The digital era has brought with it unprecedented prosperity, with customers and businesses alike rejoicing in the ability to having products and services shipped directly to them in an instant at virtually no cost. The rise of eCommerce into our everyday lives has made it an economic force to be reckoned with, yet little attention is being paid to the immense ethical dilemmas currently brewing around intelligent machines and how they interact with our economy.
Should we be concerned about AI’s role in eCommerce? Intelligent machines and big data analytics have already proven to be prone to mistakes, and concerns about surveillance and consumer privacy still swirl around unabated. Here’s why we should take a second look at the role of AI in eCommerce.
You can’t always trust AI
It’s a simple matter of fact that artificial intelligence is prone to mistakes, yet those who promote AI’s role in the economy continue to make machines out to be incapable of inefficiency and error. AI predictions can go wrong quite easily, and companies that invest too heavily in digital insights could prove to be wasting their money by chasing smoke and mirrors. The deadly sins of AI prediction continue to lure many companies to the rocks when they would otherwise enjoy smooth sailing if they relied on talented human expertise.
Even when AI is working properly, too, there are risk presented by the role of intelligent machines in the marketplace. eCommerce platforms and digital consumers have grown wary of algorithmic processes which can prove to be prejudiced and a major threat from the standpoint of cybersecurity. AI offers promising ways to cut down on the costs of doing business, especially for eCommerce operations, so it will continue to be invested in and adopted regardless of these growing risks. Nevertheless, it’s worth noting that AI’s role in eCommerce can turn ugly in a number of ways.
First and foremost, consumer privacy is becoming a central aspect of the modern economy. Digital users feel entitled to browse the web without having their data vacuumed up in droves or their browsing history sniffed over by advertisers and web providers. This is igniting a privacy race, wherein companies are forced to bend over backwards in the pursuit of securing user information. This positive development in the marketplace is going to be challenged by AI, which is proving effective at collecting and utilizing huge sums of information on a wide array of people with little issue.
We need to prevent AI from going rogue
Companies that are interested in harnessing the power of AI to succeed in the eCommerce marketplace, such as Ecomelites, need to understand how imperative it is that we prevent AI from going rogue. This doesn’t mean we’ll experience a dramatic, Hollywood-like style takeover of the machines. Rather, AI going rogue is in reference to these automated programs inadvertently producing negative outcomes, especially when it comes to accidentally over-collecting data or discriminating against digital users in some way.
Furthermore, we also need to take steps to ensure that AI programs aren’t recommending inappropriate items to users. In this day and age, algorithmically-driven recommendation systems drive a large amount of business, with many companies profiting off of digital recommendations that lead customers to similar products when they’re buying something. Advertisements and algorithms become deeply personal in an effort to keep you clicking and buying more. This presents serious ethical and surveillance issues that advertisers, eCommerce platforms, and consumers will all have to hash out amongst themselves over the forthcoming few years.
It’s becoming increasingly obvious that AI is driving a new frontier of business ethics that’s still taking shape. Companies everywhere are finding themselves faced with an unprecedented ability to vacuum up huge sums of data from their customers which can provide revealing glimpses into their personal lives and commercial preferences. Whether every business can be trusted to leverage this information in the pursuit of profit in a responsible fashion remains to be seen, however, with many ethical scandals centered on data collection doubtlessly set to seize headlines in the future. eCommerce platforms and businesses trying to reach out to customers online will have to take ethics and principles into consideration like never before.
AI offers both pros and cons
Despite all of these challenges, artificial intelligence offers both pros and cons to the eCommerce industry, meaning this technology can’t be rejected outright just because of some ethical dilemmas it creates. Companies are able to create customer-centric search functions that enable users to find products or services more tailored to their wants and desires, for instance, so it’s hard to argue that many businesses will find little use for AI in the future. When privacy scandals ignite because of AI’s role in data collection and analysis, however, these same businesses will find themselves in the hot seat when it comes to consumer opinion.
Companies of the future will thus be forced to toe a fine line between using AI and exploiting the information of customers in a negative way. Most shoppers don’t mind companies collecting a little bit of anonymized data which can be used to bolster their consumer experience. Going overboard and having a program mindlessly scoop up information on countless customers can generate PR nightmares and legal trouble, however, so don’t think AI has the answer to every business problem in eCommerce.
The AI-driven revolution currently underway in the eCommerce industry isn’t going to abate anytime soon, but we shouldn’t allow the immense profits being spun from these algorithms to blind us to questions of prejudice and surveillance. Businesses which collect and use our data should be held to a higher standard than those that keep to themselves, and the use of automated programs when sorting through customer data and targeting consumers should be closely monitored by ethical human professionals.
We should be confident about the future of the eCommerce industry, but human expertise and ethical principles must never be forgotten in the pursuit of profit when it comes to AI and doing business online.