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Will AI Kill The Low-Code Market in Ecommerce?

AI Ecommerce low-code developers

AI-Empowered Citizen Developers

β€œThe purpose of artificial intelligence is to augment human capabilities, not replace them.”

Satya Nadella, CEO of Microsoft

For as long as there has been software development, attempts have been made to make programming less technical and easier and involve business people without specialized training in automation.

You have probably heard the terms β€œno-code” or β€œlow-code” and β€œcitizen developers”. Let’s clearly define them and discuss what opportunities they bring to eCommerce organizations. Then, we will explore how adding AI to the mix further empowers non-technical people to take the lead in automating and optimizing eCommerce processes.

No-code defines tools that enable people to build programs and apps without conventional programming. They provide visual interfaces and guide user actions in simple-to-use and learn ways. They also offer pre-built integrations with other tools to exchange data as needed. If you’ve ever built a WordPress website or launched a Shopify store, you’ve already dipped your toes into no-code.

Low-code development usually includes no-code capabilities but also has the option to extend the logic with some scripting. These tools offer drag-and-drop editors, code generation, assembling a new app from existing components, etc. A good example is AirTable, which provides a low-code platform for application development.

With AirTable, non-technical users can build workflows to automate their business processes and harness the capabilities of relational databases to store and process data. More technically savvy users can use it to build complex formulas and script-driven automation.

The last term for us to define is Citizen Developer.

A Citizen Developer is any non-developer (a regular business user) who can tap into no-code / low-code platforms to build software for a specific business problem. In short, Citizen Developers are problem solvers. Their objective is not to build the β€œbest” app but to design functional solutions to existing problems in their organization.

They understand business processes, are creative, and are comfortable leveraging low-code and no-code solutions to solve problems. They are tech-savvy and have excellent problem-solving skills.

Citizen Developers in eCommerce

There are a lot of different areas where business users use no/low code tools to optimize existing processes, automate data processing, integrate separate marketing and eCommerce systems, and even build relatively complex applications to manage their business.

Most small merchants start without any backend system like ERP and can get by at the beginning with the help of Google Sheets and Docs. But as their business grows, complexity increases, and manually updating all these long tables becomes a daunting and time-consuming task.

At that point, merchants start adding some scripts to automate the most tedious operations and create workflows that take several actions when a significant event happens. For example, when a new order is received, an SMS notification is sent to the shop owner, an order forwarded to the warehouse system, and an email confirming the order is sent to the customer.

A bit more tech-savvy merchants can switch to a more powerful low-code platform such as AirTable and use it to build a Product Management app, Customer Relation Management (CRM) system, or Inventory and Order Management. In AirTable, they can connect all of these apps together and significantly reduce manual work while not paying for expensive IT resources.

Every eCommerce business creates and processes a lot of data, which comes from and is used by multiple applications and channels. Not surprisingly, processing data and keeping them in sync across multiple applications is the most common task requiring automation. In most cases, a change in one application has a cascading effect and requires more than one step in fulfilling business requirements. That explains the popularity of low-code integration platforms like Zapier or Alloy.

Zapier is an online automation tool with prebuilt connections to several thousands of popular apps, such as Gmail, Slack, MailChimp, Shopify, and many others. For example, a merchant can integrate with its email service and configure automation to send an email anytime someone creates a new invoice in the accounting system or when a new customer purchases in the store. As a part of the same script, it is possible to add the customer as a newsletter subscriber in MailChimp (an email marketing system) and create an entry in the custom CRM system implemented in AirTable.

Zapier also added integration to ChatGPT, meaning many use cases for using Generative AI for content generation that we discussed in previous chapters can be easily integrated with other applications in your tech stack and be a part of catalog management or marketing automation workflows.

Alloy is using a similar approach to automation, concentrating more on systems used by online merchants and offering many eCommerce-specific templates to speed up workflow development.

Here is how it works.

Automation platforms empower merchants to design workflows and connections using triggers and actions. Each application offers an array of triggers and actions tailored to the service type. For instance, eCommerce platforms provide triggers such as “Order has been placed” and “Payment has been captured,” along with actions like “Approve order” and “Apply promotion.” Conversely, a transactional email service might feature a singular “Send email” action. By linking the “Order has been placed” trigger with the “Send email” action, you can automatically send an order confirmation email for every placed order.

Most modern eCommerce platforms are built following Composable, API-first, headless architecture. That makes it possible to connect them to the low-code automation platforms discussed above.

If a platform has an API, it is possible to automate a wide range of use cases, such as importing SKUs, prices, and stock data from an ERP/OMS system or validating and approving orders as soon as they are placed, which helps expedite the process.

AI-Assisted Coding

Generative AI can further expand opportunities for Citizen Developers. Low-code platforms are reaching a tipping point as generative AI is supercharging their use among business users who are not expert programmers.

ChatGPT supports coding much like it supports writing. The LLMs can generate code snippets and validate code in response to user prompts and parameters. It can write, review, and improve code without requiring extensive coding knowledge from the user. That is excellent news for Citizen Developers!

When generative AI and tools likeΒ ChatGPT are integrated withinΒ low-code/no-code tools, Citizen Developers can use prompt questions to describe what they want to build and have a chatbot create a skeleton code based on their requirements. All of this can be done without the need for extensive programming knowledge. When a generated code produces an error, a user can go back to ChatGPT and ask for advice on how to fix it.

If you cannot understand a complex code, you can ask ChatGPT to simplify and explain it. If you enter a code snippet in ChatGPT and ask where it is wrong or why it is not working, it will tell you the exact reasons in less than a minute. So, a task that usually took days for traditional app developers would become much easier with such generative AI technologies.

AI-powered tools can be used by citizen developers who have great ideas or insights but have little or no technical training. They enable them to drive technological innovation within eCommerce businesses. ChatGPT and other developer co-pilot systems are crucial tools to facilitate citizen developers’ work and help them achieve coding goals that were once beyond their reach.

ChatGPT can also help ease the pain of creating user documentation for code. After you paste all the information related to your system into ChatGPT, you can ask it to document common questions and use the output for program documentation.

Key Takeaways: Citizen Developers

I don’t see this area of AI capabilities getting the attention it deserves. Its impact can be huge in eCommerce organizations that constantly lack IT resources and struggle to survive on outdated tools and manual processes. It should not be like that anymore!

  • Encourage the most tech-savvy people in your organization to start learning and using low-code platforms and ChatGPT capabilities to guide them. Their efforts will save you time by automating the most tedious and time-consuming tasks while reducing your IT expenses.
  • Combine low-code tools with ChatGPT assistance to accomplish more complex tasks.
  • Research available low-code capabilities and APIs in software used in your organization.

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