How Search AI can help retailers stand out in the e-commerce boom

07 February 2022 Consultancy.uk 3 min. read

Online is rapidly becoming the UK’s favourite way to shop. Lloyd Davies, Managing Director UK for Making Science, explains how retailers can deploy artificial intelligence to stand out from the crowd.

While an already growing trend, the number of online shoppers has been accelerated by the pandemic and nine out of ten consumers are now buying this way; making the UK one of Europe’s most advanced e-commerce markets, and third globally only behind the US and China. As a nation, our spending has not only boosted retail sales here in the UK, but cross-border purchases have also increased.

While the number of consumers engaging in e-commerce is increasing, so is the advertising competition – the retail sector alone spent £3.98 billion on online advertisements last year. It’s clearly now not enough for marketers to solely increase their brand presence by placing highly within search engine results. To truly stand out, advertisers must personalise and target search result listings carefully to provide more tailored responses to consumer queries.

Lloyd Davies, Managing Director UK for Making Science

This search traffic is there to be captured, but this demand presents a different challenge. Between 16% to 20% of Googled queries have never been asked before; how is it possible for brands to keep up with the sheer volume of relevant content required to accurately fulfil these searches?

The power of PPC

E-commerce has never been more popular, with brands in the UK making an estimated £185.22 billion through online sales and continued growth projected. This competitive marketplace means brands need to be both agile and efficient. Automated pay-per-click leverages machine learning to make ad targeting in search engines more specific and removes the need for manual updates and reviews, allowing brands to focus their resources elsewhere.  This tool can also add value by instinctively addressing the needs and queries of new customers.

The pandemic has shifted the way many people work and play, so it is to be expected that what people search for online has also changed. Consumers have taken up new hobbies and interests, found new places to travel to and have even developed new skills, with searches for terms such as ‘Loungewear’, ‘Card Games’ and ‘Care’ all increasing during the pandemic and indicating specific changes.  Automated PPC is able to stay abreast of spikes and dips in searches and changes in user habits, allowing brands to still appear in relevant and popular searches.

But while automated PPC can place ads in relevant search locations, standing out from the competition is another issue. Personalisation is proven to appeal to consumers – 71% of consumers say that they prefer personalised ads – so how can brands scale up ad personalisation without putting a major strain on their workforce to create relevant text?

Getting personal with AI

Commonly used to generate weather reports, patient reports, and image captions, AI-enabled natural language generation (NLG) can be intelligently used to generate relevant text personalised to search results, thus easing the volume of manual work on employees.

Most importantly, AI-enabled NLG can be scaled up to whatever size to produce 100,000s of personalised ads, 100,000s of keywords, 1,000s of site link extensions, and 1,000s of callout extensions, spanning across multiple languages all in a number of minutes. It can also be deployed for multiple uses – for example, aligning user acquisition with the experience for specific regions.  At a time when advertisers are moving into a cookie-less world, being able to facilitate Scalable Personalisation for identifiable audience segments, and gaining insights on groups and audience segments will be important in reaching consumers.

The horizon is looking brighter as society learns to live with the Coronavirus, but as society adapts and tentatively “returns to normal”, it looks like the shift to e-commerce is a permanent one. With greater competition, the ability to be agile is still needed for brands hoping to capture the attention of consumers.

A combination of automated PPC and AI-enabled NLG allows brands to do this, at scale, and for a low cost. Many are still trying to recover losses from the worst parts of the pandemic and these solutions can be efficient both in terms of time and staffing, and ultimately make brands stand out to consumers.