AI is one of the most dynamic and exciting developments to hit the business world, and it has the potential to change many industries. From analyzing data to intelligently targeting ads, AI has already had a huge impact. But how does that apply to the world of B2B ecommerce?
The sector is growing rapidly, with 62% of businesses believing more than half of their sales will come from e-commerce within the next five years. However, trusting in its growth isn’t enough on its own. The rise of new technology like AI means B2B ecommerce can become more efficient and effective at selling to users, and if you don’t make use of these new innovations, your competitors will.
Luckily, there are plenty of tactics you can adopt to allow AI to transform your business and supercharge your B2B ecommerce results. These are all fairly small-scale, and don’t require you to have in-depth programming knowledge to adopt, but they can have huge impacts.
Customer service is vital in any business, especially in the B2B sector. However, being available 24/7 for your clients is time-consuming and can be expensive. This is particularly true when many enquiries can be answered fairly simply, yet still take up plenty of time. For this reason, chatbots are becoming more popular.
Using AI, chatbots can identify what your users are asking, and point them to a solution if the answer is simple. They can always contain within them the option to speak to a human when necessary, but prevent your time being taken up by queries for which there’s a clear answer available on your site.
This isn’t a luxury; in fact, it seems likely that chatbots could be the norm in the near future. One estimate is that up to 85% of customer interactions will not involve any human input by as soon as 2020, as AI takes over.
2. Customer-centric search
For some time, ecommerce sites have automatically filled in search queries for users. This is convenient for B2C customers, but crucial when it comes to B2B. The names of your products and services are unlikely to be common knowledge, and potential customers could find themselves confused and frustrated by what to search for.
The scope of AI goes far beyond this, however. For example, Pinterest recently introduced a function that enables customers to take photos - or choose them from their device’s library - and find related items using image recognition software. This takes keywords out of user search altogether.
While image recognition might seem far off, techniques such as custom training are already available that let you use machine learning to ‘teach’ an AI what certain images look like. Using the technology, you can completely reshape your search function to center it around whatever is most useful for your potential customers.
3. Retarget leads
Sales leads are a crucial element of B2B, but can all too easily slip through the cracks. As many as 33% of all leads aren’t followed up, leading to the potential for upsetting amounts of lost business and revenue. However, once again this is an area in which AI can help.
In addition to automation and other similar activities that prevent your employees from missing or forgetting about potential leads, AI can also be used to intelligently work out who is best to target based on a range of data. By analyzing factors such as how many emails a lead has replied to, or whether or not they’ve liked your company’s social media page, it can assess how likely they are to convert.
Trust Insights co-founder Christopher Penn calls these small factors “weak learners”. On their own, they don’t mean much, but AI can combine them much better than humans can. He said:
Through techniques that aggregate weak learners together and make them function as a stronger learner, we can get a sense of what combinations of dimensions and metrics matter most.