The eCommerce landscape is undergoing a revolutionary transformation, driven by the rapid advancement of Artificial Intelligence (AI) – especially generative AI. Gartner predicts that generative AI will reach production maturity in 2-5 years, heralding a new era in eCommerce. The survey we conducted together with moweb research is mirroring those developments, indicating that 86% of the 300 eCommerce decision-makers we surveyed want to increase their investments in AI. Although trying to look into the future is a risky thing, in this article, we dare to name 4 trends for 2024 and the years to come.

AI will enter more and more areas of the eCommerce value chain

eCommerce is like fertile soil for AI. On the one side, we have a lot of data as well as decision-makers that believe in the technology:

70% state that AI has a significant influence on their current success in eCommerce.
86% report that their investment in AI has increased compared to the previous year.
97% see a positive effect of their AI investments on sales.

On the other side, we have a technology that is getting rapidly smarter with every iteration. An impressive example has been GPT-3.5, belonging to the 10% of worst performers in the bar exam, while GPT-4 already belongs to the top 10%. So it is very likely that AI will enter almost all areas of the eCommerce value chain. According to our survey, eCom decision-makers believe that LLMs will first enter Support, Marketing, and Onsite Experience.

Shoppers will expect your search to understand natural language

In the last 25 years, Google (and others, but mainly Google) has conditioned every user on the internet to squeeze their search intention into a few keywords and hope for the best. Now with Large Language Models actually understanding the nuances of human language, users will start expecting your onsite search to understand more complex requests and therefore guide them to the perfect product. Some onsite search solutions are already offering vector searches to cater to this development.

An important note here is that while vector search can greatly improve the understanding of natural language, it is not solving all problems associated with search. Therefore, we expect different AI models working together in creating the most relevant search results e.g., vector search retrieving the most relevant products for the search query and other AI models (like our Atlas AI) ordering the results based on intent and personal preference understanding – making sure that the most relevant products are listed at the top positions.

We will see increasing adoption of Chatbots and Conversational Commerce

In July 2023, I checked the websites of the top 50 German online shops and only 5 had a shopping assistant chatbot on their page – 4 were manned by humans, the fifth one was based on some outdated keyword approach and basically not usable. In the meantime, Zalando and others did launch their Chatbot Assistants, and I have to say it works pretty well most of the time.

Playing around with those assistant bots also makes two things pretty clear: It is not the most efficient way of shopping, and clicking around makes more fun than having to type conversations with a bot. So to me, it is quite clear that this will just be another option, an important option for online shoppers, but not the new way how we buy everything. Nevertheless, for the first time, a well-trained AI is able to have human-like conversations and help shoppers along their buying journey. This threatens one of the big advantages of local stores, namely expert consulting, and thereby gives another reason not to leave the house for shopping. According to BlueWeave Consulting, the Conversational Commerce Market will grow at a 24.03% CAGR in the next 5 years.

eCommerce Team effectiveness will soar due to increased AI adoption in their tech stack

“Humans are tool builders. We build tools that can dramatically amplify our innate human abilities.” This quote from Steve Jobs particularly gets true in regards to generative AI. Shopify Sidekick, Shopware AI Copilot… the hype around ChatGPT has led to almost every SaaS solution starting to integrate LLMs into their offering, and the result will make eCommerce teams smarter and more productive. A small-scale example of this is our customer Frank Flechtwaren, who could save 1.5h/ week and increase revenue per search by 2% by using our new feature GPT Synonyms, a simple tool automatically creating synonyms for search optimization. The adoption of AI-enabled eCommerce Solutions will increase with a CAGR of 15.7% in the next 8 years, according to InsightAce Analytic. The impact of this on the team sizes in eCommerce remains unclear; asking eCommerce decision-makers on the topic has yielded some counterintuitive results: 62% believe that increasing AI adoption will also increase the sizes of eCommerce teams, while only 12% believe that it will decrease their team sizes.

Embracing AI in eCommerce: navigating the future through trial and exploration

Overall, we live in exciting times, and AI is already – but will even more – impact the way we work in eCommerce and every other industry. The best we can do is to embrace this change and find out for ourselves what works and what doesn’t or as Wilbur Wright once said, “If you are looking for perfect safety, you will do well to sit on a fence and watch the birds; but if you really wish to fly, you must mount a machine and become acquainted with its tricks by actual trial.” The same applies to eCommerce and AI – it’s a field ripe for exploration and growth.