Most French e-retailers who have already started using AI to improve their online business operations have launched initiatives in different business segments. AI solutions that relate to the customer experience are the most common, with 50 precent relating to product recommendation and content personalization. In this category the first function of AI is to draw a portrait of the internet user through personal data and by observing their behavior on the app or website. This allows shops to make predictions about potential customers, which was the main objective for 61 percent of French businesses using AI in 2019.
The human aspect of AI can be observed through the use of chatbots, an AI that responds to customers' questions through a chat function on e-commerce websites. This is probably the most common use of AI in e-commerce, as 60 percent of companies had installed a chatbot for their customer service in 2019.
For marketplaces that have too many products to verify their standards compliance, AI can help classify them in the online database, not only for conusmers to find them easily but also for logistical reasons. This allows efficient stock management and helps to reduce warehouse sizes, which in turn lowers the costs of storing and shipping.
For the benefit of the consumer, AI is not portrayed solely through the personalized shopping experience, but through facilitated features which make it easier to find a product or information. Through visual search, taking a photo or taking a screenshot of an item and finding it on the merchant site is a technology that is growing rapidly. For instance, globally, the number of visual searches performed using Pinterest visual search in 2018 had reached 600 million, compared to 250 million in 2017. For social networks like Instagram, Snapchat and TikTok, the potential of these new tools have pushed them to ramp up their social commerce efforts, shifting toward an environment where users can discover, shop and purchase products in one place.
For all these features to work and benefit the consumer, intelligent technologies need to know how the consumer or consumer groups function. AI feeds on personal data and surfing information to make the shopping experience easier and more agreeable. In this sense, consumers are confronted with a paradox. Even though most French consumers are reluctant to give out their personal information, especially after the Cambridge analytica scandal in 2018, they understand the necessity for companies to collect it. In reaction to that, companies were subject to the European regulation on the protection of personal data (GDPR) in May 2018. The consumer could now refuse to have personal data used for marketing purposes, and in particular for product and behavior profiling. In a way, even though the technology will continue to thrive on numbers provided by consumer data, the choice to share it will remain personal.