May 31, 2023

Big Brands Unveiling New AI Toys at Steady Clip

By Jay Bemis | Advertising Systems Inc.
As more companies and marketers jump on the artificial-intelligence and ChatGPT bandwagon with chat boxes and other tools, it’s no surprise that some of the bigger players are steadily rolling out new features for AI-generated products.

Adobe, for example, last week announced a “Generative Fill” feature in its Photoshop product — it’s a tool that allows AI to extend the canvas of a Photoshop design, fill in backgrounds and more.

As many a creative services department knows, Adobe has long dominated that industry with its creative suite, thanks to Photoshop, Acrobat and other design software, and the new AI feature should only make that suite even stronger and more popular.

Creative services staffs also should enjoy this news: The experts at eMarketer/Inside Intelligence reported this week that such AI image generators as Midjourney, Stable Diffusion and Dall-E 2 also are giving designers new tools for their creative duties.

And, Google just announced, too, that it will soon add image-generation features to Bard, which is its rival to ChatGPT — the artificial intelligence text chatbot that’s made by the company OpenAI and was released as a free web-based tool last fall, creating much of a marketing and researching stir.

But perhaps one of the bigger, recent announcements concerning AI and chat is that Amazon is looking to redesign its search capabilities to include generative AI-enabled conversational elements, per a series of job listings first noted by Bloomberg.

Reporting on those developments, eMarketer says Amazon is “reimagining Amazon Search with an interactive conversational experience” (some sort of AI chatbots, perhaps?) that will allow shoppers to compare products, receive personalized suggestions and get answers to any product questions they might have.

Amazon’s search redesign and related job listings come at a time when the e-commerce giant is in the midst of laying off 18,000 workers, the majority of them in its Stores and People, Experience, and Technology organizations. Perhaps the job listings indicate that Amazon is seeking AI and chat specialists to reimagine its Search division, and yet give some laid-off workers new, related roles?

When announcing the layoffs in a January memo, Amazon CEO Andy Jassy said: “These changes will help us pursue our long-term opportunities with a stronger cost structure; however, I’m also optimistic that we’ll be inventive, resourceful, and scrappy in this time when we’re not hiring expansively and eliminating some roles.”

What Adding Chat Boxes Means for Amazon

Why does the Amazon Search news matter? Referencing an April survey by PowerReviews, eMarketer notes that half of American consumers start their online purchase journeys on Amazon, where many of them pay monthly subscriptions for Amazon Prime memberships.

“That makes Amazon’s search feature a formidable discovery engine, in addition to being a highly valuable sales driver,” eMarketer says.

The eMarketer experts also noted:

  • Amazon Search already has fueled the company’s emergence as a major advertising player. Three-quarters of small businesses and 65% of enterprise merchants who sell on the platform pay for sponsored product listings, per Jungle Scout’s 2023 Amazon Advertising report.
  • “In theory, adding a conversational element to its search function could help Amazon improve its notoriously bare-bones browsing experience by surfacing more relevant, personalized products for shoppers,” eMarketer says. “It could also be a corrective to the retailer’s increasingly ad-heavy search results.”

As They Keep Saying With AI: Be Careful Out There

But as with many reports on AI developments these days, the Amazon Search news comes with a caveat, basically this: Can functions produced by an AI robot instead of a human be fully trusted and perhaps dotted with misinformation?

An Ipsos poll in February found that only 5% of U.S. adults trust search results generated by AI “a great deal,” while 22% trust them “a little.” Forty-two percent of respondents neither trusted nor distrusted AI search results, probably because the search marketing technology is still relatively new.

“It’s no surprise Amazon is eager to hop on the generative AI bandwagon, especially with Google testing ways to incorporate the tech into its own shopping experience,” eMarketer says.

“But much depends on the quality of the tech; even ChatGPT, widely considered the frontrunner in the AI chatbot race, is prone to hallucinations and other mistakes, which in a shopping setting could lead to missed sales opportunities or irate customers.”

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