AI in B2B eCommerce: 5 Ways to Use Artificial Intelligence to Improve Sales.
AI is becoming increasingly common as businesses look to work smarter, using different tools to automate processes, keeping costs down and profits up.
In this article, Kali Kasprzyk gives us a full guide to how to utilize the latest AI tools to improve B2B eCommerce, how to begin using AI B2B and also provides an explanation as to what artificial intelligence actually is.
In this AI B2B guide, you’ll learn
- Why Use AI for B2B eCommerce?
- What is AI?
- 5 Ways to Utilize AI to Improve B2B eCommerce
- Getting Started with AI
- Internal follow-up discussion
- Frequently Asked AI in B2B Questions
Why use AI for B2B eCommerce?
Welcoming change can be difficult. It’s human nature to enjoy the “comfort zone” and resist stepping outside of it. However, the most successful companies welcome change, seeing future unknowns as opportunities to disrupt and win.
Committing to this type of mentality requires disruptive thinking, commitment across your entire organization, and creating a sound roadmap to guide the tactical execution of your winning strategy.
At Echidna, we call this being ‘future ready’. And the future comes fast in the digital age. Part of being future-ready means having the ability to change rapidly and regularly. Digitally mature companies regularly set goals, make plans, build solutions, change how they operate, and measure the results. If the results are good, they iterate and repeat. If they are bad, they change.
Digitally mature companies realize the burden that constant change demands from their people. Even as technology makes us more efficient, it has given us more work to do. Companies equip their people with modern tools to administer their parts of a growing digital ecosystem. And daily searching, browsing, clicking, and administration consumes most of our attention and leaves little time for innovative insight, much less for truly disruptive innovations.
That’s where artificial intelligence (AI) comes in. It offers us the opportunity to create intelligent assistants that perform tasks on our behalf, including some we couldn’t possibly be expected to do. As companies learn how to use these “intelligent machines” to improve revenue, reduce costs, and increase customer satisfaction, AI will become our most valuable emerging resource.
What is AI?
Simply stated, AI and its subset, machine learning (ML), are transforming tools that manufacturers and distributors can offer via their digital commerce experiences.
Efforts that traditionally relied on humans to be completed can now better augment their work with AI-powered tools that are automated and run faster than their human counterparts.
These tools can analyze large groupings of data sets, run tests, understand context, adjust based on results, understand human languages, interpret digital images, make predictions, and continually update based on more use of the tool.
Artificial intelligence helps you have a better understanding of your customer to drive more personalized customer experiences. The more data it has, the better the experience for your customer and the possible return on your investment.
AI for B2B eCommerce platforms is still in the early days, but future-readiness preparations show that it should be a top tool on your roadmap to prepare to implement.
Kearney carried out a study of the financial service industry in 2020. They asked 618 B2B sales agents about obstacles in the sales process and what could help improve sales. They found that sales agents need more top-level leads and there is a lack of leads for new customers.
With B2B sales, we’re finding that AI is becoming increasingly popular and is turning the tide for sales and leads. Artificial intelligence is helping businesses with automated processing and decision-making. It is also providing insights into the daily life of the business, saving organizations more time, whilst collating data about buyers’ intent.
A further study by the Harvard Business Review has confirmed that AI has had a positive impact on B2B sales with:
- 50 % more leads
- Shorter calls – by nearly 70 %
- Between 40 – 60 % drop in costs
They also found evidence that there has been growth in effective use of account-based management (ABM) software:
- 77 % of ABM leaders report an ROI that is over 10 % higher than from traditional sales tactics
- 45 % have more than doubled their ROI
Despite this, artificial intelligence is still not widely used on a large scale, but media telecommunications and IT markets are early adopters and are leading the charge when it comes to growth.
When discussing AI, we do not mean that machines will take over your business and make humans obsolete. It is more about making sure that humans have the time and space to do the things they do best. These include things like managing relationships between customers, employees, vendors and partners, as well as working out the strategies and using human judgement to make sure the business is always on the right lines. At the same time, they will have peace of mind from knowing that sales and leads are being taken care of efficiently by their AI software.
Using artificial intelligence is a great way to be able to tackle more sales leads in a more uniform way than any human employee can. However, it will still need sales leaders to ensure that processes are followed if escalation is needed.
5 Ways to Utilize AI to Improve B2B eCommerce:
1. Improving upon omnichannel strategy.
With better business decisions based on insights via AI of how your products are being used by buyers, you can create a stronger strategy with fewer future gaps. By using omnichannel data provided by the AI, you can make sure that customers can use your site across multiple devices, easily and securely. The user journey can be tracked, and data delivered in real-time as to where they are accessing your site from and how long they are spending on it.
Utilize smart speakers and digital assistants to help your customers browse and buy products. Help your customers find what they need with voice search activated on your website, and use the data extrapolated to ensure users’ speech patterns can be recognized each and every time.
2.Use predictive insights on stocking and inventory management.
Through market trends, you can stock the hottest products for specific times of the year, offer your customers improved inventory management, and reduce overhead. Using artificial intelligence to help shoppers identify other products they might want on your website can also increase sales.
AI within inventory management systems will be able to give you real-time updates so your website can reflect if something is low stock or out of stock completely.
3.Identify recurring activities that can be automated.
Automation of these tasks through the use of machine learning will subsequently reduce costs. An example of this is automating product classifications. In the case when the model is not confident of its classification decision, human intervention can be requested. This can significantly reduce the time required to classify products and help increase the bandwidth of employees, empowering them to spend time on more value-adding initiatives.
4.Improve efficiency by developing richer, more refined personas and segments.
By applying a machine learning approach, you can analyze low-level web behaviors (what people are browsing, searching, clicking on, and eventually purchasing). You can also use AI to learn your customers’ buying approaches and pain points, as well as who your competitors are targeting. This will empower you to refine your personas and, by implementing a machine-learning approach, possibly increase sales and reduce churn.
You can also use AI-analyzed data to help with advertising campaigns and marketing to ensure that different locations are getting relevant adverts. It can measure campaign performance and help with making decisions in real-time.
5.Answer more questions across more channels, faster.
Conversational interfaces via AI are gaining popularity and for good reason. Artificial intelligence can swiftly and proactively answer questions such as “Where is my order?” and can be easily programmed for new omnipresent buyers and their requests.
AI chatbots are becoming increasingly popular as people want faster answers for queries. Making sure that your chatbot also has access to a human in case it needs escalating is important to ensure good customer service.
Getting Started With AI
So, from routing customer service requests to tracking packages, personalizing product suggestions or handling returns, in many cases artificial intelligence can offer answers before customers even ask the questions.
Including AI in your eCommerce strategy will help move your enterprise from passively to proactively selling online.
At a time when buyers can find virtually every kind of product at a low cost online, uniqueness and personalization is a requirement for success in eCommerce.
By letting AI take over mundane tasks, manufacturers and distributors can save their human resources for the more complex customer engagements whilst keeping up with their buyers’ changing behaviors and expectations.
It is important as you begin to explore artificial intelligence within your organization’s eCommerce strategy to identify gaps in your current processes and understand the business value of this technology for your unique requirements. By doing so you will be able to apply it in a way that feels true to your brand for employees and customers alike.
With a product like Adobe Sensei, you get product recommendations that make sense for your customers. It’s like having a personal shopper in their phone, ready to provide options for them to find the perfect item for their needs. Using Adobe Sensei is exclusive to Adobe Commerce merchants with a free extension and is a perfect way of getting started with AI in B2B eCommerce.
The AI you use should be focused on your market it cannot be generalized, or it will not work. There should be a few different things that you look for in an AI partner:
- Ability to always provide fresh and secure data
- Being able to harvest data that is verifiable in real-time to focus on 100% accuracy
- Algorithms to provide continual intelligence and fill missing data points as well as data scoring across first- and third-party intent.
- The partner must be able to process data across all regions and locations
“Artificial Intelligence, in its many forms, will empower us like no technology has ever done before. By automating the cognitively mundane tasks of our day-to-day lives, AI will free us to explore new domains of creativity and expand our innovative potential beyond imagination.”
- Mike Pierce, CTO, Echidna
Internal follow-up discussion:
- What is your plan to incorporate new technologies into existing and near-term digital strategies and find the right people to implement them to drive growth?
- Where would AI offer a better experience for your customers than the one they are getting today?
- What are the gaps in your current programs for digital commerce that AI could potentially assist with?
- How does it look to implement AI in a natural way, both for our people and our customers?
About Kali Kasprzyk and Echidna
Kali Kasprzyk is the Director of Marketing at Echidna. She has been published in The Huffington Post on the topic of digital commerce and continues to write for various industry publications.
Echidna is a leading digital systems agency led by experienced commerce professionals who are focused on helping enterprises evolve their Digital Commerce journey and maturity.
Echidna focuses on the Consumerism of B2B with clients to guide them to maintain their B2B heritage while coupling B2C processes and solutions to add multiple points of value to all constituents.
Frequently asked AI in B2B questions
What is the future of AI in eCommerce?
This is an interesting one, because AI is constantly changing and evolving to become better and more adept at helping eCommerce.
It seems that voice search is the big thing in the pipeline that will impact online retail. There are forecasts done by Tractica that AI will help generate, either directly or indirectly, over $59.75 billion by 2025. This is a massive leap from the $1.38 billion made in 2016.
Can a smaller business use AI?
Of course, it is beneficial for smaller businesses to implement now so it’s easier to utilize when they’re growing and need help with chatbots or stock management.
Finding the right balance between AI and the human touch in a smaller business can be tricky so make sure that you have everything set up in a way that a human can get involved quickly if necessary.
Are there challenges of using AI?
Yes, as with anything there are challenges. Usually around getting your original data in order, getting the artificial intelligence department in order and management of the potential risks.
Having AI can help improve your business, but it can be difficult to get it right first time. Trial and error play a huge part in that.