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AI’s Place in E-commerce: Insights from User Research

At 15gifts, I advocate for our end users, collaborating closely with the Product team to ensure our product development aligns with their needs and expectations. For over a decade, we have successfully delivered guided selling engines to leading telcos across the globe, consistently enhancing digital sales performance and crafting personalised user journeys. Ensuring our solutions resonate with end users not only boosts sales and revenue for our customers but also equips them with valuable consumer insights.

I’ve conducted in-depth discovery interviews with our current users as we focus on advancing guided selling into the next generation, with AI capabilities and enhanced sales psychology principles. The research delves into their recent buying experience, the challenges of phone plan purchases, and their sentiment towards AI-powered sales advisors.

Understanding the Current Buyer Experience

Consumers predominantly interact with the 15gifts’ guided selling engine during the comparison stage of their buyer journey. These participants sought support from the 15gifts ‘help me choose’ tool to narrow options while exploring various network providers – ensuring that the products met their requirements and remained affordable. Below are the key challenge areas they faced with their recent purchasing experience:

Choosing a phone and plan is a complex decision process, with multiple factors such as network coverage, handset features, plan options, offers & promotions, insurance options and accessory choices, all within one purchase.

A significant finding from these discovery interviews revealed that 61% of respondents struggle with comparing multiple providers and products. The complexity of navigating the endless options without comprehensive comparative insights emerged as a major hurdle. Furthermore, 56% expressed difficulties accessing specific product specifications essential for making informed decisions.

“Just getting basic plan information has been the most challenging part.”

The financial implications of purchasing decisions were a concern for 32% of users who highlighted affordability as a critical factor. Additionally, 29% faced challenges with the technical aspects of switching providers and understanding coverage options—underscoring the need for more intuitive guidance.

Phones can be expensive… going through the numbers is a headache”

A notable 29% voiced difficulties evaluating the technical aspects necessary for selecting the right phone due to their limited understanding of how these feature advancements could simplify their daily lives. Therefore, these participants expressed uncertainty about the value of these features, coupled with the daunting task of sifting through deals to find one that truly benefits them.

“It felt very overwhelming because the new features are advertised as must-haves, I had to understand if it’s something that’ll be useful for me.” 

Moreover, 15% of users highlighted the time-consuming nature of this process, indicating a clear demand for a streamlined, efficient, and personalised shopping experience.

Sentiment Towards AI for Online Sales Assistance

As part of the research, we sought to understand consumer attitudes towards AI-powered tools. Overall, a significant portion of users recognised the value of AI in providing instant assistance, answering basic inquiries, and mitigating the anxiety associated with making complex decisions. 

The feedback did, however, reveal nuanced perceptions of AI-powered tools, highlighting concerns based on past interactions with Chatbots. While some users would appreciate a more human-like interaction without waiting in queues to speak to a person, they did express reservations about personal data handling, the tool’s ability to answer complex questions, and the impersonal nature of machine interactions.

Conversely, the most positive responders were less concerned, viewing AI as an effective service for offering instant assistance, recreating meaningful conversations online, and offering enhanced support for decision making. Among these positive responders, there is the acknowledgement that for more complex inquiries, they’d expect that human assistance would still be necessary.

Moving Forward: Our Commitment to Innovation

User insights are invaluable in shaping the future development of our AI-powered sales advisor. Let’s face it – if the user experience falls short, our customers bear the brunt of the consequences.

We understand the challenges our users face and the expectations they have. Our commitment is to address these needs, ensuring our future Virtual Sales Advisor facilitates easier comparison and decision-making processes and offers a personalised, engaging, and secure end-to-end buyer journey.  The key lies in balancing technological advancements (AI) with the irreplaceable value of the human touch (consumer psychology), ensuring customers feel supported, understood, and valued throughout their shopping journey. 

Stay tuned for more updates as we continue our journey to deliver a more human online buyer experience. 

Louise Ford
User Experience Researcher
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