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10 May

Shopping With a Robot, Google Testing Recent AI-powered Search

Just when fashion began to get the hang of selling online, the entire process could possibly be changing again. 

ChatGPT may need pushed artificial intelligence to the fore — producing a collective panic attack in highschool English teachers all over the place — but that’s just the flowering of generative AI technology, which has been percolating up behind the scenes for years.

Now tech giant Google is applying it to shopping and can shortly begin to check what it calls a Search Generative Experience with a limited group of users through its Search Labs. 

Google already has an enormous online shopping business. 

It doesn’t attempt to grab the sale the way in which, say, Amazon or Walmart do, but as an alternative focuses on its home turf of search, connecting shoppers with what they’re in search of and sending them on to the merchant, collecting ad dollars along the way in which. 

Google sits at a digital commerce crossroads that makes the test especially interesting because it has a tech leader putting a recent technology to work, at scale and with enormous resources. 

There are greater than 1 billion shopping sessions a day on Google and the already AI-powered Google Shopping Graph has greater than 35 billion product listings, with greater than 1.8 billion of those listings refreshed every hour.

And apparel is probably the most looked for product categories on Google. 

That makes this a probability for the industry — and Google — to get a way of just what generative AI can do for shopping and the way it layers on top of the AI already at work behind the scenes when consumers click. 

Lilian Rincon, senior director of product for consumer shopping, told WWD: “Google’s been an AI first company since 2016, and it’s our view that AI will help everyone, including shoppers, be as productive as possible.”

Along with the Shopping Graph, Google uses AI to power Google Lens, which lets users seek for products using text and pictures. 

Generative AI guarantees a more readily apparent example of how the robots may also help, particularly with complex purchases that require research.

“We all the time begin with the user and what problems shoppers face that we’re not already solving effectively today,” Rincon siad. “So one pain point for shoppers is that research can take an extended time, especially once they’re making an enormous purchase.

“We found that generative AI can bring quite a lot of value here in connecting the dots for shoppers,” Rincon said. “So besides solving a really clear user problem, supporting the commerce ecosystem and a healthy open web was certainly one of our top focus areas while constructing this. We all know that generative AI must feed back to retailers and publishers if we would like these recent experiences to thrive. You’re all the time only one click away from choosing a retailer and visiting their site to make the acquisition.” 

The service has dedicated promoting slots for promoted products and uses a just-the-facts-ma’am, chat-based interface that doesn’t tackle a persona. It’s less free flowing than Google’s Bard AI service, which is designed to assist users be more creative. 

Just where generative AI leads — for fashion, Google and the world — may be very much an open query. 

But with this test, some answers might begin to change into more clear. 

Can shoppers tell Google’s recent AI tool that they wish to buy something that’s cool — a skirt, a bluetooth speaker, anything — and get back a useful answer?

“That’s the hope,” Rincon said. “We’re starting, right? So let’s see, but that’s the hope in apparel.”

Rincon, who normally wears jeans, asked it for trending skirts and said, “It gave me a reasonably great answer, actually, about how jean skirts are in style at once and pleaded skirts and maxiskirts, and here’s some examples.”

It’s a shopping experience that Rincon said can feel “magical.” 

If shoppers agree and generative AI takes off in shopping, fashion just may need so as to add “magical” to the list of online prerequisites that already includes easy checkouts, fast shipping, easy returns and more. 

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