What is the Role of AI and ML in B2B eCommerce: Benefits, Challenges, and Alternatives

Role of AI and ML

Artificial Intelligence or AI is changing the way people do business online. With capabilities to work and get better on its own, it can handle the huge influx of data and optimize the business process like never before.

AI combined with ML(Machine Learning) is helping the eCommerce sector to grow and everyone seems to realize it.

The World Economic Forum lists Applied Artificial Intelligence in the top 10 technology trends that are going to shape the decade.

The Modern B2B eCommerce sector revolves around automation. Today, there is a major role of AI and ML in B2B eCommerce. In this blog, we will take you through the benefits and challenges that the implementation of AI currently has.

Once you know the benefits and challenges of the technology, you can implement AI in B2B eCommerce much more efficiently.

How AI is Changing the Way of Doing Business?

Way of Doing Business

Artificial Intelligence has been around for a while. The reason why we hear about the term “AI” a lot these days is that we now have the hardware resources to implement AI in various sectors.

AI uses data, machine learning, computer vision, natural language processing, deep learning, etc. to make smart programs and machines. These smart programs and machines can make their own decisions.

With more and more data, they can understand the patterns better and do specific cognitive tasks effectively and sometimes even better than humans. ML is also a part of the AI umbrella and it is mainly related to the use of data and algorithms to make decisions.

Now, to perform small cognitive tasks as efficiently as humans, AI needs a lot of data and algorithms to understand the patterns and use the data to make smart decisions. This is only possible when you have processors and computers that can handle such an amount of data.

With the advancement in technology, we now have such resources and that is why AI is getting better and better.

The general public just sees the eCommerce platforms getting better and faster. But they don’t realize that it is the implementation of AI in eCommerce that has a big role to play in it.

As per Statista, the retail eCommerce sales worldwide are about USD 4.28 Trillion. This number is expected to hit USD 5.4 Trillion by 2022.

It is a mammoth task for human beings to handle that much sales from offices. So it is the AI and ML that handles most of the eCommerce traffic these days.

Benefits of AI and ML in B2B eCommerce

Benefits of AI and ML in B2B eCommerce

Optimized Leads Generation

One of the biggest implementations of AI in B2B eCommerce is at the backend for the business itself. Lead generation is one of the most crucial parts of any B2B company. AI helps in streamlining and optimizing the lead generation process.

This is because AI and ML can use your previous data to understand which type of prospects will be the most interested in doing business with you. AI can also make very accurate predictions based on data. Using that data, you can approach and prioritize your leads.

The data on AI helping businesses in leads speaks for itself.

As per the Harvard Business Review, companies that implemented AI in their sales increased their leads by about 50%.

The B2B eCommerce sector is quite competitive and having that kind of advantage over your competition can be game-changing.

Better Product Searching

The product search feature for any B2B eCommerce platform is crucial. Making sure that the customer gets the product they are looking for in the search results is one of the most important tasks.

AI and ML help in optimizing the search results. With NLP(Natural Language Processing), keywords and images, the algorithm can show accurate search results that are always personalized for each customer. AI also uses the customer data and ranking algorithm to make sure that each customer gets the products that will appeal to them the most.

Personalized Product Recommendations

This is something that you might have also noticed as a customer. Whenever you go to an eCommerce platform, it shows you a curated list of products that you might be interested in.

Most of the time, it is exactly the products you are looking for on an eCommerce platform. 

So by giving you personalized product recommendations, AI saves you time and you do not have to go through the long process of searching for products.

This is where Machine Learning(ML) plays an important role because it understands the customer’s preferences by reading through the data about the customer present on the internet.

Inventory Management and Product Dispatch

Inventory management and product management are the areas where eCommerce can improve a lot. That is because this is the place where an online order is physically packed and dispatched. Managing the inventory when the order quantities are huge and dispatching the orders on time is always a challenge.

This is where AI also helps the eCommerce industry. Many big supply chain warehouses use AI robots to dispatch orders. The great thing about robots is that they can work constantly without getting tired. They also handle the inventory without any errors. So, as long as you enter the data correctly, there is the minimal scope of an order being dispatched incorrectly by a robot.

Dynamic Pricing

Offering dynamic pricing is also something that AI software can do much better than humans because it can take inputs from various sources and calculate them faster than humans.

Dynamic pricing is an important part of the sales process these days. Presenting your customers with satisfactory and discounted prices that won’t be too heavy on your business can help you grow significantly.

Using ML and Big Data, the algorithm can adjust the prices of products in real-time based on common factors such as availability, demand, etc.

Challenges of Implementing AI and ML in B2B eCommerce

AI and ML in B2B eCommerce

Early Phase of Development

AI is still in the early phase of development for B2B eCommerce. Everything under the AI umbrella including Deep Learning, Machine Learning, Big Data, etc. depends on data to improve itself.

The more data you feed into an algorithm, the better it will get. Just having data from hundreds and even thousands of people will not make the AI as effective as it can be. For AI to work efficiently and to the best of its level, it needs tons of data.

For big eCommerce giants, it is easy to get that type of data but for small businesses, AI in B2B eCommerce is still in a very early phase of development and it is not able to deliver everything it’s capable of. That is why it is not implemented fully and we just see tiny fractions of it here and there for small businesses.

As per data, Only 23% of businesses have included AI on a serious note. Others are either not doing it or just implementing parts of it.

Polarization

The people in tech who work around AI and work on creating AI solutions have mixed opinions about it. Some believe that it is just going to change the way we do things completely. While others think that it is something that will destroy humanity.

Giving control to a machine to make decisions for you is something scary and risky. However, we do not know any long term consequences of implementing AI. We will have to wait for a while to see the long-term consequences because the short-term future of AI is bright and promising.

Costly to Implement 

As mentioned earlier, AI in B2B eCommerce is still in the early phase of implementation. As a result, it is quite costly for small and medium-sized businesses to implement.

AI requires people with high technical knowledge in coding and it also requires top-class hardware equipment. While cloud-based AI software from various companies is good and gives you the capability to use AI without any expensive hardware, their use is quite limited at the time.

Limited Data to Work With

AI and ML are based on finding patterns that help optimize the sales process and eCommerce in general. To do that, the algorithm needs a huge amount of data.

The more data you have, the stronger and smart your algorithm will be and the better results you will get. However, the problem is that getting a lot of user data for B2B eCommerce is hard when you are not one of the big eCommerce giants. With limited data, AI isn’t as effective and useful.

Are There Any Alternatives?

With concerns regarding the implementation of AI, you must be wondering if there are some better alternatives. One possibility is that AI can harm us as humans and how we interact. Another concern is giving decision-making power to an algorithm sounds risky.

The obvious solution to that seems to find a common ground. This is where Augmented Intelligence comes into play. It is a design pattern for the partnership of the human mind and AI. The main benefit of Augmented Intelligence is that it is based on the human-centered approach.

So instead of a computer having the power to make all the decisions, your business is safeguarded by human beings.

Closing Phrase

So that was all about the role of AI and ML in B2B eCommerce. AI in B2B eCommerce plays a big part for the companies that have implemented it. However, as of now, it is still in the early phases of development and hence it is too costly for small B2B eCommerce businesses to implement.

Also, there are different views when it comes to the implementation of AI because giving decision-making powers to an algorithm that no one understands can be risky. So, there is always a need for human supervision. AI has a lot of potential to make the entire shopping and business process easy for both the buyers and the sellers if implemented correctly.

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