TechBytes with Eli Finkelshteyn, CEO and Co-Founder, Constructor.io

TechBytes with Eli Finkelshteyn, CEO and Co-Founder, Constructor
Eli Finkelshteyn, CEO and Co-Founder, Constructor

What predictions do you have for e-retailers in 2019?

In 2019, e-retailers who surface products that appeal to customers faster will have a competitive advantage. Saving time and not having to wade through hundreds of unwanted products to get to a few desired ones is valuable to customers, and if they think one retailer will give them a much faster experience than another, they will favor them.

Why is customer experience so important for retailers?

The shopping experience is part of what customers pay for, and there is a lot of data to back up how important it is. In fact, 53% of customers surveyed by Survata said they stopped doing business with a retailer after one or two bad experiences, while 86% of buyers said they would pay more for better customer experience — according to Walker’s 2020 report.

Why is customer experience tied so closely to search?

Customers have limited time and they don’t want to wade through hundreds of unwanted products before finding what they want. Using Machine Learning and personalization to refine and rerank search results to surface the products a particular customer is most interested in provides a much better experience.

If a customer always buys all natural products, and one retailer surfaces all natural products to them first, while another has them buried between a bunch of artificially-flavored ones, the first retailer is providing a better experience and the customer will prefer them.

How can retailers use search to enhance customer experience?

Retailers can improve the search experience by emphasizing personalization and machine-learned reranking. The most searched for terms on most e-commerce sites tend to be broad and return hundreds of results. Think of searches like “chips” or “cookies” on a place such as Amazon or Jet.com.

Wading through hundreds of results for the products most appealing to you is time-consuming and frustrating, especially when you’ve already indicated to the retailer what types of products you enjoy. Retailers can improve this experience by utilizing Machine Learning and personalization to rerank the results to surface the ones you are most likely to enjoy at the very top.

How can retailers change the search mindset from e-commerce to all commerce?

Retailers can change the search mindset outside of e-commerce by bringing the search experience into their stores. Don’t make customers hunt down an employee and ask about some product the employee might have never heard of. Give them a way to search for what they want in-store technologically, via an app or a kiosk.

How can AI yield more personalized results while collecting less personal information?

There is a family of algorithms based on a technology called collaborative filtering. The basic idea here is that if you have similar shopping habits to a certain group of people, let’s say you all buy organic products, and many people from within that group have purchased organic grapes, there is a good chance you may also want to buy organic grapes. The beauty of this type of algorithm from a privacy perspective is that it can be designed in such a way that no personally identifiable information is known about any of the people in the group.

Each one can be assigned an ID when they enter the site, and all actions can simply be registered to the ID without ever knowing who the person is. Because Constructor makes a point of not keeping any personally identifiable information on any of our users; we make use of algorithms like these to help personalize the shopping experience without being creepy.

Where can we see the physical and digital retail spaces overlapping?

The physical and digital retail spaces are already beginning to overlap. For example, our customers have started to ask about search on kiosks within stores, or on a companion app. Finding employees to ask where an item is located is often frustrating, and sometimes you’re buying an uncommon item they might not know about, or an embarrassing medicine you don’t want to ask another human about. Stores that remove this customer pain point create a better customer experience and drive more loyalty from their customers.

How is search finding its way into traditional brick-and-mortar stores?

In addition to in-store search on apps and kiosks, we have also recently started to see interest in voice search within stores. The idea here is that speaking is much easier than typing, especially when you’re carrying a shopping bag. We know of at least one retailer that is beginning to implement the ability to simply verbally ask an in-store kiosk where something is, so a customer does not need to hunt down an employee or put their bags down to search on their phone. This speeds up tbhe shopping experience for a customer, gets them the products they need faster, and creates even more loyalty with the retailer.

Thank you for answering all our questions!

Eli Finkelshteyn is CEO and Co-Founder at Constructor. Eli is a former data scientist  where he worked at Tumblr, Shutterstock, and FactSet. He specializes in Machine Learning, Natural Language Processing, and Distributed Computing.

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Constructor.io is an AI-first search as a service platform for enterprise-scale ecommerce sites. Constructor.io Search uses behavioral data, machine learning and personalization to present results that are both relevant and drive user purchases.

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