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The Impact Of AI/Machine Learning On The Indian E-commerce And Price Comparison Startup Space

The Indian e-commerce space and the price comparison startups share a symbiotic relationship. As the e-commerce industry scales up, the price comparison sector implements AI, Machine Learning & Natural Language Processing to stay in the game. Here's a look at how it'll shake things up moving forward. 

When was the last time you actually went to a physical store to get your shopping done? Hell, these days even window shopping is done online!

Source: Webkul
Source: Webkul

E-commerce in India shows absolutely no signs of slowing down. According to the analytics firm Forrester, the amount of online sales in India is expected to tip over  $48 billion by 2020. Forrester report also suggests about a fifth of online sales in the Asia Pacific region will come from online, by the year 2021

The online sales in Asia Pacific region keep growing year on year. The expected amount of sales from mobile phones is predicted to grow from 63% in 2016 to 78% in 2021.
Source: Statista
Source: Statista

After China, the fastest growing contributor is India, with an ever growing population and better internet connectivity across the nation. One noteworthy thing here is the rapid growth in e-commerce and digital payment over the last quarter, boosted by the demonetization move. This move towards a cashless digital economy, in the long run, will only contribute to the e-commerce industry.  

During the FY 2007-11 alone, the e-commerce industry in India had a CAGR of 54.6% with earnings of USD 10.0 billion. 

That was back in 2011-12, you can imagine the rest! 

Symbiotic Relationship Between Price Comparison Portals & E-commerce 

The price comparison portals and services that offer comparison of consumer electronic goods have boosted the progress of e-commerce to a significant extent. With the plethora of products available in the same category online, it becomes increasingly difficult to find out the one you're looking for. You're quite literally spoiled by choices. Here's where the price comparison portals come into being. They help not only help you compare products according to their specifications and price range but also help you discover products. These portals have made the life of an average Indian online shopper, looking for a mobile phone much easier. You can easily compare the camera qualities, RAM, storage, battery capacity among other specifications and make the appropriate buy. 

This, in turn, has helped more and more buyers decide easily and settle for a brand, followed by purchase online. These price comparison portals feed off the popularity of e-commerce and the sheer volume of products available, ready to be compared and. The easier comparison encourages people to shop online, rather than visiting a physical store and go through tons of models before deciding on one. 

A Look At The Existing Price Comparison Portals

These are some of the most popular price comparison portals:

MySmartPrice

Source:  MySmartPrice
Source:  MySmartPrice

Offering price comparison among different categories of mobile devices and other gadgets like laptops, TVs and more, MySmartPrice gives the users just what they need. If you notice the search bar, you'll see that I put in a query for smartphones with fingerprint sensors, so the results show me the phones which come with fingerprint sensors. 

CompareRaja

Source: CompareRaja 
Source: CompareRaja 

CompareRaja, through its Chrome extension offers price comparison services on mobiles, TVs washing machines, and other consumer electronics. You can also access CompareRaja through the iOS/Android apps. 

91Mobiles

Source: 91Mobiles  
Source: 91Mobiles  

A wide array of products, comprehensive listings and specializing in mobile phones, 91Mobiles is the go-to choice for most people when researching about a smartphone. Complete with in-house reviews for products, 91Mobiles is touted as the one stop shop for all your electronics needs. 

There are quite a few other price comparison portals, the likes of SmartPrix, PriceDekho, CompareIndia, and Pricebaba, among others.  As the e-commerce industry continues to grow, more and more consumers are flooding these price comparison portals. The services receive thousands of search queries per day and some of these queries contain zero specific keywords or some are very specific, the challenge here is to deal with these queries. Because if they don't that would mean losing out users as the unsatisfaction level increases. 

Imagine spending 10-15 minutes on a comparison site without any results because your search term didn't have the appropriate keywords, how frustrated would you be?

What's the solution? Designing a smart search engine that learns from every user input and allows the user to search with his/her own layman terms and yet show desired results. The need of the hour is Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML) coupled with Natural Language Processing (NLP).  

Future of Price Comparison Portals & Scope Of AI, ML, & NLP

Most startups offering price comparison and product discovery have already started integrating AI in their search portals to make it smarter and more intuitive. BestPriceOn a newly launched price comparison portal from GrabOn touts itself on the perfect blend of AI, ML, and NLP. 

Let's take a look at how it differs from the other price comparison portals mentioned above. For instance: take this query '16gb internal memory mobiles with 5mp selfie camera'. Now, upon entering the query in the search bar of BestPriceOn, it yields the following search results. 

Source: BestPriceOn
Source: BestPriceOn

Upon inserting the same query in the search bar for any other price comparison portal, the results show some undesired items, for eg: 16GB Flash memories and so on.  So, you see how the Natural Language Processing allows you search without using an exact string match and still display the desired results. You can search for phones or other electronics goods just like you would ask your friend for a recommendation and not like a robot that has been fed a list of terms to search by. This is how the price comparison engines and portals should ideally work. 

Going forward, I'm certain that more and more price comparison portals and startups offering these services, will start implementing AI and ML to make the comparison engines smart and the results they churn out more relevant. This will increase customer satisfaction thus encouraging more online shoppers to purchase mobile phones and other electronics goods online. This is how the e-commerce space will experience even more growth and prosperity in the future. 

Finally, something that doesn't portray AI as the evil overlords *cough* Skynet *cough*!

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A creative content writer by the day with a keen interest in all things startup and marketing and a self-professed gourmet by the night.