And now, artificial intelligence will make your Flipkart experience enriching

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A little after Binny Bansal took over as Flipkart's CEO from co-founder Sachin Bansal, he penned down his vision for using new technology so that Indians’ shopping experience can be made more enriching.

This led to Flipkart’s brightest minds think about what kind of experience buyers had at India’s leading e-commerce portal.

The topics that they pondered upon included their ease of search, personalised recommendations, an interactive shopping experience, as well as the comparison of online with offline shopping experience.

Also read: Combined losses of Flipkart, Amazon and Snapdeal stand at Rs 11, 754 crore; it is the annual budget of Indian space agency

The answers to these open-ended questions were found in Project Mira, an AI-focused effort from team Flipkart. Since last Feb, there has been a herd of experiments that are being run on Flipkart app and website so that customers’ psyche can be better understood.

"On 28 February (2017), we launched the first version of our conversational search experience. Now, our users with broad intent (searching for, say, shoes or bedsheets) are guided with relevant questions, conversational filters, shopping ideas, offers and trending collections,” Ram Papatla, VP (Product) told Flipkart.

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Internationally, ecommerce giants Amazon and eBay have invested heavily in AI so that their marketplaces and customer experience can be strengthened. They now excel at understanding natural language, making relevant product recommendations and improving search results.

Project Mira, named to suit any common Indian, also addresses similar complexities, albeit for Indian shoppers and their apprehensions with online shopping.
Mira was a result of the shift in the shopping trends of Indian customers and how they searched for what they wanted.

"When we looked at the (product) returns data and when we looked at data from shoes and lifestyle (categories), we saw a bunch of mismatch of expectations from our customers in terms of size and fit issues. If only we could have asked them one question we could have given the right response,” said Papatla. "It was an internal cry. We have enough evidence (to say) that had we 'talked' to Mira (the online Indian shopper) we could have solved it.”

Also read: Will Snapdeal merge with Flipkart? There’s no smoke without fire

As of now, Flipkart processes more than 400,000 shipments a day, and out of this, 10-11% are returned. This led to experts at Flipkart considering the need to think of attributes that could be prompted to buyers instead of having them search using filters.

With Project Mira, if someone searches for an air-conditioner, Flipkart now asks buyers about what kind of AC they want, the tonnage, room size, brand, and such, just like an executive in a brick and mortar would.

"It is a journey. I do not have a perfect recipe,, said Papatla. "But the good thing is I have a deep foundation base where I have built this technology based on Indian consumers and data that I can start to play around with for different experiments.”

(Image source Indian Online Seller)
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