How Artificial Intelligence Is Quietly Changing How You Shop Online
The promise of AI has seemingly been just on the horizon for years, with little evidence of change in the lives of most consumers. A few years ago, buzzwords like “big data” hinted at the potential, but ending up generating little actual impact. That’s now changing, thanks to advancements in AI like deep learning, in which software programs learn to perform sometimes complex tasks without active oversight from humans.
Deep learning algorithms have been powering self-driving cars and making quick progress in tasks like facial recognition. Now these innovations are beginning to find their way into the daily lives of consumers as well.
Other e-commerce sites are also adopting deep learning to help shoppers more easily find what they seek. Gilt deploys it to search for similar items of clothing with different features like a longer sleeve or a different cut. Etsy bought Blackbird Technologies last fall to apply the firm’s image-recognition and natural-language processing to its search function.
And notably, Amazon is planning to use the AI technology it offers on its Web Services in its new Amazon Go grocery stores. The company is operating only one store in Seattle, but Chief Financial Officer Brian Olsavsky said during a February earnings call that “it’s using some of the same technologies you would see in self-driving cars: computer vision, sensor, fusion, deep learning.”
While deep learning is becoming a part of the retail experience, it’s happening in fits and starts, as Facebook found with chatbots. Touted as a tool that could automate customer-service functions and deepen human engagement, chatbots were added to Facebook Messenger, with more than 11,000 of them available last year. But last week, Facebook scaled back its chatbot ambitions after they clocked a 70% failure rate.
As with the early days of the Web, there remains much work to do before deep learning can be seamlessly integrated into the daily lives of consumers. Compared to expectations of even a few years ago, though, things are a lot farther along than many expected. And that suggests Silicon Valley may again be ready to change how we shop.