. And so a gap exists, of course, but so too does an opportunity for forward-thinking brands who want to get ahead and stay ahead of the curve.”

Learn how AfterShip Personalization, our AI-powered product discovery platform, can help you hyper-personalize the shopping experience with enhanced visual discovery, elevated customer engagement, and increased conversions.

promotion bgpromotion bg

Discover how AfterShip can help you achieve a 40x ROI this holiday season.

Discover more of what matters to you

Get the week's best eCommerce content

Recommended from AfterShip