Unleashing AI to build a B2B e-commerce app from scratch

March 13, 2024 | Thomas De Vos, Innovation strategist and AI captain at The Reference 


Ever wondered how to build a fully functional e-commerce app from scratch with no data, products, or content? That is exactly what our team at The Reference achieved in just two weeks. The mission? To demonstrate their ability to unite various MACH components into a seamless system, creating a comprehensive B2B e-commerce proof of value. 

In this insight we will take you through the process, highlighting the critical role of Generative AI as a collaborative tool. We used a suite of AI tools including ChatGPT, Dall-E, Midjourney, LangChain, and FlowiseAI.

Concept Construction

Our journey began with a classic brainstorming session, leading to the creation of a fictional company, MACHsupply. Next, the team decided on a concept:

"A B2B company that sells construction and building tools to various professional target groups".

With the concept in place, we used ChatGPT to create a company backstory and define the scope of the demo.

Building Buyer Personas

For this part, ChatGPT Browse with Bing explored the websites of Home Depot Pro and Lowe’s for Pros to determine common product categories in construction retail and formulate buyer personas. These personas, defined by needs, habits, and communication preferences, were aligned with product categories for a personalized buying experience. 

PIM Foundation with ChatGPT

Before loading the headless commerce platform, in this case commercetools, we needed to establish a Product Information Management (PIM) system. Once again, ChatGPT effortlessly provided a detailed report for each fictitious product, covering general information (product ID, brand, SKU), physical attributes (weight, dimensions, colour), and technical details (voltage, load capacity, etc).

Using a PHP script along with binary files, ChatGPT's Advanced Data Analytics devised a complete CSV file, with 100 fabricated products. It accounted for every possible detail, including fictional product names, relations between products and categories, brand descriptions and all meta data such as sizes.

Picture-Perfect Products

No product portfolio is complete without some vibrant images – and that's where DALL·E came in. However, to generate images, DALL·E needs appropriate prompts. For this, we used ChatGPT's advanced data analytics along with product data to craft the most effective prompts for DALL·E.

Our team then used ChatGPT to generate prompts for product shots for each of the 100 items. Using a PHP script, they processed a JSON file and exported 100 individual image files—each tagged with a file name and product ID. Remarkably, within just two minutes, the team managed to have a bulk export of 100 images.

Crafting Custom Content

In a next step, we used MidJourney to design the logo, homepage and category page images, blog post visuals, and persona images to personify the main target audiences. 

Content-wise, everything in the app was tailored and segmented to suit specific audiences. Starting with a generic text for all articles, the generative AI in the CMS was prompted to rewrite it for groups like ‘renovation specialists’. This resulted in captivating, audience-specific content, just like that.

Smart Chat function

The final piece of the puzzle was a chat feature. Using LangChain technology along with ChatGPT, the team integrated commercetools with the engaging content in the CMS system, resulting in a fully functional chatbot.

This chatbot allows customers to ask questions like, ‘What types of drills do you sell?’ and compare drills on affordability, best for concrete, and even add their chosen drill to their cart. All through the chat. Thanks to these integrated connections, customers can interact seamlessly with their shopping cart; verifying its contents, confirming item stock status, and so forth. The chat feature can also pull in personalised content based on the customer's profile and specific product segment. This allows it to offer promotional deals and inspiring content. It can link up with product manuals too, for the products already bought by the customer. 

Fully Personalized E-commerce App

The result? A new Flutter app, developed for an audience that demands efficiency and accurarcy. Focussed on the construction industry, it required a wide array of products and content, with an effortless and quick mobile navigation. The app needed to provide intricate specifications of various tools and materials, facilitate comparison and stock checking. In the construction industry, there's no room for mistakes.

Personalization was at the heart of the entire process. Specific needs of each target group were catered to, ranging from large scale construction managers, renovation specialists to speciality tradespeople. For instance, a construction manager would be interested in bulk orders, while a renovator would shop for very specific products, like tiles and fixtures. Each group has very distinct needs, behaviour patterns, and communication preferences.

Insights and Learnings

Data is key to exceptional, personalized customer experiences. And of course, the better the experience, the more customers are likely to buy. Moreover, hyper-personalization also enables businesses to optimize their marketing budget.

As our team found out, when you synergize Generative AI and MACH architecture with a creative human touch, something amazing happens.

infographic illustrating the MACH architecture and its components

MACH Architecture

  1. Segment: a data collection and segmentation platform.
  2. Commercetools: e-commerce platform.
  3. Contentful: a headless CMS system.
  4. Conscia.ai: the so-called ‘brain’ of the composable stack, a personalization engine.

Add on a dash of AI 'magic dust', in the form of Chat GPT, DALL·E, Midjourney, LangChain, and FlowiseAI, and you unlock unprecedented levels of personalization along with flexibility, efficiency, and innovation, in record time. A distinct advantage in today’s rapidly evolving world, where staying ahead of the curve is paramount.

Thrive with Generative AI

Looking to adapt, innovate and lead in your industry? We can guide you through the jungle of Generative AI tools and would love to figure out together how to empower your business through GenAI. 

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