Companies that learn how to use artificial intelligence in digital commerce will gain an edge in sales by serving up the information and products their customers need.

Elliott Yama, general manager, strategic product planning, Apttus

Despite being seen as a “freshman” in today’s buying and selling business world, e-commerce has quickly risen to the level of varsity veteran—complete with letterman jacket.

AI tasks may include predicting the propensity to purchase, and in which channel.

As several research reports have shown, e-commerce is one of the fastest growing sales channels, with far more projected in the years to come. It’s not hard to see why. Not only does e-commerce provide consumers an easier way to shop at their own convenience, but manufacturers also realize tremendous business benefits. From increased cost savings and shortened sales cycles, to improved product-suite visibility and better customer experiences, buying habits have changed over the years. As a result, online marketplace giants like Amazon and Walmart have prevailed.

The Struggle is Real

But in today’s hyper-competitive e-commerce landscape, how can small and medium-sized businesses , even the playing field?


While some have figured out that they should make deals with competitors and resell their products as third-parties on the large online marketplaces themselves, what if that business model is not feasible for all sellers? Giving away a piece of the pie is sometimes a tough bite to—not swallow.

But what if there was another way? Perhaps there is and the answer may lie in the intersection of e-commerce and applied artificial intelligence (AI).

HBR Study Finds Artificial Intelligence Maximizes Revenue

According to a recent study by Harvard Business Review, which surveyed nearly five hundred business executives including several from IBM, Lenovo, Morgan Stanley, Microsoft, Goldman Sachs, and Nasdaq, 60% of them say their organization’s future success depends on adopting AI technologies, while more than 30% are piloting tools powered by AI. The study goes on to examine the latest developments in the rapidly evolving field of artificial intelligence, to analyze the shifts that are occurring with strategies and priorities in leading businesses.

While the HBR study reveals that some leading companies are beginning to adopt AI applied to revenue operations to accelerate business growth, many note their leaders have trouble even articulating an AI strategy, presenting a huge market opportunity for both AI technology vendors and the organizations they serve.


AI: The New E-commerce Force Multiplier

Early-adopting companies that recognize the force multiplier abilities of AI and leverage its capabilities today will have a tremendous impact on their enterprises over the next decade. For example, by enhancing e-commerce automation with AI and leveraging the rich data and robust context around the decision points in the e-commerce process, AI can be used to influence the behavior of buyers and sellers, and guide their actions with intelligence and insights that humans simply cannot gather.

Tasks may include predicting the propensity to purchase, and in which channel; making personalized recommendations to customers; optimizing promotions for customers and partners; employing compensation and rebates to drive revenue growth; anticipating potential revenue and credit risks; and forecasting revenue and customer loyalty.

In manufacturing, artificial intelligence can provide valuable assistance necessary for complex, high-value sales and wholesale distribution. Corporations with large and multifaceted purchase orders can leverage AI to  automate the ordering of service parts, maintenance services, and even enhance warehouse operations.

For example, several online hypermarkets have enlisted intelligent robots to read Radio-Frequency Identification (RFID) tags, and because every order in the cart is connected to a unique ID tag, the intelligent bots know when a full cart is ready for shipment, saving valuable time in the process.


Additionally, other e-commerce sites are leveraging concepts like predictive intelligence and contextual messaging to provide a better customer experience. Using self-learning algorithms, chatbots can leverage an e-commerce platform’s data regarding customer behavior and usage, and offer up relevant items and create personalized shopping experiences for online buyers.

The Bottom Line

As more and more companies require web commerce to satisfy customer expectations for anytime, anywhere, information-rich, and self-service experiences, the onus is on them to embrace the beginnings of this massive new AI trend. Executives, if tuned in early enough to adopt AI, will gain ground in their industries, consolidate their wins versus their competition, and create differentiating competitive advantages.

Elliott Yama is general manager, strategic product marketing, AI solutions, for Apttus, a provider of cloud-based business software for operations including digital commerce, contract management and supplier revenue management. Follow him on Twitter @ElliottYama.