My Not-So-Perfect Holiday Shopping Excursion With AI Chatbots

In addition to Shopify, chatbots have emerged in the past 12 months from Instacart, the delivery company; Mercari, a resale platform; Carrefour, a retailer; and Kering, which owns Gucci and Balenciaga. Walmart, Mastercard and Signet Jewelers are also testing chatbots, which could become publicly available as early as next year.

“In a way, it recreates an in-store environment, but online,” said Carl Rivera, a Shopify vice president who oversees its Shop app, which hosts Shop AI. He said the chatbot breaks down people’s questions into key terms and performs a relevant search. products from millions of Shopify sellers. It then recommends products based on reviews and the buyer’s purchase history.

Retailers have long used chatbots, but previous versions lacked conversational power and typically only answered a few canned questions, such as the status of an order. Newer chatbots, on the other hand, can process prompts and generate personalized responses, both of which create a “more personalized and authentic interaction,” said Jen Jones, director of marketing for the Commercetools platform.

Whether buyers want this technology remains a question. “Consumers like simplicity, so they don’t necessarily want to have five different generative AI tools that they would use for different purposes,” said Olivier Toubia, professor of marketing at Columbia Business School.

Nicola Conway, a lawyer in London, called on Madeline, Kering’s luxury personal shopper, in August to source a pink bridesmaid dress for a spring wedding. Madeline was “intuitive and innovative,” she said, but she gave only one recommendation, an Alexander McQueen corset dress. Mrs. Conway didn’t end up buying it.