Artificial Intelligence: What is it & why are B2B eCommerce strategists interested in 2018?

February 2, 2018

Category: B2B eCommerce

Analysts and industry experts alike have been predicting an artificial intelligence boom over the past couple of years. According to the Forrester report, Predictions 2017: Artifical Intelligence Will Drive The Insights Revolution, “AI will grow 300% in 2017, and “will steal $1.2 trillion per annum from their less informed peers by 2020.” IDC, in their 2018 Worldwide Digital Transformation Predictions, predicts that “by 2019, 40% of digital transformation (DX) initiatives will use AI services; by 2021, 75% of commercial enterprise apps will use AI, over 90% of consumers will interact with customer support bots and over 50% of new industrial robots will leverage AI.”

Despite this buzz, there’s still plenty of confusion when it comes to what artificial intelligence actually is, and why B2B eCommerce strategists are buzzing about it.

What is Artificial Intelligence (AI)?

AI is often defined as machine intelligence, or in other words, a machine’s ability to replicate the cognitive functions of a human being. AI gives machines the ability to learn and solve problems. You’ll often hear machines with artificial intelligence referred to as “intelligent agents” or bots.

According to Digital Commerce 360, there are three important aspects of AI that eCommerce businesses need to understand:

  • Data Mining: This includes the technologies used to identify meaningful patterns in extremely large data sets.
  • Natural Language Processing (NLP): This is the process used by machines to make sense out of human sentences.
  • Machine Learning: This refers to the science of self-learning algorithms that drives technology to help humans think better

By better understanding the technology beneath AI, you can start to understand and imagine possible applications of AI within your B2B eCommerce strategy. Here are a few examples:

  • Conversational commerce capabilities, including text-to-speech recognition and improved search capabilities. Whether it’s companies abilities to improve search queries by combining machine learning with natural language processing (NLP) capabilities, or their use of chatbots to respond to buyers’ needs in a faster, automated way, AI enables companies to dive deeper into conversational commerce.
  • Artificial Intelligence-fueled personalization and predictive selling, in terms of both reordering and add-on products and services. For example, a company’s printer may let a supplier know they are low on ink based on sensors built into the printer itself. And since the supplier knows that companies generally want to reorder paper when they run out of ink, they could send them a communication about a sale on paper, asking if they want to add that on to their order for ink.
  • Capitalizing on data to automatically and accurately forecast. The power of AI is that it can help uncover correlations that aren’t always apparent to humans. For example, your car manufacturer may not know how the weather is impacting the state of the roads on your commute, but there could be important correlations between that piece of data the amount of goods, services or parts needed at your local dealership.

Headless eCommerce platforms give businesses free-reign to imagine what’s possible and incorporate it into their eCommerce experience, whether it’s artificial intelligence or something else altogether. “In the past,” as Multi-Channel Merchant explained, “AI was limited to larger B2B companies that could afford IBM watson-type computer capabilities.” In 2018, the cloud, APIs and headless commerce platforms make AI more accessible and more affordable for businesses of all shapes and sizes.

Learn more about artificial intelligence, and the other five 2018 B2B eCommerce trends made possible by headless eCommerce platforms in our 2018 eCommerce Predictions eBook.