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State of AI-supported E-commerce for SMBs in 2024

How can SMBs leverage AI and other e-commerce trends to start selling online and run their business in 2024?

Last year marked a disruptive shift in the digital industry: AI tools such as ChatGPT, which were made available to the mass market, multiplied at a rapid pace and became a helpful tool for retailers to create digital content and sell their products online. However, this is creating new challenges for smaller companies and startups: It is simply not enough to stand in the shop and pack parcels, even the smallest retailer needs to take time to learn about market developments and understand new tools and processes. 

Together with Efe von Thenen, CMO of ePages, we take a look at the future and the present: How can business founders start selling online and compete with the larger players in the market? How can SMBs run their business profitably in the digital world in 2024 leveraging AI and other trends?

With generative AI tools like ChatGPT being introduced in 2023, we have learned a lot about how merchants can use AI to produce content for their day-to-day digital business. How do you see AI influencing e-commerce operations next year?

Efe von Thenen: AI is going to streamline various business aspects. The rise of embedded AI experiences in products, such as Microsoft 365 Copilot, will transform e-commerce applications. This includes facilitating content creation, automating translations, deploying more efficient ad campaigns, and enhancing customer interactions. This will boost business operations and enhance consumer engagement significantly.

Looking ahead, what do you think will be the biggest trend in e-commerce for 2024?

Efe von Thenen: The biggest trend, I believe, will be the deeper integration of AI into everyday business operations. The democratization of AI tools, like ChatGPT last year, is a game-changer, especially for smaller businesses. It’s leveling the playing field, enabling them to compete more effectively against bigger players. We have already started to provide ePages customers with deeper AI integrations for product descriptions, automatic meta descriptions, and automatic translations. This will continue to be our focus in the coming year, to help merchants in their day-to-day business with powerful and automated tools.

What impact do you foresee AI having on these consumer-brand relationships in the e-commerce industry?

Efe von Thenen: AI’s impact on the e-commerce industry will be evident in the evolving relationship between consumers and brands. Shopping journeys will become more personalized and intuitive, altering the e-commerce experience. This will make interactions more engaging and tailored, fundamentally changing how consumers relate to brands.

Talking beyond AI: There have been other factors in 2023 that massively influenced how SMBs interact with their customers and build their brands. Can you tell us about the significant learnings for the e-commerce industry?

Efe von Thenen: Absolutely. Besides AI, the e-commerce industry in 2023 learned the importance of sustainability as a key success factor, especially for niche players and ‘love brands’. Despite economic headwinds and competition from giants like Temu, niche players and ‘love brands’ really stood out. They resonated with consumers, particularly Gen-Z, who favored sustainability over brand recognition, indicating a shift towards more responsible consumerism. Brands like Picture Organic Clothing and Jack Wolfskin, known for sustainable outdoor apparel and repair services, exemplify this trend. Similarly, smaller ‘love brands’ like mioboards.com, despite limited marketing resources, successfully leveraged this eco-conscious approach to differentiate themselves and build customer loyalty.

Talking about all these disruptive changes in the market, that have been sped up by AI: How can retailers be supported with new topics and trends to stay ahead in the game?

Efe von Thenen: At ePages, we understand that starting an online business can be characterised by a lot of different tasks and obstacles, especially among smaller companies. All-in-one e-commerce solutions like ePages equip retailers with all the important verticals of an online business at their fingertips, bundled with a low threshold offering and maximum support that anyone can use to easily start selling products online. The intuitive administration and pre-installed integrations for Payment, Shipping, Marketing and more ensure that merchants don’t require prior technical knowledge. 

To provide all-around support and facilitate the start, we have partnered with our strategic payment partner Mollie to launch campaigns like Start & Grow. Building up on this, we are excited to announce that we will be joining this year’s E-Commerce Berlin EXPO with our SMB alliance to support anyone to get started in e-commerce. We joined forces with our partner and shipping service providers Sendcloud, Mollie and Händlerbund as the SMB Alliance to provide personalised advice to retailers at the E-Commerce Berlin EXPO this year.