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AI and the IoT: these initialisms have been at the core of a great deal of hype over the course of the last decade or so. Each is heralded as a game-changer: a technology that will (or at least can) lead to radical shifts in the foundational elements of today’s digital world. But though we haven’t yet seen this promise fulfilled, we have seen them gradually become more practical.

With each year that passes, the real-world applications are better understood, and more people find ways to implement these technologies to meaningful effect. This is particularly true in the e-commerce world, which should surprise no one given the notable eagerness of merchants to embrace new tactics and methods.

In this post, we’re going to take a look at five ways in which the IoT and AI are set to prove transformative for e-commerce as 2020 rolls on. Here we go:

Stock management will improve

Handling stock effectively is a big part of running an efficient e-commerce operation, yet it can be extremely challenging. It’s easy to buy too much stock and fail to offload it, leading to cluttered warehouses, awkward discounts and damaged cash flow — but it’s just as easy to buy too little stock and frustrate your customers by being unable to handle their orders.

IoT and AI tech can radically change the stock management process: the former by tagging products to ensure accurate counts at all times, and the latter by considering sales data and figuring out the optimal stock quantities to order (and the optical times at which to order them).

The startup process will get easier

In online retail, the barrier to entry just keeps getting lower, making it cheaper and easier for aspiring entrepreneurs to build their first stores. These technologies will transform this process by honing it further still. Consider the standard e-commerce blueprint that has become so ubiquitous in recent years: almost every part of it can be enhanced in various ways.

Note the mention of a logo generator on that list, albeit in a company-endorsed one — then think about services like Namelix that are capable of generating company names based on shortlists of relevant words. The results aren’t spectacular, but they’re solid, and they’re more than good enough for budding sellers who want to get started ASAP.

Marketing will become more targeted

Being successful in e-commerce requires a lot of high-quality marketing because it’s hard to get found online. The more targeted the marketing can get, the more cost-effective it becomes — and machine learning can be deployed to analyze content types and results and figure out the best pieces to send to particular groups.

This is a win-win improvement: businesses achieve superior marketing results, and the recipients of their marketing get more relevant offers and updates. Keep an eye on your marketing emails to see how they change as more businesses get more targeted.

Chatbot support will become normal

Chatbots are incredibly useful for customer support in a time of 24/7 internet use and international shipping. When someone visits an e-commerce store looking for support and finds that there’s no one available, it negatively affects their customer experience, and could even lead to them going elsewhere — but a chatbot can run all the time.

Customer support chatbots can’t deal with complex requests or effectively imitate real people, but they don’t need to: they just need to field basic queries using FAQ data, perform simple functions, and be ready to escalate issues they can’t parse or simply can’t help with. And with all the improvements that have been made in the NLP field, this isn’t too challenging.

Transaction fraud will be diminished

Fraudulent transactions are very annoying for retailers because they can lead to false impressions of how business is going (and even see orders illegitimately fulfilled). AI-driven systems can review proposed transactions, looking at behavioral patterns and contextual clues to determine their authenticity.

The net result will be that fewer e-commerce businesses (even those with minimal resources at their disposal) will need to deal with fraudulent transactions, saving them time and money and allowing them to focus on impressing their real customers.

The IoT and AI might still be far from delivering upon their accumulated hype, but this year should see more steps taken to make them key parts of the e-commerce puzzle.

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