2017 welcomed big developments in artificial intelligence (AI) technology. For example, companies like Pinterest, Google and Bing launched visual search capabilities, Amazon invested heavily in voice-activated systems like Echo and Facebook leveraged AI to detect mental illness.
While AI has worked its way into countless sectors bringing changes to our everyday lives, the online retail industry, in particular, has been significantly transformed by the adoption of these new capabilities. The acceptance and growth of AI in e-commerce this year confirms what I believe: that the shopping experience of the future -- both online and in-store -- will be dominated by AI tech for years to come.
AI offers numerous benefits for both online retailers and consumers. For example, it makes products more discoverable across the internet, eliminates the need for traditional (and often inefficient) keyword search and allows social platforms to become a direct path to purchase. As the CEO of a company devoted to providing these benefits through AI, here’s how I predict 2018 will bring even more AI innovation to e-commerce:
AI Will Help Process (And Derive Value From) The Volume Of Visual Content Online
2017 could be considered the rise of visual search technology, but I believe we can expect to see even more AI tools emerge in 2018 as visual content drives more purchasing decisions. While big players like Google and eBay launched their own versions of visual search, retailers like West Elm and Target also added similar functionality to their own sites, proving that this trend extends beyond search engines alone and to any platform where visual content exists.
We’ve also seen social media platforms become significantly more visual: Today, these platforms are responsible for approximately 3.2 billion visuals daily shares. As a result of this spike in visual content, in 2018, I think we’ll see communications platforms like messaging and social apps integrate AI technology to ensure these inspiring visuals lead to product discovery and transactions no matter where the customer begins their shopping journey.
Even With Improved Metadata, Search Will Be Driven By Images Themselves
For years, the accuracy of what one searched for, and what one received back in search returns, was predicated on the quality of metadata and tagging, which no consumer was ever really exposed to and was typically done manually.
When it comes to AI, the capability now exists to automate image classification and product tagging, ensuring greater alignment in search results based on improved attribute identification. Images themselves can also become a data source.
In 2018, I think we’ll see improved visual search capabilities, and the content within an image will be processed instead of just the words associated with it. Additionally, the use of automated tagging features will allow brands to accurately and efficiently tag images uploaded into their databases, ensuring they are categorized with consistency.
Social Listening Technologies Will See A Resurgence
Thanks to AI-powered “visual listening” technologies, brands now have the power to identify all images and videos related to their brand -- not just those that tag the brand itself. These tools provide brands a critical capability: the ability to see everyone who is sharing content related to them on social media. Today, many consumers turn to social media to share their brand experiences (both positive and negative) through images. Unfortunately, consumers don’t always tag those images, leaving their posts invisible to the brand involved. In fact, it’s been found that 80% of social media images that include a brand’s logo do not mention the brand or product in the accompanying text. In 2018, I expect to see greater adoption of visual listening tools with integrated AI capabilities to analyze the explosion of visual content at scale.
As more online retailers recognize the countless benefits that AI technology offers, I think we’ll continue to see existing innovations improve, and more excitingly, new developments will emerge that will further transform the future of e-commerce. 2017 was certainly a turning point for AI technology in the online retail industry, but in 2018, we can expect to see bigger and better ways to utilize it.
This article was originally published in Forbes on 03rd Jan 2018.