How is AI Helping Online Retailers?

By Prinitha Govender | 24 Mar 2017

Smarter retailers today will leverage AI and other technologies and use customer information to meet today’s customer expectations and customer demands.

2017 is the year of AI (artificial intelligence) according to James Johnson, director of customer success and retail practice at Salesforce Commerce Cloud.

“Fundamentally, it’s about being a smarter retailer, it’s that simple,” says Johnson. “How can I connect with customers in a whole new way that is more direct, more one-to-one, know more about my customer and meet that customer expectation. So fundamentally, that’s what we’re (Salesforce) are trying to address, and the four tools that we have in our Einstein package are key parts that help retailers address that.”

How is AI influencing and helping e-commerce setup up its game in retail?

The AI channel is all about helping retailers to meet their customers’ expectations, according to Johnson “So, there is a gap in what customers expect, and for some retailers that’s a large gap and for some that’s a smaller gap. AI is assisting retailers, at scale, to meet customers’ needs. It’s about having recommendations that are relevant for that customer and being closer to having a one-on-one relationship with the customer.”

“What we see today, from our research is that the consumer is mobile. They visit sites more frequently, and they spend a shorter period of time there.” Typically that would be while they are sitting at a train station or a bus stop, where they’ll look at a site for three or so minutes. “If you haven’t got their attention in that time, the customer is onto the next thing. So the challenge for the retailer, is: How do I capture that attention? or, How do I make it so they can interact with me in that three minute period?”  

Overall today, the customer is in the driver’s seat, explains Johnson, “so as a retailer you need to be able to adapt to meet those customer requirements. When we look at “Predict Sort” (one of the four AI tools) – it’s about coming up with a one-to-one model for individual customers about how you merchandise your online store to them. For example, if you go to a landing page where products are displayed, you would see completely different products to what I might see on that same website’s landing page. This is even more critical on a mobile device, because the real estate is limited, your time is limited.”

salesforce commerce cloud einstein rainbow

Johnson says that fast fashion plus size womenswear retailer Rainbow have it down pat when it comes to using AI tool “Predictive Sort” well. And more broadly around product recommendations, New Zealand based outdoor wear retailer Icebreaker are also utilising this tool very well. The merino wool heritage brand sells globally on commerce cloud and sells online in over fifty countries. “Icebreaker implemented predictive recommendations, which is powered by Einstein, on a product listing page recommending the right products to customers, based on their purchase history or attraction history – they saw 40 percent higher click through rate… and saw a 28 percent revenue increase for the people who clicked through.”

salesforce commerce cloud einstein icebreaker

“It’s a better commercial outcome, and also it’s better for the customer, because they are getting a more relevant product, but also a win for the retailer because they are able to commercialise that effectively.”

“We’re seeing retailers in Australia, Asia –Pacific and globally leveraging the capabilities of AI in different ways. One of the other aspects that AI assists in, is with the linkage between online and offline retail. “The challenge from a retail perspective is How do I unify that? How do I bring that experience and have some consistency across it?


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