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Artificial Intelligence and eCommerce: A More Intelligent Future?

This week, Amazon announced yet another major step in their march towards artificial intelligence dominance: the integration of menial office task capability into Alexa, their artificial intelligence and voice shopping product.  Alexa popularity has been steadily on the rise, just barely managing to pull ahead of Siri and Google Assistant in technology this year.  Alexa’s new office skills, though, might prove to be the first major lead Amazon has on their competition.

The main features Amazon brought into Alexa with this announcement are the ability to coordinate meeting room bookings, manage conference call dial-ins and attendance, and order supplies (from Amazon, of course.)  While Amazon’s stated goal with Alexa is to establish omnipresence of Alexa devices to maximize language mastery, it’s undeniable that AI language mastery is simply one step on the road to market dominance.  This fact has major implications for eCommerce entrepreneurs who aren’t a part of the growing Amazon family.  Is Alexa helping to make a more intelligent future or just a more Amazon-branded one?

As our blog has explored in recent weeks, there are rising security concerns present in trusting personal data to even established companies, and these rules don’t just apply to everyday consumers.  Businesses utilizing services or working with other businesses to improve their company also have to keep their company security in mind.  While companies regularly trust Microsoft and Amazon with the hosting of their email servers, there are established rules and regulations on email privacy that don’t yet exist for voice-based products which are being analyzed in order to improve artificial intelligence products.  

There is more to consider than just security, though.  The motivations of a company must also be considered when an eCommerce business is deciding whether to adopt artificial intelligence products such as Alexa.  As an example of this, Apple and Microsoft are both tech sales companies that largely sell hardware and software, while Amazon is a mass-scale eCommerce company that makes most of its money from selling other products and bringing sellers to their platform.  Unlike any of the three companies just mentioned, Google is a data and advertising broker, making money off of being able to better place advertisements (which requires the understanding of user behavior.)

eCommerce companies who don’t see themselves on Amazon’s marketplace or who value the independence of their brand might want to think twice before committing to an adoption of an artificial intelligence device that locks them into purchases from what could be a competitor and also is utilizing learned data to forward Amazon’s business interests.  While its very unlikely that any major company would misuse data gathered by an AI like Alexa or Siri, the possibility of security breaches by malicious outside parties are a real risk in an age when giants like Target, Equifax, and Yahoo have all experienced record-breaking breaches.    

Of course, Amazon is not a competitor to every business, and some online stores might find their market more in competition with other companies offering artificial intelligence solutions.  For example, a company selling innovative smartphones (like Essential Phones, for example,) might find themselves in competition with Apple than Amazon.

Nonetheless, eCommerce companies can’t afford to blindly stave off into AI solutions without considering the long-term implications, even if the short-term benefits are tempting.  While it’s easy to see why you’d want to improve meeting efficiency or skip tedious office tasks, would such benefits really be a benefit if it meant you could only use it to order products from a company who also sold a competitor’s products?

Artificial intelligence is quickly raising all kinds of questions for businesses of all types.  You don’t have to even dive into the philosophical questions in order to encounter challenging dilemmas with the integration of artificial intelligence into our daily lives and business.  With so much to consider, how can a company that wants to adopt AI technology proceed?

The first step is to analyze options and the second is to utilize the technology responsibly.  Take the time to think about each of the artificial intelligence products you consider and research their strengths, weaknesses, and potential risks.  If, when doing research, you find yourself growing uncomfortable with a specific company, trust your gut and go with a different option.

Artificial intelligence is one of the most promising technologies on the horizon.  It’s exciting not just for eCommerce but for nearly every industry on the planet.  While it’s good to be inspired and forward thinking about promising technology, companies must also proceed with care, especially given the major private information issues that have arisen in 2017.  

2018 could prove to be one of the biggest years for AI yet, and if you’d like experienced, trustworthy help navigating your company’s choices, www.nixa.ca can help.  We specialize in all manner of web development, including integrating technology like Alexa into your company’s site and workflow.  Contact us through our website today, and we will help you come to a decision that will leave you with peace of mind for 2018.



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