Over 2.14 billion people worldwide are expected to buy online this year, according to Statista. Online retail sales will account for 22% of all purchases by 2023. But in a competitive retail landscape, positive interactions can mean the difference between a sale and an abandoned shopping cart.
One of the leading global marketplaces – Kinguin.net is a haven for gamers. Their bustling ecommerce business conducts over 500,000 new transactions monthly. Users will encounter over 50,000 unique digital products, from video games, gift cards, in-game items to computer software and services. With over 10 million registered users, Kinguin improved their experience by helping users find items quickly and deliver service at scale.
Helping customers find what they want, fast
Because of Kinguin’s high volume of users—both buyers and sellers—and breadth of digital products, browsing and shopping can be challenging. “Customers shop online for choice and convenience, but it can sometimes be overwhelming. We want anyone who shops at Kinguin to find what they are looking for quickly and easily,” says Viktor Romaniuk Wanli, Kinguin CEO and Founder.
Today’s retailers know that creating personalized shopping experiences is crucial for establishing and maintaining customer loyalty. Kinguin discovered their users were getting a rather standard retail experience. They wondered how they could offer them a more tailored, personalized experience.
They knew product recommendations were a great way to personalize experiences because they help customers discover products that match their tastes and preferences. But it’s not that easy to recommend products. Various shifting factors make recommendations much more complex:
- Customer behavior. Understanding customers is tough. How do you recommend something to a cold start user who’s never been to your site before? What happens when their behavior changes?
- Omnichannel context. According to Harvard Business Review, 73% of all customers use many channels when they buy. What happens when they go from desktop to mobile or from social media shopping to a proprietary app?
- Product data challenges. How do you recommend new products within a large catalog of items? What if your product data has sparse labeling or unstructured metadata?
Data wasn’t a problem for Kinguin. They had data orders, history, wishlists, and could collect events based on their platform interactions. It was the machine learning model expertise they lacked. So rather than building their own solution, they determined it was more cost effective for them to find a reliable partner. It was also essential that the solution integrated easily with Kubernetes, which enabled their global network.
With these considerations in mind, they applied for the Google Recommendations AI beta program. Kinguin became the first gaming e-commerce platform in Europe to use Recommendations AI when it launched in 2020.
Pro gamer move: using a fully managed AI service
Google Recommendations AI uses algorithms to deliver highly personalized suggestions tailored to a customer’s preferences. Google Cloud based these algorithms on the same research that powers models by YouTube search and Google Shopping. Algorithms are always being tuned and adjusted to focus on individuals themselves—not just items.
Many shopping AIs rely on manually provisioning infrastructure and training machine learning models. Instead, Recommendations AI’s deep learning models use item and user metadata to gain insights. It processes Kinguin’s thousands of products at scale, iterating in real time. First, Kinguin pieces together a customer’s history and shopping journey. Then, using Recommendations AI, they can serve up personalized products—even for long-tail products and cold-start users.
By leveraging internal tools, Kinguin didn’t need to start implementation from scratch. After a few trial sessions with Google Cloud engineers, they got started right away. Due to the fast-paced nature of a marketplace—i.e., price changes, out-of-stock items—Kinguin needed their recommendations to be as close to real time as possible. They used internal event buses to stream events and their product catalog directly to the recommendations API.
Kinguin rolled out in high-traffic areas, including their home page, product page, and category pages. They analyzed heat maps and scroll maps to figure out where to test placements. They also experimented with different recommendation models such as “recently bought together” and “you may like.” Engineers also factored in where they were implementing the models. For example, the “others you might like” model would fit best on the homepage, while “frequently bought together” made sense at checkout.
Understanding how product recommendations influence financials is critical for demonstrating the impact of personalization. Using BigQuery, Kinguin could analyze different cost projection models. BigQuery helped them dig into specific financial data to understand their margins and revenue gains.
Playing to win: enhanced customer experience
Since adopting Recommendations AI, Kinguin has improved both customer experience and satisfaction. Search times have shortened by 20 seconds. Additionally, their average cart value has increased by 5 EUR. Conversion rates have quadrupled since the outset. Click-thru rates have doubled, increasing by 2.16 on product pages and 2.8 times on recommendations pages.
“Google Recommendations AI has helped us evolve our service, increase customer loyalty and satisfaction. It has also contributed to a significant rise in sales,” says Wanli. Kinguin is already thinking about other ways of enhancing user experiences with recommendations. Ideas include their checkout process, other landing pages, and email marketing.
Kinguin’s journey with Google Cloud shows how companies can leverage AI to optimize sales and deliver high-performing, low-latency recommendations to any customer touchpoint.
By: Krzysztof Zalasa (Customer EngineerJosh PorterProduct Marketing Manager)
Source: Google Cloud Blog